Pope Francis Criticizes 'Unfettered Pursuit of Money,' Calls for 'Communitarian' Response

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Pope Francis gives a speech during a meeting with Catholics, priests and nuns in the Don Bosco school, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Pope Francis seemed to criticize global capitalism in a speech Thursday, calling "an unfettered pursuit of money" "the dung of the devil" and "a subtle dictatorship" at the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

"Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society," the leader of the Catholic church said.

"Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?" the pontiff asked.

"Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?"

"These are not isolated issues," Francis said. "There is an invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion."

"[T]hese destructive realities are part of a system which has become global," he said. "[T]hat system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature."

Francis called for "a truly communitarian economy" to replace "the mentality of profit at any price."

The leader of the Catholic church had strikingly harsh words for international corporations, which he blamed for threatening native workers and weakening local states.

Francis also criticized "loan agencies, certain 'free trade' treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor."

The Pope also appeared to rebuke the argument, popular among some conservative Christians that individual charity, not state-sponsored welfare programs, should be the primary mechanism for helping the poor: "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right."