There was a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "the Pope's case for virtuous capitalism." In it Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was critical of the media for what he said was giving the wrong impression of the Popes position on capitalism. He claimed that the principal focus of Pope France's economic teaching was that social activity must be based on the virtues of compassion and generosity. The cardinal claimed that: "all people, including the poor, benefit from a general increase in the overall wealth of society" caused by capitalism. His interpretation was that the capitalism criticized by hope is not the kind of capitalism practiced in United States. That "our" capitalism is somehow virtuous compared to ther countries.
The July issue of National Catholic Reporter wrote about this and noted that the Cardinals claim did not sit well with theologians who specialize in Catholic social teaching. They strongly disagreed with Dolan's equating the American economic system with "virtuous capitalism." In fact they say, Francis was talking about American capitalism and not some other countries.
The article quotes Jesuit father Drew Christiansen, professor of ethics and global human development at Georgetown University: "It wasn't Argentinian populist economics, eastern European crony capitalism, or African kleptocracy that threatened the world economy with the worst recession since the 1930s.It was no – holds – barred American capitalism that did that." He went on to say that the cardinal "needs to reflect upon the extraordinary growth of inequality of income and wealth in the United States when he suggests that Pope Francis criticism of capitalism do not apply in this country."
The paper cites Terrence Tilly Fordham University, who holds the Cardinal Avery Dulles chair of Catholic theology there, "over the last 35 years, the rich have been getting relatively richer and the poor getting relatively poorer so that inequality as reached levels not seen since the 1920s, in advance of the Great Depression."
As Father Christiansen said: "stagnation and wage growth and the trickle up economy has shrunk the US middle class and hollowed out the economic power of those who remain in it. Pope Francis understands this when he likes addressing poverty to reversing inequality."
What has Pope Francis said about capitalism? Something very different, in my view, than that presented by Cardinal Dolan in his Wall Street opinion piece favoring the Wall Street capitalists. Here is a quote from Pope Francis:
"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
It seems to me to be unseemly and inappropriate for an American Cardinal to be writing any opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal giving approval to capitalisim as we know it in America. Especially at a time when we have a pope with views like Pope Francis about poverty which are in direct conflict with what was represented in the Wall Street Journal piece.
So, who is Cardinal Dolan? He lives in a 19th century Madison Avenue mansion that connects to St Patrick's Cathedral. A cook and two housekeepers serve him and three other priests. A driver chauffeurs him around New York. He led the charge of the American Bishops against the Obama administration's efforts to cover birth control for emloyees. He is the most frequent spokesperson on the media about Catholic matters in the U.S.
Politically? He has said on Face the Nation: "I like Jeb Bush a lot. Whether I'd be for him for a presidential candidate or not, I don't know personally. But I sure admire him."
In my view, while an amiable man, he is representative of the prelates appointed by the previous two popes for their conservative and pre Vatican II thelogy. These views are out of step with reality and certainly out of step with the Pope's determined concern about world poverty.