From this Friday's The PBS Newshour, resident hack and professional Republican turd-polisher David Brooks took a shot at Pope Francis as being "a little out of his lane" because he dared to criticize the problems being caused by record income disparity, unfettered capitalism and the idolatry of money. I guess this shouldn't come as any big surprise to anyone, since Brooks has made his living trying to whitewash the very policies which have done nothing but make these problems worse, and this segment was no exception.
These Republicans lamenting that the Pope is being too "political" with his views as Brooks was here sure as hell have never had the same qualms when it comes to telling women what they should do when it comes to their own health and reproductive rights. That's A-okay in their book. Criticize the rich... now you're getting out of line.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Let's shift gears.
The pope came out with -- I want to get this correct -- his first apostolic exhortation. It was his first major work, big report. In there, he takes quite a few very specific jabs at capitalism, calling it a new tyranny. I mean, popes in the past have had these concerns before, but really he's laying this out. And some of the sort of pope watchers, experts are saying that this is the agenda for how to reform the Christian church.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I -- I actually have a lot of sympathy.
I'm a fan of capitalism, but I have a lot of sympathy for it. And it should be remembered that Benedict and John Paul II issued some extremely critical statements on capitalism. That is the job of the Catholic Church, to be a balance to the materialistic drives of our culture and of economy.
I guess I would wish he would emphasize two things, first, that capitalism over the last 25 years has been an incredible moral good. It has reduced poverty more in the last 25 years than ever before in human history, mostly in Asia. But that's been a phenomenal good. That's relieved suffering. And that has been a product of capitalism.
The second thing I would say is sometimes I think the analysis and some of the language used this time was too narrowly economic. One of the things capitalism does is, it does enhance and exacerbate the sin of pride, making yourself, the material world the center of your universe, instead of God's will.
But the doesn't only happen in capitalism. That can happen in faculty clubs. It can happen at NGOs. And so that is a spiritual sin. And to talk about some of the spiritual sins that capitalism encourages in a broader scale seems to me the right way to do it. To focus on a certain sort of economic theory, that seems to me a little out of the pope's lane.
MARK SHIELDS: I think it's very much in the pope's lane.
And I think that survival of the fittest has never been a tenet of either Judeo-Christian values or Christian -- our culture. And I think the pope has confronted us with a fundamental question: What are we first? Are we a free market system, that we have confidence that, untrammeled and unfettered, it will eventually provide good for more people?
Or are we a community, a community of human beings of equal dignity, and that a capitalist system, a free enterprise system, under regulation and required regulation -- and that's what he -- that's the difference he makes more than any to me in the economic sphere, which is not private charity and private generosity, which have always been important, but that we have a collective responsibility to make that sure all of us, the least among us, through our collective instrument of government, have education, have health care, have shelter, have food, that that's not just a matter of individual kindness or compassion.
And I -- to me, that was it. And David's right. It's not a deviation from John Paul II or Benedict or past popes, but the emphasis that he brings to it, the passion he brings to it, that Pope Francis does, as well as the sense of engaging the world, I mean, it's an optimistic, upbeat, and passionate pope that we are seeing right now who drives a Ford Focus.
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, he doesn't -- he doesn't drive around in an armored limo. That's a big difference.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, if I could just say one thing, capitalism tells you, be ambitious, be self-interested.
All of us from all political persuasions understand that is not enough and that there should be countercultures telling you that that is not enough. And there used to be a ton. Religion was a counterculture, but our intellects -- there were a lot of countercultures that said, being self-interested, being interested in your own achievement, that is not a happy life.
And -- but I'm afraid that sometimes when the pope does it in the way he did this time, he is introducing a political divide where there doesn't need to be one, where he makes it into an argument about economic philosophy, when it could be the core message of Catholicism, that self-interest shouldn't really be the center of your life.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Does it punctuate a conversation about inequality that has been happening...
MARK SHIELDS: Well, that to me is what the fundamental premise of what the pope's -- and that is not simply the inequality, economic inequality, which David has talked about in the past, and income inequality, and wealth inequality, but that that leads to an inequality of opportunity.
And we have seen it in this country with a widening divide, where people who are born poor, whether they're white or black, in the South, in the Midwest, they have a better chance -- I mean a worse chance, actually, of growing up to be poor adults, whether white or black, and that this has been a problem, and that income inequality and economic inequality are -- quite frankly, have a social cost.
DAVID BROOKS: So, I literally am being more Catholic than the pope.
So, what Catholicism, what Christianity tells us -- and Judaism as well -- tells us that we're all equal shows. What do the Beatitudes say?
It's about -- it's about how we are all fundamentally equal souls, and if you make a zillion dollars, you're not any better than anybody else spiritually. You're still an equal soul. In fact, it's probably going to be a little tougher for you because of the sins that go along with that.
I would love to see the pope emphasize the equality of souls and the fact that your success is problematic to your salvation, and instead of a much more narrowly political -- I'm all in favor of talking about inequality. We do it all the time. I just want the pope to be the pope.
MARK SHIELDS: The pope said, David, if you did read it...
DAVID BROOKS: I have.
MARK SHIELDS: OK.
He said, I love the -- I love the rich. As well, I love the poor, that that is -- but that the responsibility we have -- I mean, the rich are getting by pretty damn well. And, as we have cut taxes, the inequality has grown wider. And so, you know, I think the pope deserves a listen-to.