A source familiar with the inner workings of the Vatican told Breitbart News on Monday that Pope Francis is likely to offer a “clarification” of his comments on economics contained in his apostolic exhortation released on November 24, Evangelii Guadium (in English, “The Joy of the Gospel”). Though the timing of such a “clarification” is uncertain, it is likely to come in the form of a speech to a group rather than in a formal papal document.
The source told Breitbart News that key figures at the Vatican are already discussing the problems caused by the document’s confused and inconsistent forays into economic policy. As Breitbart News has reported, the use of language consistent with Latin American “liberation theology” in that document has had a significant impact on the political dialogue in the United States over the past ten days.
The left has grabbed several passages from the document and described them as a rejection of free market economics and an endorsement of the statist redistributive policies of the Obama administration. Some on the left have used the Pope’s word as a justification for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Among prominent conservatives, Rush Limbaugh has criticized the Pope for appearing to embrace “liberation theology.” Many conservatives are wondering why the pope decided to venture beyond the realm of the Gospel into the arena of political and economic theory in the first place.
Defenders of the Pope have pointed out that economics, though it received almost all of the press coverage, was a small part of the document, most of which focused on a new call to evangelization. They portray him not as a “liberation theologist,” but a rather as more of a “right wing Peronist” from Argentina whose economic views have been formed by a life time spent in a country run by crony-capitalists, dictators, and oligarchs.
The Pope, they maintain, has little familiarity with the type of free market economics that has characterized the American economy for centuries. That lack of familiarity, combined with his “unfiltered” approach to communication and some problems with translation in the document, have all combined to create significant misunderstandings of the Pope’s views.
There is some evidence that language may be an issue. Though Pope Francis spent three months in Ireland in the 1980s to learn English, sources tell Breitbart News that he has minimal fluency in English. There is also no public record that the pope has ever even been to the United States. His biographer, Sergio Rubin, in his 2010 book El Jesuita (translated into English in 2013) describes the pope’s travels throughout Latin America, and to Europe, but there is no mention of a visit at any time to the United States.
The original version of Evangelii Guadium was apparently written in Spanish, then translated into English by someone at the Vatican. There have been some reports that the translation took the Pope’s original language and mistranslated parts of it to give a more “liberation theology” friendly feel to the document.
Though those translation errors appear to mostly be a matter of nuance, at least one mistranslation in the much quoted paragraph 54 appears to incorrectly cast the Pope as aligned with “liberation theology.” As the blogger Father Z first pointed out, the original Spanish version was not a complete rejection of “trickle-down” economics, as the translated English version was.
The Spanish version of paragraph 54 read:
En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.
The official English version of paragraph 54 read:
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.
Father Z notes that the original “por sí mismo” means “by itself” in English rather than “inevitably” as the official English translation reads. Rather than a complete rejection of the free market, Pope Francis’s Spanish original could be read, some argue, as a defense of free markets with heavy involvement by private charity.
Mistranslations and nuances aside, conservative Roman Catholics in America appear to be in complete agreement that the pope’s expected future “clarification” about the economic thoughts he expressed in Evangelii Gaudium is much needed.