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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/22/15

"Sowers of Change": The Pope Arrives At a Critical Moment

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The Pope's New York schedule does not appear to take him through Wall Street, but he might want to consider an informal visit. There, as perhaps nowhere else on Earth, "money rules." Financialization -- the process by which bankers seize more and more control of the real-world economy -- is reaching epidemic proportions there, and therefore throughout our economy. (The Roosevelt Institute has issued a new report on the subject.)

With that power comes an ideology of free-market worship. Francis has been scathing in his dismissal of the phenomenon he has called the "idolatry of money." He has been particularly (and rightly) dismissive of the Right's beloved "trickle-down economics" and the ability of "the free market" to right societal wrongs, writing in his encyclical "Evangelii Gaudium": "This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive 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."

He adds: "The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."

As he told his Bolivian audience: "Once capital becomes an idol and guides people's decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socio-economic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women ... it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home."

Francis may also want to use his New York visit to address what he has called the "monopolizing of the communications media," which he described as an "ideological colonialism" that "would impose alienating examples of consumerism and a certain cultural uniformity." As Bill Moyers has reported in depth, media consolidation represents a threat to the public's ability to know -- a fundamental requirement for democracy.

The Pope rejects the me-at-any-cost ideology of conservatism for a more communitarian view that recognizes that isolation can breed despair. "Many people," he said in Bolivia, "are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns." He praised activists for "carry(ing) out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice."

He weaves all these issues together in his environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si," where he writes:

"A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is not the only one calling for a "political revolution" of mobilized citizens to work alongside elected officials. Pope Francis has called for "change enriched by the collaboration of governments, popular movements and other social forces," a "true, worldwide ethical mobilization which " will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and most excluded."

This pope is an optimist. He described the activists gathered in Bolivia as "sowers of change," and said of his social vision: "Such an economy is not only desirable and necessary, but also possible. It is no utopia or chimera. It is an extremely realistic prospect. We can achieve it." He has called for "the globalization of hope" to replace "the globalization of exclusion and indifference," adding:

"Let us not be afraid to say it: We need change. We want change."

"Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," Francis has said. "It is a moral obligation."

Soon we will know how that message is received in this country. It is coming at a critical moment in our -- and the world's -- history.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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