This Economy Kills

Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice

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Andrea Tornielli, Giacomo Galeazzi
  • Collegeville, MN: 
    Liturgical Press
    , August
     2015.
     184 pages.
     $19.95.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780814647257.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Since taking his seat as leader of the Catholic faith, Pope Francis has faced criticism for his approach in talking about and solving issues involving the Church and around the world. His focus on helping the poor—oftentimes describing the Catholic Church as “a poor church for the poor”—has allowed those critical of the Pope to muddle his authentic and genuine desire to create permanent change for those throughout the world who are suffering. This mischaraterization of the Pontiff’s view has resulted in unwarranted accusations and skewed media coverage. In This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice, veteran Vatican reporters Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi examine the accusation that Pope Francis is a marxist, and his reasons for intervening in social issues, such as the spoils of capitalism and the environment. Through careful examination of the Pope’s ministry in Argentina—along with interviews and Francis’s personal writings—Tornielli and Galeazzi provide a thoughtful, well-constructed outline of Francis’s understanding of Catholic social teachings.

The book is separated into fifteen chapters covering a wide range of topics publicly discussed by the Pope since taking office. There is a focus on proving that the Francis is not, in fact, a marxist, but someone who has had the unfortunate experience of having his words twisted by reporters, researchers, and other writers. There is a heavy reliance on the Evangelli Gaudium—the Joy of the Gospel—which illuminates and focuses on the Pontiff’s words. The authors use this text as a way of communicating the exact meaning of the Pope’s words when he speaks to the public, to the media, and to the world. The text of the Evangelli Gaudium—in addition to communicating exactly what the Pope and therefore, the Church, believe they are to evangelize in the modern world—has also quoted Francis as saying “[t]he economy kills,” which has resulted in confusion about the church’s mission going forward and it’s view of the world. Through the fifteenchapters, Tornielli and Galeazzi give an analyzed version of the Pope’s words which are then synthesized into a comprehensive unit.

The first four chapters of the text lay the ground work for what follows. These chapters offer an inside perspective on how the Pope views money in the world, people’s indifference to those who are different, and economies built around capitalism. We are introduced to the notion of “a poor church for the poor,” which establishes Francis’s sophisticated understanding of Catholic social teachings. Tornielli and Galeazzi defend the Pope and the Church by expressing to readers his belief that we need to create a culture of encounter where we experience the world, a culture which will help us understand each other, and ultimately show us that the flesh of Christ is with those who are in need of assistance.

Chapters 5 through 7 address accusations that people have made against the Pope. Through their discussions and criticisms of the Papacy in the media, Rush Limbaugh and others have made accusations against Francis. Some in the media have accused the Pope of being a marxist due to his criticism of the capitalistic system that, Limbaugh argues, has done a lot for the poor. Adding that, according toFrancis, “[w]e have created idols” through the use of money. This assertion has led others to question the Pope’s intentions in attempting to make the world a better place. The focus of these later chapters is to illustrate that focusing on these issues is not new for Pope Francis; he has been talking about and questioning these issues since before he became the Pope—and the backlash faced by anyone questioning the current economic system.

Chapters 8 through 11 can be seen as a rebuttal to the prior three chapters. Tornielli and Galeazzi user these chapters to illustrate that the Pope is simply expressing a concern for those who do not have a voice. By giving voice to these people, Pope Francis—instead of being recognized by the wider public—is judged for his words, which the authors argue, are taken out of context and oftentimes picked at random to fit the accusers perspective. The Pope wishes to bring into focus the fundamental concerns of all people, which he communicates through the Church’s social teachings.

For scholars and researchers in the field of religion, the most significant parts of the text are the interviews that occur at the end. Tornielli and Galeazzi include interviews with Catholic members of the financial community, a member of Pope Francis’s prior church, as well as with Francis himself. The value of these interviews is immeasurable, as they allow readers and researchers to understand how people of faith see the Pope and his views on the world economy, and to appreciate the difficulties encountered in making changes in the world of economics. Pope Francis’s admonition that our “culture of waste” is destroying us rings through in these later chapters, which illustrate his desire to bring ethics into economics.

Tornielli and Galeazzi bring an accessible piece of literature to scholars in the field of religion. For those doing research on Christianity or having an interest in Pope Francis, This Economy Kills provides insight into the man who leads the Catholic faith. Examining the Pope’s own words allows us to analyze and interpret what he means when trying to comprehend the difficult world of papal political language. 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Alec Sixta currently teaches Religious Studies courses at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He is a student in the Pastoral Studies Department at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA.

Date of Review: 
March 15, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Andrea Tornielli is among the foremost journalists in the world on matters related to the Vatican. He writes for the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa and is editor of the website Vatican Insider. He is the author of several books, including Francis: Pope of a New World.

Giacomo Galeazzi covers the Vatican for the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa and the website Vatican Insider.

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