Interview with British Conservative Euro-MP Nirj Deva
Reflections on Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
Many people are asking whether Pope Francis, in making what appears to be a general critique of capitalism, has just given a blanket papal endorsement to socialism. Is this true?
“The first thing to underline is that the Holy Father is writing within the solid tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. His discourse is therefore fundamentally to be taken as a moral one. He does not claim for it, nor does he intend it to be taken, as an economic treatise. He wants to underline that we must not make idols out of wealth or material possessions – nor does he want to see the human person with his infinite dignity used as a mere object of others. The Holy Father wants us to see the human person as unique, and immeasurably valuable, and not defined by a materialist society according to how much wealth he or she has.
The second important thing to note, is that this Pope comes from within the Latin American context, where the general experience of capitalism is more that of crony capitalism, where the rich use the State as the means to succeed with special advantages over the poor that they would never have achieved under a genuinely open free market system.
So the Holy Father has not just officially endorsed all socialist political parties?
No – absolutely not. Pope Francis has distinguished himself as one of the Great Communicators of the modern era, and one of the things that make his approach so refreshing is his willingness to think out loud – and as a truly first-rate thinker, he likes to refine and expand his ideas. This Exhortation will not be his last word – and it does the complexity of Francis’s profound thought a disservice to hone in on one specific area and take it out of the context of the totality.”
What further elaborations do you expect to see on this field in the future?
I hope that such further developments will strongly acknowledge that the free market has moved more people out of absolute poverty than any other system of free cooperation ever attempted by man.
Is it true that capitalism is a system that does not care for the poor?
Not at all – one cannot distribute wealth towards the poor before that wealth has been created. That is a simple fact of reality. The indisputable empirical evidence is that those who create wealth do so when driven by the profit motive.
What would a society look like that does not have an economy based on the profit motive?
The Soviet economy is a good example of an economy where the profit motive was totally eliminated: and no-one wants to see a return to that, least of all this Pope whose opposition to catholic marxism (known as ‘Liberation Theology’) when he was a latin american bishop is well known.”
Nirj Deva MEP is Conservative MEP for the South East of England, and Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Development Committee. He is President of the International Committee on Human Dignity, whose secretariat is organised by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. This interview will be published in the next edition of Imago Dei, the DHI’s monthly newsletter.