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December 14th, 2013
08:30 PM ET

Pope: Marxist ideology is 'wrong'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– Pope Francis responded to critics who call his stance on capitalism Marxist, saying in a new interview that the political and economic philosophy is flat "wrong."

"Marxist ideology is wrong," the Pope told the Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview published on Saturday. "But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

Earlier this month, the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted the pontiff, calling his latest major writing, an apostolic exhortation called Evangelii Gaudium, "pure Marxism."

"It's sad because this Pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth," Limbaugh said.

READ MORE: Rush Limbaugh: Pope is preaching 'pure Marxism'

Pope Francis told La Stampa that, “there is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church.” The 50,000-word statement calls for church reform and castigates elements of modern capitalism.

"I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on," the Pope said of Evangelii Gaudium.

Francis - the first pope ever to hail from Latin America, where he worked on behalf of the poor in his native Argentina - warned in "Evangelii" that the "idolatry of money" would lead to a "new tyranny."

The Pope also blasted "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

"The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the 'trickle-down theories,' which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world," the Pope said in the new interview on Saturday.

"The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.”

The Pope's critique of capitalism thrilled many liberal Catholics, who have long called on church leaders to spend more time and energy on protecting the poor from economic inequalities.

READ MORE: Pope Francis: No more business as usual

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

soundoff (1,371 Responses)
  1. Chris Richards

    So, at the risk of introducing facts into what is a lovely left vs. right flame fest (and I mean that sincerely) – how does the head of a religious denomination exude Marxism when Marx condemned religion as a stupefying opiate of the people? If Marx himself decried religion as anti-Marxist (actually anti-communist, he didn't name the movement himself) then perhaps Mr. Limbaugh (learned as he is) may wish to rephrase. I do, however, sympathize with Mr. Limbaugh – I think 'he's a communist' or 'he's a terrorist' may be the only two clubs in his bag and even he would probably have a hard time calling the pope a terrorist.

    I await what I am sure will be lively and witty repartee on this issue.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • JR

      The Pope doesn't. It's just Rush's stock answer to everybody.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • mikeinthevine

      How dare you attempt to inject logic or fact into this discussion. Limbaugh called him a Marxist so it must be true. Of course, Jesus was a Marxist too.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • fuzzback

        Or was Marx a Jesusist?

        December 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Facts are not needed we are on the belief blog.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  2. Jules

    The Pope is absolutely right and Rush is his usual hateful self. Not only can everything the Pope said be found in the church doctrine, it can be found in the gospels – for Rush, that would be Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament written after the birth of Jesus in the Bible.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  3. Eric

    Where the Pope is incorrect is in claiming that the poor do not benefit from "trickle down" economics. The wealth gap is increasing not because the income and wealth of the poor are declining, but rather the highest earners are doing better. Not only are the poor not seeing a decline in income, but in countries that embrace capitalism far more resources flow to the poor that aren't counted as income both from the government and non-profits. Furthermore, the innovations in goods and services that occur under capitalism increase the quality of life and provide higher quality products at lower prices that increase the standard of living for the poor. In other words, being "poor" in the USA in 1989 was far different than being poor in East Germany in the same year.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Jules

      Sorry – but what you say is not true – especially in this country.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • steve

        Sorry, what he says is true. We have the fattest poor people on earth. In relative terms, our poor live better than many of the aristocracy lived 100 years ago.

        December 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • madrogio

          Damn right! The aristocracy didn't get any food stamps. Probably didn't even have TV!

          December 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
      • Eric

        See the following: http://borgenproject.org/victories-fighting-poverty/

        December 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • Eric

        Here's more info to consider:

        http://hdr.undp.org/external/HDR_papers/oc22a.htm

        http://healthblog.ncpa.org/socialism-kills/

        December 15, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • Eric

        Who are the "poor" in the USA:

        80% have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

        92 percent of poor households have a microwave.

        Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

        Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.

        Two-thirds have at least one DVD player

        Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.

        More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

        43 percent have Internet access.

        One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

        One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

        96% of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.

        82% of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.

        42% of poor households actually own their own homes.

        The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France, or the United Kingdom.

        In 35 states Welfare pays more than a minimum wage job, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour.

        http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/09/understanding-poverty-in-the-united-states-surprising-facts-about-americas-poor

        http://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/work-versus-welfare-trade

        December 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
        • madrogio

          Yes, let's check with the libertarians to get an unbiased view of the economic landscape! Hey, the "poor" you are describing used to be called the middle class. I don't know where you are living, but the poor I am familiar with live under bridges and they have 100% air conditioning. If they don't go hungry, it's because they found a garbage can, food bank, or non-libertarian who isn't afraid to acknowledge that a dirty, pathetic human being is worthy of a handout instead of the URL for a job search service. You get out much?

          December 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • madrogio

          Good report. Shows you that the poor are really getting over on us. "82% of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food." This is the sort of thing that needs to cease immediately!

          December 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • Eric

        A video that explains the faulty logic of believing socialist policies make things better or more equal:

        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A&w=640&h=360]

        December 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Eric

        And a video that explains why a free market economy makes life better for everyone.

        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOQGiveUxf8&w=640&h=360]

        December 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Trickle down economics has been shown to not work as Reagan etc. claim(ed). Over the last 30 or so years the gap between rich and poor has been widening. CEOs regularly earn 300x an average employee whereas that was about 40x a few decades ago; upper management are not far behind. CEOs have managed to tie their compensation to stock price so all decisions are short-term with stock price in mind. Of course when the market goes up they attribute the increase in stock price to their skill, but when the market goes down they attribute the decrease in stock price to the market.

      December 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  4. steve

    Rush Limbaugh is a self-promoting zealot. As a Republican, I can't stand his style. What we need is less Rush Limbaughs and more social conservatives who understand how to win people over and not alienate them.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  5. Geo Bruno

    Most folks like R do not understand the god and mammon thingee

    December 15, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Truthsearcher

      So educate us Geo.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • Geo Bruno

        use the google

        Seeker of truth

        December 15, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  6. Mac Parsons

    Capitalism hasn't worked out that well in the Third World anyway ... in Latin America, indigenous working people are not allowed to pray in the pew, they must sit on the floor. If that doesn't scream "pecking order", I don't know what does. The Church remains a capitalist enabler.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  7. Lainie11

    Francis does exude Marxism to the exclusion of Catholic doctrine. He is pitting the classes against each other that will only further divide the Catholics. If only Francis would preach the word of God e.g. prayer, worship of God, Faith, and out of that will come the good works to which every Catholic is obliged to do. But to run around pretending to be St. Francis of Assisi, is a distraction and disservice to the beloved saint and the Catholic Faith. St. Francis gave up his riches to help the poor, but his primary actions were devoted to God first.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • marsilius

      What Francis advocates here isn't distinctively marxist in any way, shape, or form. Apparently, you are unacquainted with the long tradition of Christian social teaching.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  8. Geo Bruno

    This country was made great by a strong middle class, unions and a fair distribution of wealth

    Which of the above are R and his ilk for?

    December 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  9. Jschmidt

    In the United States, the whole trickle down idea is altered by the loopholes provided by government. So yes in a perfect world the trickle down economy would work for all boats. However our tax law doesn't allow that. The middle class is punished, the rich are allowed to hide as much as possible all because the tax law is complicated that only the rich have the army of lawyers and accountants to manipulate the system. Plus we have the drag of large government provided by the democrats with all the regulations that hinder business to go with it. The Obama admin has added over $100 billion in additional regulation on business in the last year. Obamacare is also punishing the middle class with higher premiums, high deductibles and less doctors and hospitals available on those plans. A simplified tax code would be more equitable to all as would have been a insurance group set up for the uninsured with subsidies as needed instead of destroying our medical system for all. So the pope makes valid points and rush's hysteria does not help the conservative, smaller government cause.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Dorothy

      So what is keeping these hidden riches from giving workers a living wage?

      December 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Most of these commenters will never see wealth in their life

        Exactly. It isn't a one way street. Rising production means workers need more money to purchase more goods and services. It's a shame the pope isn't a Marxist. He probably has more sense to call himself a socialist because as we all know, just as capitalism isn't just robber barons, cronyism and gilded ages, socialism isn't just bureaucratic totalitarianism. But trying to argue with CNN commenters who are in the same class struggle you are is pointless. They and everyone else think they are the elite and if they save the ideology they'll get to own their own slaves, sorry, capital, some day.

        December 15, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  10. Geo Bruno

    A Marxist Eh

    well I remember Groucho and Chico and Harpo and Gummo

    Buy no Popo

    December 15, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  11. Ben M.

    It's really sad the Pope has to explain what Marxism isn't to people. How ridiculous to claim the leader of the largest religious organization in the world would be promoting a political theory which vehemently outlaws religion. Our obsession with designing the most efficient ways to make money does not supercede humanity.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  12. fRonNo

    The truth equals Marxism in nowadays.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  13. tm1946

    Many, to many in my opinion, Roman Catholic clergy who have spent considerable time in South America see the world thru a window of socialism in not true Marxism. They are true believers but in a mixed form of both doctrines. To me, this Pope has this issue. Can the rest of the world id with him or will there be a fracture of the union. Some may chose to go their own way or even step away from the Roman Catholic faith.

    Wish him the best but am not willing to blindly accept this change by the Pope.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Robert Constant

      When the pope speaks Ex Cathedra In matters of faith and morals, it is Catholic dogma that he is infallible. Because he cites the Republican economic policies toward the poor as violations of the Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", this is such a case. In short, you seem to be choosing Mammon over God. We have free will so that is your choice. Each of us can choose love or greed. Merry Christmas!

      December 15, 2013 at 11:14 am |
      • igaftr

        Robert
        Odd you would end with that saying, since Christmas is now so closely associated with love for greed.

        December 15, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  14. Brett

    The White House and the Vatican have been taken over by Marxist extremists. All Republicans/Conservatives should retreat to their underground nuclear bunkers and never come out again.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Billy

      promise?

      December 15, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • tm1946

      There seems to be q definite pushing of the boundaries toward a more socialist view of the world. I am not sure that is the trend in most "free" world governments. Except tor Russia, China, N. Korea, Iran, and a few others, many countries are feeling the need for a socialistic approach.

      As for your Republican comment, if we did, where would you get your tax money from....Hollywood? Seriously, until the government figure out a way to generate money without private enterprise, they will want tax dollars to give all the free stuff away. Time will tell. But in the final analysis, government without an enemy, without dollars can only promise free stuff and cannot.....you can keep your insurance, period..... what does it matter.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  15. A non Catholic

    this will probably swell Limbaugh's head....that the Pope would respond to anything he has to say.....

    December 15, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • lean6

      Well, Rush may think he's ready to antagonize a larger worldwide audience, but he has no idea how many fanatics/zealots in this world are going to be desperate enough to atone for a lifetime of sins by taking him out.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  16. Jschmidt

    Rush would do a lot of conservative good if he retired. He is a bad advertisement for us.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Doris

      I would go further and say "Rush would do humanity good if he retired. He is a bad advertisement for us."

      December 15, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  17. Stan Smith

    It's sad to see that Limbaugh is used as gauge for statements made by people far more important than he'll ever be.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  18. Kyle

    Love my Pope but I think he is overreaching.

    December 15, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • William Jackson

      Since when is it overreaching to speak the truth as taught by Jesus and the books of the new testament Next you will tell us that the way you can tell which church in town is is best by how big it is, and whose preacher has the biggest fanciest SUV.

      December 15, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  19. lean6

    Oh look...church folks are fighting in public over money. Never expected to see that. (sarc)

    December 15, 2013 at 10:58 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.