December 2nd, 2013
11:29 AM ET

Rush Limbaugh: Pope is preaching 'pure Marxism'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - Pope Francis:  Successor to St. Peter ... the people's pontiff ... Marxist?

That's what conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh suggests, calling the Pope's latest document "pure Marxism."

Limbaugh blasted the pontiff on Wednesday, a day after Francis released "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), a 50,000-word statement that calls for church reform and castigates elements of modern capitalism.

Limbaugh's segment, now online and entitled "It's Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It's a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)," takes direct aim at the pope's economic views, calling them "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong."

The Vatican issued the English translation of "Evangelii," which is known officially as an apostolic exhortation and unofficially as a pep talk to the worlds 1.5 billion Catholics.

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."

READ MORE: Pope Francis: No more business as usual

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.

But Limbaugh, whose program is estimated to reach 15 million listeners, called the Pope's comments "sad" and "unbelievable."

"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."

In fact, Argentina was a battlefield between leftist socialists and right-wing security forces during much of Francis' early career in the country, where he was a Jesuit priest and later archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Limbaugh, who is not Catholic, said he admires the faith "profoundly."  He admired Pope Francis as well, "up until this," Limbaugh said.

The talk show host also said that he has made numerous visits to the Vatican, which he said "wouldn't exist without tons of money."

"But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him," Limbaugh added. "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope."

Limbaugh took particular issue with the Pope's criticism of the "culture of prosperity," which the pontiff called a "mere spectacle" for the many people who can't afford to participate.

"This is almost a statement about who should control financial markets," Limbaugh said. "He says that the global economy needs government control."

"I'm not Catholic, but I know enough to know that this would have been unthinkable for a pope to believe or say just a few years ago," Limbaugh continued.

In fact, Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, could be just as strong a critic of capitalism.

In 2009, Benedict, in an official church document called an encyclical, said there was an urgent need for "a political, juridical and economic order" that would "manage the global economy."

As Limbaugh notes, Benedict's predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II, was a noted foe of communism, after living under its oppressions in his native Poland. But even John Paul thought that unregulated capitalism could have negative consequences.

In "Evangelii," Francis called for more of a spiritual and ethical revolution than a regulatory one.

"I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: `Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs,'" said Francis, quoting the fifth-century St. John Chrysostom.

Liberal Catholics defended Pope Francis on Monday, calling on Limbaugh to apologize and retract his remarks.

"To call the Holy Father a proponent 'pure Marxism' is both mean-spirited and naive," said Christopher Hale of the Washington-based Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. "Francis's critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church's social teaching."

Limbaugh is not the only conservative commentator to take issue with the Pope's views on capitalism.

READ MORE: Sarah Palin 'taken aback' by Pope Francis's 'liberal' statements

“I go to church to save my soul," said Fox News' Stuart Varney, who is an Episcopalian. "It’s got nothing to do with my vote. Pope Francis has linked the two. He has offered direct criticism of a specific political system. He has characterized negatively that system. I think he wants to influence my politics.”

It doesn't sound like the criticism is slowing Francis down, however. He's started sending a Vatican contingent, including the Papal Swiss Guards, into Rome to deliver food and charity.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Ethics • Media • Money & Faith • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis

soundoff (6,695 Responses)
  1. 866bway

    One man's Marxism is another man's compassion.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  2. T Diemer

    Yes, someone has gotten to Pope Francis – the Holy Spirit. Anyone with any sense already knows that Rush Limbaugh is an ignorant intolerant bigot. Who are you going to believe Limaugh or the Pope?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • martiniano

      Well said!

      December 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • ajbuffl

      My respect for this Pope just went up about 100 fold. I would imagine the Pope isn't very concerned with what deranged megalomaniacs like Rush say about anything. Rush appeals to the most offensive and lowest elements of humanity – unlikely possessing the brain power for social justice and care for the welfare of the human race. The Pope is appealing to the highest elements – way beyond Rush's brain capacity.

      December 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  3. joethejuggler

    Slow news day, CNN?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Haruko Haruhara

      I thought the same thing. Top story? Rush said this five days ago. And on a certain level, who cares what he says on his show.

      December 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  4. rosie

    Rush is pure stupidity. I did not know Rush was Catholic.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  5. ruducky2

    The Pope should have known better than to so deliberately oppose the sacred teachings of The Rush.

    And thus spoketh The Rush: Any rich fool who so disposes himself to give even a pittance to charity is well within his rights but is surely a foolish capitalist. But he who claims to need that charity by accepting it and taking others wealth in hand shall forever be destined to burn in the fires of Satan's socialism." Amen in Spiritu Limbaugh Sancti

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  6. rafterman11

    Jesus H. To you friggin' 'cons, anybody who isn't a goosestepping far right wing nut job is a "Marxist". You use the word so much that it doesn't have any meaning any more.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Jesse

    It was just a matter of time before Rush attacked the Pope..Who you gonna believe?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • doobzz

      Out of those two? Neither.

      December 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Beeto

    Well, I guess that makes Jesus a marxist too.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  9. ThomasR

    People arguing against "Trickle down economics" are arguing for what? Socialism. So the USSR's complete failure wasn't enough proof that does not work? And before you try to correct me, Communism is a form of Socialism.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  10. SeattleReign

    And Rush Limbaugh is preaching pure hate on any given day. I'll listen to the Catholic dude any day over the fat headed big mouth.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  11. Jim

    Since Rush is one of the richest men on radio, no surprise he wouldn't want anyone preaching about taking away more of his money. Trickle down economics sure seems to be working – just look at how much the 1% are suffering trickling so much money down to us poor shmucks. God knows Rush needs his 300 million to live on, couldn't make due with less. Keep sending him your hard earned money, folks. But let's cut back food stamps from all those 'welfare sneaks'.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  12. Foxxy

    Rush must be hitting the booze and pills a bit harder than usual lately. Understandable. Not a damn thing he's said has made sense for a decade.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      I'll drink to that!

      December 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  13. Lemon Talks

    Evangelii Gaudium talks about FORCED CHARITY, OR TAKING PEOPLES MONEY BY FORCE which i am sure the vatican would love to do.

    and then redistributing the money.

    taking money by force to give to other people is infact a tenet of marxism.

    why is this hard to understand for some?

    liberals why do you keep refusing to tell me how rush is wrong?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Foxxy

      Then any form of tax is Marxism. You're taking money from people to spend on the people. That's redistribution of wealth.

      December 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  14. Joe

    Jesus was a Marxist too, so it's actually a compliment.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Lemon Talks

      jesus never said even on marxist word

      December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • Fr33th1nk3r

        Please provide a list of "Marxist words" for our entertainment....

        December 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  15. Peter Chaffee

    I think it is sad that Limbaugh is so caught up in his own ideology that he can't see the truth and meaningfulness of what the Pope has to say. I've been reading the Pope's Exhortation as spiritual reading, and it is good to hear the leader of the Church expressing what I have always felt in my heart and, perhaps, only occasionally seen in real life.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Harry Cline

      He see's it, and he doesn't care. He's scared.
      Most of these so called self made people are crooks.

      December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  16. Cwhat'sNew

    Ok. Pope is Marxism. Jesus, Canada and Europe are all Socialism. What is Limbaugh?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Foxxy


      December 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  17. Jack

    I have little use for the Pope but in this case the responses to his utterly reasonable comments serve to expose the radical outlook of certain media spokespersons representing an audience for whom capitalism has become the ultimate, infallible religion.

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  18. Jeff

    I hate to break it to Limbaugh, but Jesus was world's first hippie. He spoke out against materialism, traditions of hierarchical privilege, was a pacifist, hung out rejects, and wasn't much for traditional families. I was raised in a Protestant traditional that had its roots in Social Justice movements of the early 20th century, when preachers condemned the excesses of the elites of the time. Somewhere along the way, the gospel of the almighty dollar trumped the gospel of good works (real works, not just donating money to mega-churches or harassing non-Christians in other countries.) Somehow humility, compassion and a modest living became Marxism.
    I'm not a big fan of Catholicism, its anachronistic, but it sounds to me like this Pope might have actually read the same Bible as I did.

    P.S.- I like how it keeps getting pointed out that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, though of Italian ancestry, spent most of his time in South America. Is there some conservative dog whistle that says "Everything South American is communist"?

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  19. A-Catholic

    The pope needs to look a little more inward – the value of the gold he is wearing far exceeds the yearly income of those he espouses to want to help. Oh yea, and when my local parish in Raleigh is looking to build a new cathedral for 30 million they don't go to the soup kitchen looking for cash....

    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Maybe he IS "looking inward", but it sure sounds as though people like you are opposed to it!

      December 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  20. Anna


    December 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
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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.