Alfredo Borba / CC BY-SA

October 4, 2020; National Catholic Reporter

In his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers), Pope Francis draws from the teachings of St. Francis to urge the world to move along from thinking that the free market would ever work to promote equity.

In the document, he writes that our current political and economic institutions must be reformed to address the needs of those who have been most harmed by the pandemic. His words might be taken to particularly admonish the US, whose unwillingness to collaborate on testing and vaccines, among other things, has placed this country and the world at ever more risk. He also says there is no justifiable “norm” to return to.

“Aside from the differing ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident,” Francis writes. “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

“The fragility of world systems in the face of the pandemic has demonstrated that not everything can be resolved by market freedom,” he continues. “It is imperative to have a proactive economic policy directed at ‘promoting an economy that favors productive diversity and business creativity’ and makes it possible for jobs to be created, and not cut.”

He called global economic systems that marginalize poor people and enrich the few “perverse,” pointing to the need for resource-sharing for the common good, which should always supersede absolute right to property for individuals.

Finally, Francis admonished his followers to stop swallowing the magical thinking that has supported regressive economic polices over many decades. “Neo-liberalism simply reproduces itself by resorting to magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle’—without using the name—as the only solution to societal problems,” he writes. “There is little appreciation of the fact that the alleged ‘spillover’ does not resolve the inequality that gives rise to new forms of violence threatening the fabric of society.”—Ruth McCambridge