Pope Benedict Wealth Distribution


Some people are disturbed by Pope’s Benedict’s use of the term “redistribution of wealth” in his latest Message for World Day of Peace.  Every year in December the Pope issues a message, not an Encyclical, not an Allocution, not a papal document that carries any degree of infallibility; it is simply a message to the whole world for the World Day of Peace that is celebrated on January 1st every year.  Here is a list of the titles of the Pope’s last six messages for the World Day of Peace:

45th World Day of Peace 2012, Educating Young People in Justice and Peace

44th World Day of Peace 2011, Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace

43rd World Day of Peace 2010, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation

42nd World Day of Peace 2009, Fighting Poverty to Build Peace
41st World Day of Peace 2008, The Human Family, a Community of Peace
40th World Day of Peace 2007, The Human Person, the Heart of Peace


It is important to note that this year’s Message is devoted to educating young people in justice and peace.  It is about education, not primarily economics or world finance although those subjects are considered by the Pope to be important for the education of young people.

Also it is important to note that the Pope’s reference to “redistribution of wealth” occurs, not in the section of justice, but in the section on peace.  We here in the United States have been polarized by Barack Hussein Obama’s blatant response to Joe the Plumber in 2008 that one of Obama’s goals is the redistribution of wealth through taxation.  He has lived up to his promise and has never ceased to push for taxing the wealthy (including the middle class) in order to pay for his ever expanding entitlement programs.  I am sure that he considers it one of his accomplishments that there are now 46,000,000 Americans living on food stamps.  That and similar entitlement programs are only possible if he taxes those who have money in order to give more to those who have less money.

Pope Benedict is not writing in the context of taxing more those who have money; he is writing in the context of the Church’s teaching as set forth in all of the great social encyclicals beginning with Pope Leo XIII and continuing down through Blessed Pope John Paul II.  Pope Benedict is not writing about taxing the rich to help the poor but rather he and the other Popes call for the construction of “mechanisms” in our global economy that help bring about a better distribution of wealth between the nations of the First World and the nations of the Second and Third Worlds.

The Pope is very conscious of the fact that in nations of the First World (America and Europe) annual family income for a poor family is measured in tens of thousands of dollars while the annual family income for a poor family in the Third World is frequently measured in hundreds of dollars.

So, Pope Benedict is calling for the youth of the world to be educated in justice so that there may be a greater degree of insurance for peace in the future.  Otherwise, revolutions and wars will be inevitable.

Here are the pertinent sections of Pope Benedict’s Message for the World Day of Peace, 2112:

Educating in justice
4. In this world of ours, in which, despite the profession of good intentions, the value of the person, of human dignity and human rights is seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit and material possessions, it is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots. Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love(6).
We cannot ignore the fact that some currents of modern culture, built upon rationalist and individualist economic principles, have cut off the concept of justice from its transcendent roots, detaching it from charity and solidarity: “The ‘earthly city’ is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world”(7).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). They shall be satisfied because they hunger and thirst for right relations with God, with themselves, with their brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation.
Educating in peace

5. “Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.”8 We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in him, by his Cross, God has reconciled the world to himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in him, there is but one family, reconciled in love.
Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9). (emphasis added)
Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.

Do not say that human life begins at “fertilization”, or at “implantation”.
Here is a simple and more accurate definition of when human life begins:

 Human life normally begins at conception,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       that is, when a cell with 46 chromosomes
begins to divide, begins to become a zygote.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. anselmusjmj says:

    There is a “richness” which the materially poor have, but the materially rich do NOT have. During my one year of living in the desert missions of Coahuila Mexico, it was normal to live in adobe huts with dirt floors. Looking at the dirt floors and rags for clothes, the lack of electronics and technology, would lead most people to say “these are poor people.” But I’ll tell you what…. these “poor people” had a freedom which most of us “rich” folks in the U.S.A. will never have. They did not have loans with interest to worry about, they didn’t have bill collectors or debts, their homes did not need to be paid off, neither did their livestock or donkeys need to be paid off, everything was paid for. These “materially poor” I lived with in those deserts did not have lots of material comforts, but they had the comfort of no debt and a simple life which included lots and lots of family and God time. It is not for nothing that Mother Teresa said something to this effect: “The people I work for are not the poorest of the poor, they are materially poor. The poverty in America is a spiritual poverty, and that is the worst kind of poverty.”

    When we hear of redistribution of wealth, we need simply hold fast to the Social Justice Papal Encyclicals like Rerum Novarum, wherein Pope Leo XIII condemned Socialism and Socialism’s zealousness for individuals to lose their private property or other capitalistic gains.

  2. Curt Stoller says:

    Addendum. I may be cast out of the Third Order of Saint Francis for saying this, but wanting to help the poor and actually helping them are two different things. It doesn’t help the poor to teach falsehood or promote explanations based on false causality. Error can never help the poor even when it is shouted from the housetops with voices full of genuine love and compassion. Nothing based on error has ultimately been successful, at that includes economic policies.

    It is a cold hard fact that there is a scarcity of resources. Scarcity is not the result of bad politics, greed, exploitation or class warfare. Scarcity is an ontological fact. Not everyone can write a symphony like Beethoven. That fact is not the result of exploitation. Not everyone can have a house on top of a mountain. There simply are not enough mountain tops to go around.

    It is a common cry among those thinking from emotion and not science to say that prices are due to greed. This implies that sellers can set prices by an act of will. That is false. If it were true no company or country would ever go bankrupt. If you desire to have a house on top of a mountain you will find that it is very expensive. And you may want to blame a greedy real estate broker or a greedy banker or a greedy land owner. But the truth is that there is a scarcity of mountaintops. And the price of mountaintops reflects that.

    It does no good for politicians to falsely “personalize” causality. Scarcity means that except in Heaven, there will never be enough of everything to satisfy everyone’s desires. Many sincerely compassionate policies to help the poor have had the exact opposite effect throughout history because they have ignored the ontological nature of scarcity. Attempts by government to keep food prices down by imposing price controls led to mass starvation in 17th century Italy, 18th century India, post revolutionary France, post Bolshevik revolutionary Russia and many African countries after they achieved independence. The sad fact is that many of these countries were food exporters before compassionate “experts” instituted government planning and price controls.

    If history is not one of your fortes, consider this which most of you have lived through. When China and India, two of the most poverty stricken nations in the world began to allow free markets in their countries, the number of poor in those countries diminished dramatically. By dramatically I mean that it has been estimated that 20,000,000 people in India rose out of utter poverty in ten years and more than 1,000,000 PER MONTH were freed from terrible poverty in China [Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 7]. The introduction of free markets into China and India did more for the poor in those countries than all the empathy and compassion of heartfelt socialists.

    Although leftist intellectuals wish it were not so, the fact is that scarcity is not banished by Communism or Socialism anymore than it is banished by free markets. There is a fallacy in socialism and it is a very deadly fallacy. It is a fallacy that seems very true at an emotional and superficial level: Expert planners have greater knowledge than average people when it comes to the handling of scarce resources. That almost seems common sense doesn’t it? But look closely. Experts do have far more knowledge than the AVERAGE amount of knowledge of individuals in a society, but the TOTAL amount of knowledge among millions or billions of people in a general population almost infinitely surpasses the knowledge that any expert or group of experts can muster.

    An economy is like a language. The English language is very old and has gone through a countless number of transformations over the centuries. It is difficult to learn. It has taken vocabulary and grammar and pronunciation rules from many other languages. Its very richness makes it confusing at time. But it exists and it is here for us and we use it. No one would say it is perfect. It was passed on to us from tradition. Now imagine if a brilliant linguist or group of linguists were to get together and try to destroy it in order to replace it with a more perfect language. Two questions immediately come to mind. In medicine, the first principle is this: First, do no harm! Would abandoning the English language including everything that has ever been written in English be a good thing? A linguist might say it would be a good thing if it made it easier for people to learn, converse and communicate. Wouldn’t it be a good thing to give up an imperfect language for a perfect one? No. A radical change like that would devastate the English speaking world. Even if the expertise of the experts matched their hubris, it would be a disaster. Another question is this: could an expert or any number of linguistic experts create a really better and richer language than English? These same questions can be asked of expert social planners. Why do we keep letting “experts” experiment with the economy?

    Compassion, to be effective must be based on truth and not error. It must be based on science and not rhetoric. As everyone knows, statistics can be used to “prove” almost anything. If you look at any year in America, you will find people who are poor. And that will give you the impression of a kind of static state of affairs. The real question is never asked. Do the poor in America stay poor? Where is the poor man or woman in ten years, twenty years, thirty years? A man comes to America from another country and works as a roofer. He is poor. Within a few years he may save enough to open his own roofing business. He is no longer poor but he may hire people to work for him who are poor. One worker may leave and start a landscaping business out of the back of a used pickup truck. In five years he may have a brand new truck. In ten years he may have a house. Statistics are static. They do not show the “mobility” of the poor. I am not saying that there is no place for government or regulation. But I’m saying that free markets are the best news the poor ever had.

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Which is the most compassionate thing to do?

  3. Curt Stoller says:

    I have been pondering the line in Pope Benedict’s Message for World Day of Peace 2011; the line that contains the phrase “redistribution of wealth.” This line contains 54 words if I counted correctly. That’s a long sentence. The line begins: “In order to be true peacemakers we must EDUCATE OURSELVES… This is then followed by a list of nine [10?] things we must educate ourselves about, starting with compassion and ending with cooperation for development and conflict resolution. As I read the passage, Pope Benedict does not say that we must redistribute wealth. As an ardent critic of Liberation Theology His Holiness is certainly is not a Marxist. What he is says is that we must EDUCATE ourselves… [on] the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth. I think the qualifier “adequate mechanisms” is not unimportant. If it was unimportant, it could have been left out. It wasn’t. I don’t think the words “educate ourselves” can be removed from the line either.

    Now a lot of left leaning Catholic bishops and priests are going to see the expression “redistribution of wealth” as a vindication of their social justice agenda. But not so fast.

    What if education and obedience to the truth compelled a person to admit that the most adequate mechanism for the redistribution of wealth is actually and truly the free market economy? What if obedience to the truth compelled a person to admit that centrally planned economies, where the government either owns the means of production or controls the means of production is inadequate to the redistribution of wealth and results in grave injustice even to the poor and poorest? I believe that a calm and rational study will show that free markets are the best way to redistribute wealth because they are based on the freedom of individuals to make decisions without being coerced by central planners.

    I think it was Henry Kissinger who said: “You can tell a lot about a country by whether people are trying to get into it or get out of it.” I think something similar can be said of an economy. Did the centrally run economies of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Cambodia and Vietnam cause people to fight to become part of those economies? Or were people risking torture and death to get out of being part of those centrally planned economies? I have never heard of people crowding together on little home-made rafts to get out of the U.S. and into Cuba. I have never heard of Americans hiding on ships under piles of dead fish so they could sneak into China. One wonders why so many Latin Americans are pouring into the United States every day. To say it is for the wealth begs the question.

    What if obedience to the truth compelled a person to admit that a free market economy was the worse form of economy EXCEPT FOR ALL THE OTHER FORMS and ergo the best form?

    Respected British History Paul Johnson said:
    “The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises: and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.”

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