Pope Francis orders Catholics to violate the Tenth Commandment?

On April 28, 2014 Pope Francis Tweeted: “Inequality is the root of social evil.” It appears Pope Francis is asking all Catholics to “covet the money” of those who have it in the name of “equality.” Is Pope Francis re-stating, in his Tweet, what Karl Marx wrote – “From each according to his ability to each according to his need?”

On November 24th, 2013 Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium : Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World wrote:

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. [Emphasis added]

Gary M. Galles in his column For the Love of Money writes, “To do things for money is nothing more than to advance what we care about. In markets, we do for others as an indirect way of doing for ourselves.” Perhaps Pope Francis has forgotten the Tenth Commandment (cf Ex 20: 2-17):

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
or his manservant, or his maidservant,
or his ox, or his ass,
or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Julian Adorney writes, “In A Dynamic Analysis of Economic Freedom and Income Inequality in the 50 States: Empirical Evidence of a Parabolic Relationship, Daniel L. Bennett and Richard K. Vedder argue that, past a certain point, economic freedom decreases inequality. Increasing economic freedom benefits the poor and middle class more than it helps the wealthy.”

Adorney notes:

The Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Annual Report, published by the Fraser Institute, analyzes around 150 countries in terms of factors like their economic freedom, closeness to a laissez-faire state, poverty levels, and per capita income. The results are a striking indictment of the idea that more government intervention in the economy can help the poor.

As EFW points out, the shares of a country’s GDP going to the bottom 10 percent are pretty consistent regardless of how free the country is. From communist states to progressive countries to almost laissez-faire societies, the poorest 10 percent of citizens receive about 2.5 percent of the country’s wealth. No amount of progressive policies has changed that number. But for the poor, life is still much better in an economically free country than in one with more government. More economically free countries have more wealth than less free ones, meaning the poorest 10 percent can end up with thousands of dollars more per year. The poorest citizens of the 25 percent most-free countries earn an average of $10,556 per year. The poorest citizens in the middle 50 percent of countries earn less than a third of that.

Max Borders, Editor of the Freeman writes:

When we hear people fretting about inequality, we should ask ourselves: Are they genuinely concerned for the poor or are they indignant about the rich? Here’s how to tell the difference: Whenever someone grumbles about “the gap,” ask her if she’d be willing for the rich to be even richer if it meant improved conditions for the absolute poorest among us. If she says “no,” she’s admitting that her concern is really with what the wealthy have, not what the poor lack. If her answer is “yes,” then the so-called “gap” is irrelevant. You can then go on to talk about legitimate concerns, like how best to improve the conditions of the poor without paying them to be wards of the State. In other words, the meaningful conversation we should be having is about absolute poverty, not relative poverty.

In so many of the discussions about income inequality, there is a basic emotional dynamic at work. Someone sees they have less than another, and they feel envious. Perhaps they see they have more than another, and they feel guilty. Or they see that someone has more than someone else, and they feel indignation. Envy, guilt, and indignation. Are these the kinds of emotions that should drive social policy? When we begin to understand the origins of wealth—honest entrepreneurs and stewards of capital in an inherently unequal ecosystem—we can learn to leave our more primitive emotions behind.

Is Pope Francis succumbing to envy? Is the Pontiff showing an emotional dynamic? Is Francis asking all Catholics to violate the Tenth Commandment? Is Francis confusing money with economic freedom?