NEW YORK (MainStreet) What are the duties of the poor in Pope Francis's world? His thoughts about the obligations of the wealthy are well known. But do the poor have any moral imperatives?
Pope Francis is a pop culture icon -- recently, he broke a record for the most retweets for a world leader -- and his views on economics are influential. When he talks, people listen.
Several months ago he was denounced conservatives. Rush Limbaugh called him a Marxist. While many liberation theologists are praising him.
Much of the criticism resulted from of a misunderstanding of the Pope's 2013 Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel). Many took it as a condemnation of capitalism. It is not. It is a condemnation of unbridled capitalism.
But the pontiff understands the poor have obligations too. So what are Pope Francis's financial doctrines? MainStreet asked several esteemed Catholic theologians and priests.
"Pope Francis is certainly saying the Church is a church of the poor," said Father Dennis J. Billy, chairman of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and author of The Joy of the Gospel, a Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation. "But one of the fundamentals of the Church's social teachings is the dignity of the human person. The poor should be able to contribute to society and work, because it promotes a sense of self. This is not to say that work is who we are. But it is in everyone's best interest to work as long they are able to do so. We all have a responsibility to the common good."
Billy talked about the types of justice in the Catholic Church. These are principles that guide society and Pope Francis refers to these.
One is Commutative Justice, which regulates governs the relationships of individuals to one another. He said this would include employer and employee relationships.
Another is Legal Justice, which regulates what an individual's responsibility is to the community. This would mean both the wealthy and the poor.
Then there is Distributive Justice, which regulates what the community owes its citizens in relation to their contributions and needs. This is what is confused by many to mean socialism.
"There are many ways of looking at this. An all powerful state determining who receives what is an exaggerated interpretation of distributive justice," Billy pointed out.
Another perspective was offered by Father Michael Orsi, the former chaplain at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida.
"Saint Paul said he who does not work should not eat," said Orsi. "He is not being cruel. Paul is saying this to those who are lazy and who are abusing the system. This does not include people who are unable to work. It is for those who are unwilling."
He said that anybody who is capable and does not work should not be on the dole. This tenet of Catholic Social Teaching is not mentioned very often in the media.
"The Church does talk about personal responsibility," he said. "It is just that you do not hear it very often. Personal responsibility is one of the four pillars of Catholic Social teaching. A person with dignity will not want to take from others."
Orsi argues that one of the mistakes made by the media is equating distributive justice with what economic redistributionism. Orsi was emphatic in stating this is not what the Catholic Church teaches.
"Distributive justice means to allow people to get the fruit of the earth," Orsi said. "The state accomplishes this by creating safe roads where people are not robbed; by maintaining courts of law to resolve contract disputes; by establishing laws that eliminate monopolies."
"The state's job is to create an environment where people can be industrious and productive," he said. "These people then help those who cannot help themselves as Catholic morality requires."
St. Paul was mentioned by another authority on Catholic Social Teaching.
"Of course the poor have obligations which follow the admonition of St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 - 'For also when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat,'" explained Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute.
"Idleness is a serious sin in the Catechism," Sirico continued. "The poor, on behalf of whom the pope is speaking, are not those who lack resources because they do not work, but those who are excluded from the ability to enter 'the circle of exchange' by various barriers."
But Sirico also mentioned the self-indulgent spendthrifts who subsequently turn to others for support.
"Popes going back to the author of the first modern papal document on social teaching like Leo XII have repeatedly reminded the poor and workers that they have a serious obligation to do what they can for themselves. There is no moral obligation on the part of anyone to help those engage in the sin of sloth," he said emphatically.
Sirico explained that Catholics have taught the principle of subsidiarity (that higher levels of social organization should not do what lowers levels can do for themselves), and that those who work have an obligation to provide a full day's work for a full and just day's pay.
So what are the financial lessons of Pope Francis?
It seems that they are:<
Austerity - one should live within one's means.
Charity - one should provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.
Personal responsibility - one must provide for themselves as much as possible before asking others for help.
>The state provides for the common good - wealthy and indigent.
Simply put, the wealthy should not pursue money for money's sake and should help those in need without compulsion. The state should create opportunity for all and protect those who cannot protect themselves. The poor must do everything possible to provide for themselves before being permitted access to the fruits of others' labors.
Now these principles may seem antithetical to socialists who believe that only a beneficent state is capable of allocating resources in a just manner.
These precepts might be incompatible with libertarians who believe in the aforementioned Potter's laissez-faire capitalism.
These doctrines may seem antipodal to conservatives who believe that people should pursue profits within a governmental system without being obligated to p others.
But for most people, what Pope Francis states is common sense. American always believed rich and poor alike have obligations - to themselves and to society - for the American economic system to succeed.
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet