My Take

Bah, humbug to critics of the pope

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 4:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 4:22am

With the tree in place and gifts all wrapped, I guess we are all waiting for the arrival of dear old Santa. The old dude in the red coat is generally welcomed everywhere even if you are not into religion. But I can't say if the man in the white frock from the Vatican will get a similar welcome, even from the faithful, given his recent pronouncements on capitalism and markets.

Pope Francis wants governments to implement effective policies to guarantee people's fundamental rights and described huge salaries and bonuses as symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality. He likened low-wage labour to slavery.

Lucky that he is not living here, or he would have been accused of trying to undermine the competitive edge of Hong Kong.

Cast an eye on his first papal exhortation, named "Joy of the Gospel", and you will think some rabble-rouser from Hong Kong has been whispering things into the pontiff's ears. In it he writes: "While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control."

Pope Francis's first major policy document, "Evangelli Gaudium", inevitably evoked some predictable criticisms with US radio host Rush Limbaugh leading the charge. He said it was "pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope" while former Alaska governor Sarah Palin thought it was "kind of liberal". CNBC network anchor Larry Kudlow, put it more bluntly as a question to a guest speaker: "Do you think this pope is against the free market and the capitalist system?"

Charles Dickens would be grateful that his Christmas Carol came out during the festive season in 1843 and not now. The chances of it hitting the bestseller list these days look slim. Ebeneezer Scrooge, as a mean, tight-fisted boss who had no time for the poor, would now be seen as a successful businessman and his redemption against free-market ideals.