Pope Francis issues blistering rebuke of capitalism — and says the coronavirus pandemic proves 'not everything can be resolved by market freedom'

Pope Francis issues blistering rebuke of capitalism — and says the coronavirus pandemic proves 'not everything can be resolved by market freedom'
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  • Pope Francis published the third encyclical of his papacy on Saturday.
  • The lengthy letter to Catholic bishops around the world is a fiery criticism of capitalism and modern economic systems.
  • Francis says the same markets that allowed for explosive growth in recent centuries also left wide swaths of disenfranchised people behind in their wake.
  • The coronavirus exacerbated those issues, Francis said, exposing how individual countries struggle to work together for a common global good.

Pope Francis laid out a blustery critique of free-market capitalism in his latest letter to Catholic bishops around the world.

In the lengthy encyclical, his first since 2015, Pope Francis joins a growing cohort of political and business leaders in acknowledging economic frameworks that helped achieve massive financial growth in past centuries are leaving wide swaths of the world's population behind in their wake — many of whom are not reaping the same benefits.

"The marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith," he wrote in the letter, published Saturday. "Whatever the challenge, this impoverished and repetitive school of thought always offers the same recipes. Neoliberalism simply reproduces itself by resorting to the magic theories of 'spillover' or 'trickle' – without using the name – as the only solution to societal problems."

The COVID-19 pandemic, which upended the global economy and brought large swaths of society to a standstill, exposed "a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all," Francis said. It also laid bare various countries' "inability to work together."

And as the US barrels toward one of its most tumultuous elections in recent history, Francis urged world leaders to seek positive changes that do more than simply return to the pre-pandemic norms.


"Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality," he wrote.

Fratelli Tutti, as the encyclical is titled, is likely to be remembered as one of the most political in modern Church history, experts say. Encyclicals are a way for leaders, especially those like Francis who rely largely on in-person homilies and events to spread their messages, to solidify a historical record of the church's teachings in an evolving world.

"I think this pope is a big-picture guy and he wants to make sure that this is perceived to be the Catholic Church at its best, being welcoming and inviting," Monsignor Kevin Irwin, a priest and research professor at the Catholic University of America, told the Washington Post.