Skip to comments.Pope Francis: Zacchaeus and “legitimate redistribution”
Posted on 05/09/2014 7:11:05 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
The latest speech from Pope Francis is leading Drudge and the Twittersphere, and for good reason. Any time a world leader talks about “legitimate redistribution” in regard to economic policy, it raises eyebrows, if not hackles. In the case of this pontiff, the highlight of that phrase provokes heightened scrutiny. However, the longer context of Francis’ remarks this morning to UN leadership provides a much more nuanced picture of Francis’ view of economic policy — although probably not nuanced enough for libertarian ears:
With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity. The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus. Does this spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions, I ask myself?
Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which Gods providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others.
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. Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II,Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42-43; Centesimus Annus, 43; BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 6; 24-40), 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 worlds peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.
Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.
In this case, the term “legitimate” is a limiting factor when redistribution is placed in the context of the Gospel story of Zacchaeus. Who was Zaccheaus? He was a tax collector — an agent of the government — who overtaxed and profited from his cheating. In Luke 19, Jesus’ visit to Jericho inspires this sinner and cheater to repent when Jesus extends an invitation to join him. What does Zacchaeus do in response? He proclaims his intent to redistribute his ill-gotten gains back to those whom he defrauded, and to willingly and privately share his wealth with the poor. ”And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.
In this exhortation, Francis links legitimate redistribution — ie, social benefits that almost every nation distributes in some form or another — with the larger efforts in the private sphere. Francis calls more for the conversion of the heart in private transactions in this exhortation more than any change in public policy. Much like conservatives like to profess in other contexts, Francis argues here that culture is upstream of politics. If we change hearts to be more generous and less attached to the hoarding of wealth as Jesus did with Zacchaeus, then there will be less need for governments to redistribute by force.
This may not be the most conservative or libertarian expression of economic policies, but it’s basic Catholic teaching on economics for decades, if not centuries. The lesson of Zacchaeus isn’t that government should seize more private property, but that private citizens should convert to a greater love of God and therefore have more solidarity with the poor. Those who oppose social-benefit programs will still find fault with Francis on this point, and there’s plenty of room for debate as to what constitutes “legitimate” efforts in that sphere. It’s clear, though, that he wasn’t calling for widespread and massive confiscation of wealth by governments. In fact, the story of Zacchaeus points out the dangers and injustice that result from that kind of policy.
Just remember — when the media provides only small soundbites of Pope Francis, it pays to read the entirety of his remarks, and to know and understand the teachings behind them.
This Pope lives in a world of his own.
May be nuanced in Morrissey’s mind but the rest of the world will see a pope promoting socialism. I find it hard to disagree.
THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN
At his papal coronation, Kiril removes his tiara (in a gesture of humility) and states this intent to give away a majority of Church’s riches, much to the delight of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square below.
He could always go this route .
Yes, Frankie, but the way I remember the story, nobody put a gun to Zaccheus’s head to compel him to donate money against his will.
Let us not forget -
Zachaeus was a dishonest tax collector for the government, ie, a typical leftist gov’t employee.
The media will always deviate from the actual statement of redistribution of wealth from a cultural aspect to that of redistribution of wealth from the wealthy. Keep in mind it is not the wealthy wealthy it is the middle class that will be destroyed. This is the aspect that media does not want the people to know. The media in America is Obama’s foot soldier his army, vast strong and radically funded to destroy America’s middle class
Quote- by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State
The state handing out checks doesn’t give the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the glory..
The state gets the glory.. and the praise..
Now if his church wants to dip into the war chest and start handing out the goodies, that would be nice.
In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.
-- from the thread Encycli-bites for reading Caritas in veritate
They did tried that in france a couple of hundred years ago. It did not exactly go as planned.
Since then they have tried it in about 30 other countries. Guess what? It didn't exactly go as planned those times either.
The end result was, million of people dead, millions enslaved in camps and billions living in dire poverty when there was no need.
Now you want the entire world to try it at once?
Have you thought this through?
I always thought that sounded weaselly. Why the "IF"? Why not say "and the people I cheated I will pay back four times"?
I don't know, maybe it is an artifact of the translation.
The political implications taint the perfectly fine pastoral encouragements.
“This may not be the most conservative or libertarian expression of economic policies, but its basic Catholic teaching on economics for decades, if not centuries”
So, if you’re Catholic, and an economic conservative, you are basically promoting a heretical view?
Eventually Catholics will get tired of this nonsense.
“I always thought that sounded weaselly. Why the “IF”? Why not say “and the people I cheated I will pay back four times”?”
Perhaps because of ‘presumption of innocence’.
I don’t understand your point. Who do you think is supposed to be doing the presuming? Jesus didn’t have to presume, He know.
He wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra on this issue/
"Political and economic agents" - IOW those with the power to tax and redistribute wealth? That appears to be what he is implying.
In the 80’s we had Reagan and Pope JPII reinforcing each others message of freedom and ultimately ripping communism from Europe.
Now we have Obama and this Pope reinforcing each others message of dependence and socialism - and ripping out the foundations of capitalism, and indeed all of western civilization.
It is going to get interesting. Wonder what will happen when he goes and says that divorce carries little penalty.
That appears to be what he is implying.
Christ's vicar on earth has an "on/off" switch? Convenient.
For those who only look at the pictures instead of reading the articles, they should please read at least this one line:
Its clear, though, that he wasnt calling for widespread and massive confiscation of wealth by governments.
And it might be wise to remember that another of the most important lessons of the story of Zacchaeus is that Jesus was reaching out to a social pariah extending his grace, just as he did to lepers and prostitutes and (as he would do today) "typical left wing bureaucrats."
RE: Christ’s vicar on earth has an “on/off” switch? Convenient.
I am not catholic, but I don’t try to define their beliefs for them.
Here is how they define Papal Infallibility:
The Pope is preserved from the possibility of error “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”
I don’t think personal opinion on economics is included or applies.
Pope John Paul II was a fighter, a good man and very special. Who exactly IS Pope Francis? We must demand that he repeat his message, repeat it so we can make sure we have not misunderstood his meaning.
IIRC, Matthew was also a tax collector and you did NOT read that Christ sent him back to his post with the Romans to continue “redistributing” the wealth
I venture to say, but I don’t have a source — just my opinion.
The Catholic Church is there to help all in disasters, many in their local areas, in fact, they are the number one giver of assistance to the truly needy.
King James Bible
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
King James Bible
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The Sheep and the Goats
…43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'…
The Sheep and the Goats
…39'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;…
Well, OK, he did not use the words "massive" or "widespread", but he did call for states to redistribute the wealth of their people, according to some concept of legitimacy:
"A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the worlds peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society."
It’s in the Bible. It has nothing to do with the Pope.
Hmmm...”Inasmuch as ye have voted for your government to do it unto one of the least of these my brethren, according to governmental accounting of good and evil instead of My Will, ye have done it unto me”?
“by the State”
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS MEANS
Is this a personal attack? I did not vote for Obama.
**It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. **
One of the prime examples of evangelization and conversion.
Are you mocking the Bible? I always thought you above this kind of thing. God bless.
You are right, as Morrissey also points out, that the debate hinges on the term “legitimate.” If we assume that the State ought to play absolutely no role in the distribution of social benefits, then we would do just as well to have no government at all. As tempting as that sounds, the result would be chaos. The Pope is not some closeted Marxist and is willing to speak to the flaws in the economic systems of both the Left and the Right.
***Who was Zaccheaus?***
If I remember my Sunday school lessons correctly correctly Zaccheaus was a wee little man.
Repeat After Me: Subsidiarity & Solidarity
Subsidiarity and Human Dignity
Does the USCCB Understand Subsidiarity?
[CATHOLIC CAUCUS] The Principle of Subsidiarity
[CATHOLIC/ORTHODOX CAUCUS] Subsidiarity Over Social Justice
What is the USCCBs problem with subsidiarity?
Subsidiarity: Where Justice and Freedom Coexist
Health reform still full of thorny problems for Catholics (Vasa comes out for subsidiarity)
What You [Catholics] Need to Know: Subsidiarity, [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Catholic Word of the Day: SUBSIDIARITY, 06-11-09
Wealth redistribution via centralized authority is the antithesis of subsidiarity.
“Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority”.
I am not sure of your point..
My point was the pope wants the state to hand out benefits.. not the church...
That brother is why pelosis of the world can claim the glory!
Are you thinking of subsidies?
This is subsidiarity. Go to the smallest loutlet on the local level for assistance. For example, your neighbor, then people in your neighborhood, then your local church, other local ministries, then part of the local county of city government.
Sorry you don’t seem to understand the Bible. It is talking about us. (As well as the people those days.)
Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich persons gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again.
Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change peoples hearts firstand then they will joyfully share their wealth.
- St. John Chrysostom on the poor from On Living Simply XLIII
Great observations - Reagan and JPII eradicated communism, Obama and this Jesuit are reestablishing it.
Wow. That is the best post I’ve seen in awhile. Thank you.
Note in the following Scripture passage that the contributions were VOLUNTARILY laid down before the feet of the Apostles, not forcibly obtained and laid down before the feet of Caesar (or Nancy Pelosi).
"And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul. Neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own: but all things were common unto them. 33 And with great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord: and great grace was in them all. 34 For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold, 35 And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need." Acts 4:32-35