The ‘Economy of Francesco’ Repackages Radical Themes in Assisi
The Economy of Francesco is the name of a 2019 initiative created by Pope Francis to address the world’s economic problems. He invited “young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers of the world” to participate in studies to explore new ideas to change how people and nations live and manage the economy.
On September 24, 2022, Pope Francis visited Assisi, Italy, where about a thousand youth from 120 countries gathered to share their discoveries and sign a 12-point “Francis Economy Pact.” At this first post-COVID meeting, the signers pledged, individually and collectively, to commit themselves to generating what the pope called a new economy “inspired by Francis of Assisi [that] can and must be an earth-friendly economy, an economy of peace.”
Pope Francis’s keynote speech at the end of the event summarized many ideas that characterize the Economy of Francesco. However, those expecting new and exciting concepts will be disappointed. Most themes have already been suggested in the pope’s other talks and documents. Ecology, immigration and Amazon tribal “values” found their way into the economic proposal. Traditional Catholic teachings on private property and social doctrine on the topic were forgotten.
Addressed to Youth
Thus, the event expressed more by its emptiness than the substance of the topics treated. It followed the standard script of all such gatherings that try to project a youthful image of something important but end up repeating dying progressive platitudes that go nowhere.
These meetings are especially ineffective when they try to excite youth by holding them in a faux pop culture atmosphere. In this case, there was an almost mystical belief that young people, because they are young, will find solutions that older people cannot. “With God’s help, you young people know how to do it; you can do it,” Pope Francis exclaimed. “Young people have done many things at other times in the course of history.”
The emptiness of this call to action takes place in a world that Pope Francis calls “a common home ‘crumbling in ruins.’” He notes that “young people suffer from this lack of meaning: often faced with the pain and uncertainties of life, they find themselves with a soul impoverished of spiritual resources to handle suffering, frustration, disappointment and grief.”
However, the pope does not direct youth toward having recourse to God or the Blessed Mother to solve the troubles challenging youth. There is no mention of a sacramental life or supernatural grace. His naturalistic approach is turned to human acts, ecology and social action that put more hope in human efforts than God and thus often end in frustration.
A New Ecological Religion Borrowing from the Indigenous
Indeed, the Economy of Francesco might be characterized as an ecological religion rather than an economic blueprint. Pope Francis claims a need for a conversion, inspired by a “prophetic dimension [that] is expressed today in a new vision of the environment and the earth.”
His discourse is sprinkled with telltale expressions that bring AOC’s Green New Deal to mind. For example, he calls upon the world to “abandon fossil energy sources” and accelerate “the development of zero impact sources.” Participants are invited to enter Saint Francis’s “cosmic brotherhood with all living creatures.”
The event featured presentations that questioned capitalism and the present development models and proposed new solutions that can border on the bizarre. The pope commented, for example, on the “economics of plants,” an “innovative theme” proposed by the young participants.
“Plants know how to cooperate with the whole surrounding environment,” explains the pope, “and even when competing, they are actually cooperating for the good of the ecosystem. We learn from the mildness of plants: their humility and silence can offer us a different style that we urgently need.”
Moreover, the ideal society is not a Christian civilization but pagan tribal life in harmony with nature. Alluding to the Pan-Amazon Synod themes, the pope declared, “Good living is that mysticism that the aboriginal peoples teach us to have with the earth.”
A Multi-Dimensional Crisis
The ecological call to conversion is a multi-dimensional appeal with “social, relational and spiritual dimensions.” Indeed, Pope Francis declared, “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth are the same cry” (encyclical Laudato si ‘, no. 49).
The Economy of Francesco embraces all the social issues that have come to characterize the pontificate of Pope Francis: social justice, mass migration, a preferential option for poverty and egalitarianism. Throughout his discourse, there are valid criticisms of the demographic winter, loneliness and consumerism. However, he suggests the cause of these problems is found in social structures, not personal sinful moral choices.
There is even a spiritual appeal to finding meaning in life. The pope points out that “the primary capital of every society is the spiritual one. There is an urgent need to reconstitute this essential spiritual heritage.”
While this spiritual need is acknowledged, the specific means are neglected and left vague. There is no call to virtue, holiness or different spiritualties that were so much a part of Catholic life. Indeed, Pope Francis simply asks participants, “Do you have spiritual capital? Let everyone answer to himself.”
The results of the Economy of Francesco event in Assisi were predictable. Its naturalistic discussion produced a debate with a United Nations-like tone. Its promotion of an environmental agenda channeled Greta Thunberg more than the Sermon on the Mount. There was a class struggle flavor to the fierce and gloomy criticism of the current “capitalistic” and “plundering” production systems.
The conference was important because events like these indicate where participants want to go, even while hiding behind vague leftist jargon. Indeed, the event’s final document reflects the sixties slogan of “demanding the impossible.” Outrageous demands render the present system helpless to comply and thus prepare the way for radical change.
The final document was called the Francis Economy Pact, a statement with twelve demands, which the pope and everyone signed.
The Pact calls for vague and abstract goals like “an economy of peace and not of war” or “an economy that cares for creation and does not steal it.” Its only mention of God is a slight reference when asking for “an economy that fights poverty in all its forms, reduces inequalities and knows how to say, with Jesus and Francis, ‘blessed are the poor.’”
Some more points of the Pact include:
- “An economy where care replaces discarding and indifference.”
- “An economy that leaves no one behind, to build a society in which the stones discarded by the dominant mentality become cornerstones.”
- “An economy that knows how to promote and preserve the cultures and traditions of peoples, all species, the living and natural resources of the Earth.”
- “An economy that generates wealth for all, that generates joy and not only well-being, because happiness that is not shared is little.”
Its dreamy conclusions seem like John Lennon’s “Imagine” to such a point that the twelfth demand/point is the statement: “It is not a utopia.”