Ken Langone To Cardinal: The Pope Better Watch What He Says

Wahh! Wahh! Pope Francis said mean things about rich people exploiting poor people!

Cardinal Dolan is someone who, in my kinder moods, I might describe as a "right-wing corporate bootlick." So the thought of him having to explain to self-centered billionaires that OF COURSE Pope Francis didn't mean to criticize them puts me in a happy mood. But billionaires like wingnut Langone (who's famously tight with a buck when it comes to his employees) really should reflect on the pope's economic message, because yes, he really was talking about people like him:

Pope Francis' critical comments about the wealthy and capitalism have at least one wealthy capitalist benefactor hesitant about giving financial support to one of the church's major fundraising projects.

At issue is an effort to raise $180 million for the restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York being spearheaded by billionaire Ken Langone, the investor known for founding Home Depot, among other things.

Langone told CNBC that one potential seven-figure donor is concerned about statements from the pope criticizing market economies as "exclusionary," urging the rich to give more to the poor and criticizing a "culture of prosperity" that leads some to become "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor."

Langone said he's raised the issue more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, most recently at a breakfast in early December at which he updated him on fundraising progress.

"I've told the cardinal, 'Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don't have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don't act the same as rich people in another country,' " he said.

But Ken, they do! They create ideologies and theologies that justify squeezing every last cent out of the poor and vulnerable, and they buy politicians to rig the game for their benefit. Are you claiming that doesn't happen here?

Some of the statements in question are from Francis' first teaching, or "exhortation," a 224-page document issued in late November. In it, the pontiff criticizes what he calls "an economy of exclusion and inequality," blaming ideologies that "defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation."


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Dolan told CNBC that he had heard from Langone and said, " 'Well, Ken, that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father's message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people.' ... So I said, 'Ken, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We've gotta correct to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father's message properly.' And then I think he's gonna say, 'Oh, OK. If that's the case, count me in for St. Patrick's Cathedral.' "

Neither Langone or Dolan revealed the name of the potential donor. The cardinal said he didn't know the person's identity, and Langone declined to name him, saying only that the individual was upset about the pope's comments about the rich being insensitive to the poor.

In a speech in Brazil in July, Francis appealed "to those in possession of greater resources," saying that they should "never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity. No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world."

It was unclear when Dolan may speak with the individual donor.

Langone, who describes himself as a devout Catholic who prays every morning, said he has told the cardinal that "you get more with honey than with vinegar." He said he also wants to make clear that wealthy Americans are some of the biggest donors in the world.

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