Monday, January 6, 2014

"That all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples."

Isn't it great to be able to pray for capitalism? Capitalism is, after all, the only system that can, although it will not necessarily do so, produce economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples.

That's Pope Francis's prayer intention for the New Year. I doubt somehow that he means capitalism, although he should.

For the first year of his papacy, Francis used the intentions that Benedict had already set out so we might think that this is our first sight of the real Francis. It isn't. The very fact that Benedict's intentions for the previous year were all set out already, tells us that these things are a bureaucratic exercise. Francis gives some guidance and then approves the final text but that line is the work of a clerk as in cleric as in the sort of person responsible for clericalism.

I mention that because it's important to regularly remind ourselves what clericalism really looks like. The giveaway is the word "authentic". As I've said many times before, "authentic" and "authenticity" make a certain sense when applied to objects but anytime you see the concept applied to people you can be sure that you're being conned. The word "authentic" placed before some human experience implies expertise in judging authenticity and if you trace that claim to its root, you'll find a cleric, although not always an ordained cleric.

If you wanted to proceed with this, the next step would be to set out what counts as authentic. That in turn would require a committee. Then you'd need to put controls in place that would allow authorities to take action to stop "inauthentic" economic development and so on down the line through all the steps to serfdom.

The good news is that the intention is vague enough that we can all pray for it and mean whatever we want to mean. I cheerfully prayed it yesterday at mass intending my prayer to be one for more economic liberty.

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