Pope Francis – An Economic Reformer and Provocateur

by Joseph F.X. Zahra

“Do not expect peace in society without seeking the common good.” “More than a tinge of urgency can be detected…in Pope Francis’ comments on business and economics in his Exhortation, ‘Evangelii Gaudium.'”

Joseph Zahra analyzes Pope Francis' economic comments and calls for reforms in this article

Joseph F.X. Zahra and Pope Francis economics

In his January 8, 2014, “Newsbook” (Malta) blog, Joseph F.X. Zahra emphasizes the intensity of the Holy Father’s Exhortation (Evangelii Gaudium) stating, “Francis gives us a realistic look at humanity battered by the experience of a deep financial and economic crisis.” Pope Francis stresses, “…we need to have a human face to development.”

Mr. Zahra writes, “it is here that Francis raises his voice with four warnings:

  • No to an economy of exclusion;
  • No to the new idolatry of money (consumerism / overspending on non-essentials / waste);
  • No to a financial system which rules rather than saves;
  • No to inequality which spawns violence.”
Three circles containing symbols of the three principles of catholic social teaching: human dignity, subsidiarity, and solidarity.

Three Key Principles

Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human DignitySolidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.

Human Dignity

This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image. 


Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.


Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)