Since becoming the head of the Catholic Church in 2013, Pope Francis has not shied away from the political domain.
On Sunday, the religious leader used the COVID-19 pandemic to renew his criticisms of free-market capitalism.
In a video message he sent to the International Conference of judges members of the Committee for Social Rights in Africa and America, Pope Francis said that the right to private property is “a secondary natural right derived from that which everyone has”, which in turn arises from the “universal destiny of created goods” and affirmed that “the Christian tradition never recognized as absolute and the right to private property untouchable “.
From his lavish Vatican surroundings, the pope describes property ownership as something secondary and even tawdry, yet even in doing so he reinforces the primacy of property. “To care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves,” Francis wrote. “Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home.” Note the reference to a person’s home. One need not own a house to have a home, but ownership is the linchpin of our other freedoms—and the best assurance that we can provide for our families and help others.
As Pope Francis correctly noted, some people will use their resources to exploit others. But he conveniently forgets that injustices have existed throughout history. As the property-rights-based market economy has expanded, grueling poverty has receded worldwide. The population living in extreme poverty has dropped precipitously in tandem with the growth of the economic “dogmas” that the pope decries. Perhaps there’s a connection.
Sorry, but property rights are not secondary. As an attorney who defended property owners from government takings liked to say, “Property rights are human rights.” You can’t have one without the other.