Martin Schlag

Rev. Martin Schlag feels Pope Francis will appreciate the capitalism of America as soon as he gets to know it.

Pope Francis’ frequent outspoken criticism of free market economy has irritated many Catholics and cast doubt on the success of his upcoming visit to the United States – the world’s number-one free market economy.

Rev. Martin Schlag – an Austrian-born prominent economist, Catholic priest, and a teacher of economics at an Opus Dei-run university in Rome – admits that first he also thought that Francis’ views on capitalism are “horrible.”

However, Schlag now thinks that Francis’ visit to the United States in September will be an opportunity for him to appreciate the positive aspects of what Schlag describes as “the most successful economy in history,” Religion News reports.

Speaking on Monday, May 11, at the Harvard Club, Schlag said that what Francis understands as capitalism is in fact “crony capitalism,” in which “people get rich not because of their work but because of their friendships and political connections and the privileges they have.” This form is capitalism is found in Argentina, Francis’ home country, and much of Latin America as a whole.

Schlag stated that this is different from the American system, and added that he thinks that the pope doesn’t know the United States. Schlag stressed that “a pure or unfettered or unbridled market doesn’t work and it doesn’t exist.” Schlag thinks that the market is more than an economic fact, it’s an ethical and cultural achievement that needs the warm heartedness that the pope is trying to bring.

He also rejected the idea that Francis is a Marxist or socialist, as many have called him. According to Schlag, the pope favors “collectivist” or “corporatist” economic system and would prefer cooperatives and similar models. Schlag, however, said that these models wouldn’t work for a modern financial industry that powers America and much of the world.

Schlag thinks that a language and culture barrier could also explain the pope’s statements on the economy and how those statements are understood in the United States, for example. Francis has criticized economic inequality, but according to Schlag he means “unjust inequality” caused by unfair competition or a broken market, not just inequality with how much people earn.

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