You’ve heard of “legitimate rape,” now meet its state-sanctioned cousin, “legitimate robbery.” Or, at least, hear it in the euphemized form pronounced by the People’s Pope, Pope Francis: “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.”
For those of you mainstreamers who actually believed the media when they condemned Sarah Palin for calling this guy a “liberal”—folks, that was mild, and for whatever her faults and foibles otherwise may be, Palin should never have apologized for that statement. And for those of you, also, who actually believed this Pope when he assured the world he is no communist—only “caring for the poor”—well, let’s talk a little bit about walking and quacking, shall we?
Whether something wears the label of “communist,” or “socialist,” or “liberal,” or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is substance of their social ethics. As I argue throughout God vs. Socialism, the moment the state begins to redistribute wealth for any reason other than punishment for crime (and that only in very specified ways), it is defying the biblical doctrine of private property, defying biblical law, defying God. I label such activity by the state “socialism,” and I argue it applies across the board whether any given version of the practice meets certain technical definitions of “socialism,” “communism,” “liberation theology,” etc., used by some today.
I don’t care about the labels. I care about the substance.
So I get my jimmies rustled a bit when I hear this self-proclaimed not-a-communist advocating socialistic doctrines which he euphemistically terms “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.”
This came during a brief speech before world leaders at the U.N. “Agencies, Funds and Programmes” group last May, where Francis called for “equitable development” by the aforementioned means. His full comments go like this:
I do not hesitate to state . . . that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.
Honestly, had he left out the phase “by the State,” I would have been less disturbed. We do need legitimate distribution of wealth, and it is only by such means that poverty can truly be addressed in any lasting way. But “legitimate redistribution by the State” is a whole different animal. Now you’ve moved from sharing, giving, and charity into the realm of coercion at gunpoint—i.e. armed robbery.
To call such activity “legitimate” is to deny Scripture in the name of the poor.
It is no surprise, then, to see Pope Francis mangle a classic passage of Scripture—Zacchaeus—toward this end. He brings forth the wee little man for a whopper of a tale:
Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. . . . The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others. Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others.
Sure, if it were all about “sharing and justice,” who could be opposed? And to be sure, what Zacchaeus did was indeed about justice—but not some scheme of redistribution like Francis promotes. Read the text (Luke 19:1–10). You will find nothing in there about Zacchaeus putting “everything . . . at the service of others.” You will certainly not find anything about state-run wealth redistribution. (That was in part the very thing Zacchaeus had been doing wrong to begin with!)
Sure, Zacchaeus voluntarily gave half his goods to the poor. That was giving, and that was good. And yes, Zacchaeus proclaimed that if he had defrauded anyone of anything (verse 8), he would restore it fourfold. This was restitutional justice according to Mosaic law (Exodus 22:1–14). Zacchaeus was willing to repay with penalty anything he had stolen—again, justice for crime—not to institute a state-run program of wealth redistribution.
When Francis notes that Jesus never asked Zacchaeus to change jobs or amend his financial activity, it’s simply an argument from silence. The text records absolutely no ethical instruction from Jesus to Zacchaeus on anything. For example, Jesus also did not tell Zac not to murder anyone. Was he free therefore to do so? No, the law remained in force, in total, and Jesus did not have to tell him rules which he already knew well. The problem was that Zacchaeus was transgressing the law up to that point, and that’s how he got so rich. Now he repented of his sin and crime, and willing to uphold the law.
The same rules apply to the State. The mad twist of irony here is that by supporting the State in its coercive taxing and redistributing activities, Pope Francis is actually advocating the crime of which Zacchaeus was actually guilty before the law of God.
Of course, before meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus would probably have referred to his trade as “cooperation between the private sector and civil society.” Roman tax collection actually was a public-private partnership, after all. Zacchaeus would likely have defended himself against advocates of Mosaic law by calling the Roman State system “legitimate.”
Well, Rome continues it euphemizing of state-sanctioned robbery. Today it flows from the lips of His Holiness, head of the People’s Liberation Front of the Vatican, Pope Francis. Reiterating his previous sentiments, this Pope recently made all headlines when he addressed another UN group, “with the aim of studying together the forms of intervention necessary in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.”
He spoke of the “right to food” for which “States” should be “inspired.” In this process, he argued, “We ask for dignity, not for charity.”
This is a frank admission: the leftist, socialist program is always against charity. They believe in entitlement and material equity. Francis has tipped his hand once again. Out with charity! In with “dignity.” In with “justice” in terms of “distribution.” Read: in with state-enforced material equality. Read: in with socialism and communism-lite.
We are not left wondering what type of “intervention” he has in mind: it involves “States, too.” In regard to “feeding the human family,” he said, “Every woman, man, child and elderly person everywhere should be able to count on these guarantees. It is the duty of every State that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens to subscribe to them unreservedly, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their implementation.”
Toward this end he preaches “the relationship between rights and food” as part of “the right to life and a dignified existence” which ought “to be protected by law.” It is nothing less than a “moral obligation to share the economic wealth of the world.”
Call it what you will, but if it walks and quacks like a socialist, no degree of pious rhetoric and personal example will change the fact that it is a socialist. No cope and miter can hide the socialist feathers.
There is one thing, however, Francis said with which I agree. It was certainly unwitting on his part. He uttered, “There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger. . . . This is the first challenge to be overcome.” Yes!
So I have a couple pieces of advice for Pope Francis. First, attend to your own fallacies regarding poverty and justice. That must be the first challenge you overcome.
Second, if you’re so worried about the poor, how about a Vatican-sanctioned auction of treasures, paintings, gold, properties, etc., with the proceeds going to feed the hungry and institute voluntary programs of charity? We’ll even let you call it dignity instead of charity. How about pouring out the Vatican billions for that?
Granted, this current Pope has done more personally to encourage simplicity and giving than many others. If only his teaching and lecturing of world leaders carried over that example of voluntarism and charity. Instead, his proclamations repudiate those principles and embrace State socialism.
Next thing you know, Jim Wallis of Sojourners will be leveraging Pope Francis for fundraising and inviting him to Washington, D.C.! My oops. He already did.