Rush to judgment

Rush Limbaugh toyed with the public’s intelligence and insulted the Catholic Church in his syndicated radio broadcast when he blasted Pope Francis’ recent document Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”).

Evangelii Gaudium was the document issued a few weeks ago by Pope Francis as his reflection following the 2012 world Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Limbaugh called the papal statements “pure Marxism.” Then, he likened the Church to a big for-profit corporation. His comments were grossly mean, uninformed and indeed outrageous.

What is Evangelii Gaudium? Synods of bishops regularly meet in Rome, under the pope’s presidency, to discuss a subject, or subjects, that the pope has considered important for the Church, and for the world, to review. Synods aid the pope in applying Church doctrine in the present moment.

For the most part, bishops in the various episcopal conferences elect synod delegates from their own midst. The number available to each conference is based on the Catholic population of the given country. In addition, the pope may appoint various experts in the matters to be studied to serve in the synod. These experts need not be bishops, nor even priests or religious, and customarily many are drawn from the laity. Non-Catholic guests may be invited.

Any member of the synod may address the group, and few are the members who do not take advantage of this opportunity. After general sessions attended by all, members are assigned to small discussion groups, centered on language. For example, English-speakers meet together, as do Spanish-speakers, and so on. Groups debate various issues and then report their conclusions. The full body then reassembles to go over what the groups decided. Finally, the synod finalizes a report, and it goes to the pope. After reflection, the pope publicly declares what he hopes to do with what the synod discussed, and how he thinks the synod had a message that Catholics should hear.

Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium certainly pinpointed many critical issues and raised many concerns. Considering the magnitude of the world’s economic and social problems, his observations often were dramatic, and realizing the many differences of opinion, some inevitably ignited controversy. None was brazenly novel, however. Pope Francis drew his conclusions, as did the synod, from principles of Catholic teaching put forth in the past, often again and again, by the Church’s highest teaching authorities, not uncommonly by the Scriptures themselves.

Read what the pope wrote! He opposes socialism and obviously Marxism. Socialism denies individual rights. Marxism denies individual rights totally, and is uncompromisingly atheistic. Can anyone even remotely aware of the pope’s personal theology see him as an atheist or as an enemy of individual rights?

The pope said that when persons let personal profit overtake every other consideration, they go too far. It is immoral. So, the pope deplored what news outlets called “unfettered capitalism,” saying it “tyrannizes” people. It is as logical as it can be — and as historically Catholic.

Religion aside, civilized societies have restricted capitalist interests for a long time, requiring that contracts be respected, norms be followed and rights protected. The most robust, capitalistic democracies insist on such restrictions.

Since Our Sunday Visitor is prominent in Catholic communications, people ask me about the “biased media.” Well, folks, there it was — the Limbaugh show.

Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s associate publisher.