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Pope Francis and the Caring Society
Robert M. Whaples (Editor)
Michael Novak (Foreword)
Price: $24.95

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Robert M. Whaples (Editor)
Michael Novak (Foreword)

Hardcover • 256 pages • 7 figures • 6 x 9 inches • Index

ISBN-13: 978-1-59813-287-8

Publication Date: Sep. 1, 2017

Publisher: Independent Institute

Educators: Request exam copy

Hardcover (ISBN 978-1-59813-287-8)
Click to expandeBooks
Pope Francis and the Caring Society
Robert M. Whaples (Editor)
Michael Novak (Foreword)
Price: $24.95

Free Shipping On Orders Over $60! (Within U.S.A.) Or, Become a Member and Get FREE!

Hardcover • 256 pages • 7 figures • 6 x 9 inches • Index

ISBN-13: 978-1-59813-287-8

Publication Date: Sep. 1, 2017

Publisher: Independent Institute

Educators: Request exam copy

Hardcover (ISBN 978-1-59813-287-8)
Click to expandeBooks


Read Michael Novak’s Foreword.

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a thoughtful and in-depth exploration of the Pope’s earnest call for a dialogue on building a truly compassionate society. Francis’s fervent support for uplifting the poor and protecting the environment has inspired far-reaching discussions worldwide: Do capitalism and socialism have positive or negative social consequences? What is the most effective way to fight poverty? And what value does a religious perspective offer in addressing moral, political, and economic problems?

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is an indispensable resource for consideration of these vital questions. Edited by Robert M. Whaples, with a foreword by Michael Novak, the book provides an integrated perspective on Francis and the issues he has raised, examining the intersection of religion, politics, and economics. Readers will discover important historical and cultural context for considering Francis’s views, along with alternative solutions for environmental preservation, a defense of Francis’s criticism of power and privilege, a case for market-based entrepreneurship and private charity as potent tools for fighting poverty, and an examination of Francis’s philosophy of the family. Pope Francis and the Caring Society is essential reading for anyone interested in creating a better, more caring, and prosperous world.


Table of Contents

    Michael Novak
  1. Introduction: The Economics of Pope Francis
    Robert M. Whaples
  2. Pope Francis, His Predecessors, and the Market
    Andrew M. Yuengert
  3. Understanding Pope Francis: Argentina, Economic Failure, and the Teología del Pueblo
    Samuel H. Gregg
  4. Uneven Playing Fields: Markets and Oligarchy
    Gabriel X. Martinez
  5. Pope Francis, Capitalism, and Private Charitable Giving
    Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hayeon Carol Park
  6. Pope Francis on the Environmental Crisis
    A. M. C. Waterman
  7. Property Rights and Conservation: The Missing Theme of Laudato si’
    Philip Booth
  8. The Family Economics of Pope Francis
    Allan C. Carlson
  9. Conclusion
    Robert P. Murphy
  10. Index
    About the Authors

Detailed Summary


  • Friends of human well-being, market-based enterprise, and civil society have a grand opportunity to address widespread misconceptions about the economy, the environment, and charity, thanks to Pope Francis’s call for a worldwide dialogue on these subjects. The opportunity for engagement applies not only to the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, but also to the pontiff himself, who many in the economics profession believe has significantly overestimated the ability of government intervention to foster prosperity, social advancement, and care for the planet. He has also failed to appreciate the crucial roles of free markets, property rights, and private charity.

  • Allaying Pope Francis’s worries, world poverty is not rising but falling. From 1988 to 2008, real incomes rose 15 percent for the incredibly poor at the fifth percentile of the world’s income distribution. Those living at the thirtieth to fiftieth percentiles saw their real income rise by more than 50 percent. The worldwide trend toward freer markets— especially progress in China and India—has played a significant role in global poverty reduction.

  • Contrary to Pope Francis’s suggestion that capitalism is “the economy of exclusion,” private charitable giving is strongest when economic freedom and private-property rights are strong. Private charity is unleashed by applying natural-law, moral and economic principles and can be far more effective and efficient than the government redistribution favored by Pope Francis. The pontiff’s concerns about the nature of capitalism therefore undercut his call to help the poor.

  • Pope Francis links what he calls “the environmental crisis” to the market economy, but most environmental problems result from the “tragedy of the commons” created by governments’ failure to embrace and uphold a key pillar of the market economy that fosters free markets: private-property rights. Effective stewardship of what the pope calls “our common home” is unlikely if we appeal only to people’s virtue and not also to people’s material self-interest, which property rights and the market economy incentivize. By overlooking the importance of property rights, Pope Francis ignores a long tradition of Catholic teaching.

  • Pope Francis does not merely offer caution regarding potential pitfalls of the market economy as his recent predecessors did—sometimes he rings the alarm. Yet since the time of Adam Smith (and earlier, in the writings of the Late Scholastics at the School of Salamanca in the late Middle Ages), economists have explained how markets can channel the pursuit of self-interest into creating virtuous communities serving the common good. Pope Francis’s lack of appreciation for this benevolent outcome is a clear blind spot.

  • As Pope Francis and the Caring Society demonstrates, intellectual dialogue need not be discourteous (or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, fawning). It can be both respectful and critical—indeed, mutual respect and sensitivity to each side’s context are essential foundations for constructive engagement. Contributors to this volume share a commitment to Judeo-Christian teachings and institutions, are conversant in papal history, and are mindful that it is first necessary for two parties to understand one another before they can begin to connect with and educate each other.


With his emphasis on service to the poor and care for the planet, Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) commands the attention of not only the world’s 2.2 billion Christians, including 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, but also of people across the religious divide. In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’, the pontiff called for an open dialogue about poverty and the destiny of what he calls “our common home.” This invitation is the inspiration for the Independent Institute book Pope Francis and the Caring Society.

Edited by economic historian Robert M. Whaples, Pope Francis and the Caring Society involves the work of eleven scholars well versed in the economics of poverty and the environment, conversant in Church doctrine and history, and attuned to the societal foundations of compassion, stewardship, and charity. While its tone is respectful, the book offers a vigorous engagement with the pope’s views when they disregard basic economic reasoning and research findings regarding the causes and cures of abject poverty, free markets, and environmental protection.

Pope Francis and the Caring Society offers something for people of any creed or worldview. Readers especially concerned about poverty, economic opportunity, and effective charity will gain a clearer understanding of the role of markets, property rights, and wealth creation, as well as a better grasp of the challenges ahead. Those who yearn for a healthier environment will learn what contemporary research says about the role of property rights in ensuring that future generations can enjoy the earth’s blessings.

Spanning the fields of economics, history, theology, and ethics, Pope Francis and the Caring Society shows that compassion without comprehension is folly, that objective analysis is a prerequisite of moral insight, and that a market economy is an essential ingredient for human flourishing. Rather than merely preaching in the public square, it builds a badly needed bridge over the gulf between contemporary scholarship and the head of the world’s most enduring and influential institution.

As the late Catholic writer Michael Novak states in his foreword to the book, “Now with Pope Francis and the Caring Society we have the essential and enlightening book to equip us all to understand the crucial issues of economics, the environment, and charity in order to serve and uplift the lives of others.”

Market Economies and Human Well-Being

A major gap between Pope Francis and many economists—one that leads many to conclude that the pontiff is antagonistic toward market economies—involves differences in their views of the causes and cures for poverty. Some of the divergence results from differences both in terminology and in purpose. To help ensure that economists and the Vatican get past the “language barrier,” Robert Whaples couches the pope’s statements in the language of economics.

Doing so, he shows, offers enormous value: it enables a clearer understanding of precisely where the pontiff and the economists differ, especially as they relate to the poor and the rich. Whaples’s “translation” reveals that many differences involve matters of economic fact and causation, and therefore can in principle be resolved if everyone considers the same lines of evidence. The clash involving conflicting values, on the other hand, may be far more difficult to cover.

To help build a bridge across the divide, Whaples creates a platform on which connecting links might be constructed: he discusses capitalism’s strengths (as seen by its advocates) and weaknesses (as seen by those skeptics who agree that business can be a noble calling). The two sides can learn much by seeing the contrasting assumptions laid out in plain view.

Pope Francis isn’t the first pope to express concerns about the potential ills of a market economy, explains Andrew M. Yuengert. However, unlike Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and other predecessors, Pope Francis claims that the harmful potential has become a grim reality—and will remain so unless market forces are brought under deliberate human (i.e., government) control. This hostility to markets, according to Yuengert, runs the risk of hindering constructive engagement with business leaders and market advocates. It can also stir cultural and political currents that lead to restrictions and predatory bureaucracy more likely to drown out economic progress than to encourage it.

How did Pope Francis come to hold views so critical of the free market? To shed light on the origins of those attitudes, Samuel Gregg examines the economic failures that have plagued the pontiff’s country of birth, Argentina. Once among the richest countries of the Western Hemisphere, Argentina long ago fell victim to corruption and cronyism that have brought wealth-destroying inflation and economic stagnation. One early cause of those failures—the populist collectivism and legacy of Juan Perón—is, ironically, an ideological relative of the pope’s teología del pueblo (“theology of the people”).

Pope Francis’s mistrust of the market economy does not, however, necessarily mean that free-market advocates can pin the label of “socialist” on the pope’s ideas. According to Gabriel Martinez, Pope Francis does not generally oppose increases in prosperity and economic liberty; he criticizes pro-market rhetoric when it’s used to justify indifference to the poor. Their plight, Martinez argues, is often caused or compounded by anti-market institutions embedded in the economies in which they live, especially where entrenched oligarchies use the state to hobble their would-be competitors and redistribute wealth from the public to those in power.

Societies marked by oligarchy, that is, rigged to help the privileged elites at the expense of everyone else, require more than merely the removal of anti-competitive rules and regulations. The reason, according to Martinez, is that not all forms of economic liberalization are equally good: some reforms can be so inadequately designed as to harm the interests of the poor, especially in the short term.

This raises the questions: Are the poor better off under a market economy? Is the invisible hand conducive to giving people a hand? Pope Francis’s assessment is often negative. “[U]nbridled capitalism,” he has claimed, “has taught the logic of profit at any cost, of giving in order to receive, of exploitation without looking at the person.” Such a bleak assessment, however, is not an accurate description, according to Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hayeon Carol Park.

Contrary to the pope’s pronouncements, McQuillan and Park argue, capitalism and its core institutions—private-property rights and economic freedom—are enablers of philanthropy, not its enemies. Economic freedom and the enforcement of property rights, they show, are positively correlated with charitable giving. In contrast, the government redistribution often advocated by Pope Francis is neither effective (it slows down wealth creation, the source of charity) nor at all charitable (it’s funded through coercive taxation rather than voluntary means).

Care for Our Common Home

Going beyond care for the poor, how well does a free-market system treat the environment? A. M. C. Waterman examines Pope Francis’s analysis of “the environmental crisis.” Although the pope is on target in his admonition against worshipping the false god of a “deified market,” according to Waterman, his encyclical Laudato si’ is flawed, due in no small measure to its failure to acknowledge the good that markets do by channeling self-interest to serve the common good. This includes the incentives that free markets and private property create for promoting environmental stewardship.

It is hardly news that private-property rights, when they are tradable and enforced, prevent the rise of environmental problems created by “the tragedy of the commons.” Less known, Philip Booth explains, is that a growing body of research (the kind that won Elinor Ostrom the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) shows that property rights can be structured in numerous ways that empower communities to manage common-pool resources in a manner consistent with church doctrine. This is further reason why Pope Francis should not overlook the importance of property rights in Catholic social teaching.

Family Economics

The family, even more than the marketplace and the environment, is the foundation of human well-being. Pope Francis’s family ethic rests, Allan C. Carlson explains, on a rejection of individualism, equity feminism, current gender theory, and consumerism. The pontiff ’s economic alternative to the contemporary, liberal social order involves communalism and a return in significant ways to a “home economy” featuring traditional gender roles.

Nevertheless, Carlson believes that Pope Francis overlooks a major source of stability for the traditional family. “Francis gives too little attention to the importance of private property as a guarantor of family security and basic well-being,” he writes.

Mutual Benefits of Respectful Dialogue

The tension between economics and religion is not an outcome inherent in the nature of either domain, Robert P. Murphy argues in the concluding chapter. The problem stems from a failure of both camps to fully recognize that (1) economic principles were first discovered from Christian teachings by Catholic scholars in the Middle Ages, and (2) the economics profession and the Catholic Church have different areas of expertise.

The role of the Church, Murphy explains, is to “teach people the ends to pursue, while economists can offer guidance on the best means of achieving them.” This “division of labor” enables both groups to benefit from what economists would call “gains from trade.” But such a dialogue requires that each side undertake “a more thoughtful reading of the other’s perspective,” Murphy writes. “It is our fervent hope that the present collection of essays has contributed to such a foundation of mutual respect.”


“We are all called to serve and care humbly for others, especially those most in need, but how we do so is crucial in guiding our moral responsibility. Firmly rooted in our Christian tradition, the incisive and timely book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, carefully examines this vital issue by applying natural-law ethical and economic principles. Instead of command societies, cooperative, virtuous systems of enterprise, creativity, and charity are crucial to uplift people out of poverty, marginalization, and hopelessness; dignify people as purposeful beings through work and families; protect our environment for future generations; and bring us all into closer harmony with one another and to God.”
Michael C. Barber, S.J., Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California

“The important book Pope Francis and the Caring Society makes a crucial point: It is not enough to have good intentions. How one attempts to fulfill them may override.”
Rodney Stark, Distinguished University Professor of the Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

“The authority of the Pope is regarded by many as grounded in essentially spiritual sources of wisdom and inspiration. Non-Catholics may stand aloof to such considerations but nonetheless acknowledge the great influence of papal thought on the social and moral dimensions of our time. In light of this, the Pope’s teaching warrants respectful but critical appraisal and receives it in the important book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society. If what the Pope teaches is influential, competent critics must test the teaching, often under the light of history. Under that light, Pope Francis’s blueprint for ‘caring’ draws support from the notoriously failed theories on which socialism erects barriers to human freedom, creativity, and well-being.”
Daniel N. Robinson, Faculty Fellow of Philosophy, Linacre College, University of Oxford; Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Georgetown University

“At a time when those today most responsible for transmitting Catholic social teaching need urgently to be reminded of some cause-and-effect realities essential to it, Pope Francis and the Caring Society provides us with many necessary reminders, readably and soundly.”
John M. Finnis, Biolchini Family Professor of Law, The Law School, University of Notre Dame

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a brilliant book laying out both Christian and economic principles side by side in dialogue with Pope Francis’s Laudato si’. The authors are careful to lay empirical data alongside the claims and historical experiences of Pope Francis and current efforts to help the poor, in which they share a common goal. The various chapters contain a wealth of history, theory and facts in the context of the Christians’ call to serve the poor. Committed Christians who are nonetheless neophytes to economic theory, like myself, will get a thorough education in economics and reality. It is a timely and critical book for our age and for anyone who seriously wants to understand and participate in effectual service to the poor.”
Mary S. Poplin, Professor of Educational Studies, Claremont Graduate University; author, Is Reality Secular?

Pope Francis and the Caring Society offers novel, balanced, and constructively critical insights into the historical interpretations and empirical assumptions which have informed many of the Pope’s most important pronouncements on economic development, environmental protection, and other issues. On topics ranging from the Pope’s precepts regarding how to strengthen the family to his prescriptions for how best to promote charitable giving, reduce poverty, and cope with climate change, this volume is hardly ‘for Catholics only,’ and it will stimulate and challenge readers of diverse intellectual, theological, and ideological stripes.”
John J. DiIulio, Jr., Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society and Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania; first Director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

Pope Francis and the Caring Society responds to Pope Francis’s call for dialog with a clarion critique of redistributive bromides and bureaucracies. Grounded in the Judeo-Christian principles of liberty, subsidiarity, and civic virtue, this luminous work shines through and shrivels the sanctimonious smog of socialist levelers who wreak demoralization and poverty wherever they rule.”
George Gilder, bestselling author, Wealth and Poverty, The Spirit of Enterprise, Microcosm, Knowledge and Power, and other books

“In a manner graceful and civil—and with a proper respect for the Holy Father—Pope Francis and the Caring Society speaks some bracing truths about economics that Pope Francis, with all his large, encompassing nature, does not seem to understand. In that respect, the authors not only teach lessons that all of us should know; they also show the deep strength of the body of the Church: they treat the Holy Father with reverence and they are inclined to put the most charitable constructions on his sweeping commentaries on inequality and capitalism. The Pope’s concern for the caring society and the uplifting of the poor is a concern that the authors share. But they also respect truth, and they see no conflict for Christians to convey to Pope Francis the serious things that he must understand when he has the attention of the world for his commentaries. What he doesn’t understand are the pitfalls of a ‘managed economy,’ a scheme of political control that purports to rescue the poor, but delivers instead an economy of rationing, shortages, a diminished standard of living and the pervasiveness of political controls. Some of this misunderstanding may be traced to the Pope’s lifetime spent in the ‘crony capitalism’ and ‘corporatism’ of Argentina. But the volume, in a generous spirit, finds hope that Francis will come to understand far more about the forces at work in the economy as he simply comes to know more about a larger world, extending far beyond his native ground. Pope Francis and the Caring Society could not have come at a more timely moment, and in tone and substance, it delivers a worldly lesson that more of the world needs to know.”
Hadley P. Arkes, Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions Emeritus, Amherst College; Founder and Director, James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“The dialogue that the book Pope Francis and the Caring Society has initiated is of great importance. The authors, citing numerous examples from world history, assert a fundamental economic truth: that societies with open markets, private property, democratic accountability of public officials, and the rule of law are superior at promoting human flourishing to societies where centralized planning, collective ownership of the means of production and state control over economic activity prevail. That is, democratic capitalism has been shown by history to be superior to socialist collectivism. We economists have known this for some time now, but it is a truth worth reiterating. And yet, it is not the only truth. And this is why the dialogue which Pope Francis has invited, and which this impressive volume pursues is so crucial. For, the fact is that modern economics is incomplete. It shows us how to get more of what we want, but it cannot teach us what we should want. It says little about our obligations to the poor, to the refugee, or to future generations. It is silent on the soul-corrupting influences of naked materialism. It concerns itself with means, not with ends. And yet, as Pope Francis has made clear, a single-minded focus on profit and loss is a profoundly impoverished way of thinking about how we should live together in society. Such a focus lacks moral resonance and spiritual depth. Thus, this dialogue between our spiritual imperatives and our economic realities must continue. I am confident it will.”
Glenn Cartman Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a rich and engaging discussion of the role of religion in civil society. The book helps establish a foundation for productive and mutually beneficial dialogue between supporters and critics of Pope Francis’s economic policies. Highly recommended!”
Peter G. Klein, W. W. Caruth Chair, Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Senior Research Fellow in the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University

“It is not counter-intuitive to suggest that the superbly conceived, clear, cogent, and convincing book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, introduced by the economist-theologian Michael Novak, has the potential to reconcile the distinctive and contrasting modalities for human flourishing propagated by Pope Francis and advocated by free-market economists aiming to liberate further millions of people from debilitating poverty. The axioms of free-market economics are simple, straightforward, and un-charismatic. Cast in a missionary key, Christian evangelization is loving, affirming, and hopeful. Would that these distinctive and contrasting modalities for human flourishing be reconciled by friendly and truthful intellectual exchange—by the grace of God.”
Herman J. Belz, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Maryland

“It is necessary ultimately to appeal to religious arguments, traditional or secular, to establish the legitimacy of an economic system. Religion and economics are thus inextricably intertwined, as the Catholic Church has long recognized in many encyclicals and other pronouncements, but professional economists have not. They would do well to read the excellent book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, that reviews the latest developments in the wake of the efforts of Pope Francis to rethink Catholic ‘economic theology.’”
Robert H. Nelson, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; author, The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America

Pope Francis and the Caring Society combines a deep respect for the tradition of Catholic social teaching, from Leo XIII to Pope Francis, with careful, empirically grounded analysis of the advantages of free-market economies. The authors show that individual liberty and dignity advance in tandem with economic growth, reminding us of the higher purpose which our economic activity ought to, and does, serve. They encourage the serious dialogue about the present world situation which all caring people seek.”
Timothy Fuller, Professor of Political Science and former Dean of the Faculty and former Acting President, Colorado College

“At a time when many seek to cordon off God and the Christian tradition from the fundamental questions faced by our society, Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a valuable counterpoint. The book offers valuable insight into Pope Francis’s views and teachings, and takes seriously the resources available in the Christian tradition for the most pressing challenges we face today. Even when I disagree with their analysis, the authors here are charitable and constructive. This book will spur helpful conversation about how the deep well of Christian knowledge can contribute to the flourishing of all.”
Michael Wear, Founder and Principal, Public Square Strategies LLC; former Director of Faith Outreach, 2012 Obama for America Presidential Campaign; author, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

Pope Francis and the Caring Society does a great job getting to the root of seemingly opposing perspectives—capitalism vs. socialism, Anglo-Saxon vs. Latin, theoretical vs. practical—which have created tensions amongst certain observers of Pope Francis’s pontificate. The book’s underlying message is a unifying and Christian one, that each of us is called in our own particular way to care for the ‘least’ amongst us.”
Luanne D. Zurlo, Founder and Co-Chair, Worldfund Education and Development Fund; Assistant Professor of Finance, Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics, Catholic University of America

“In the brief years since he was elected to the throne of St. Peter, Pope Francis has captivated the minds and hearts of millions of people both inside and outside the Catholic Church. But what Pope Francis wants is more than captivation. He has repeatedly urged serious, frank and honest conversation on vital matters impacting on the planet and the well-being of the most vulnerable in our midst. Pope Francis and the Caring Society responds to that invitation by providing a non-polemical, serious and accessible set of commentaries with which anyone, regardless of religious or political orientation, will want to be acquainted.”
Father Robert A. Sirico, President and Co-Founder, Acton Institute; Pastor, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Grand Rapids, MI

“The way in which an economy does its characteristic work of providing goods and services through organized human effort is an issue that inescapably has extensive religious ramifications, and no contemporary religious leader has probed these issues more deeply than Pope Francis. His deliberations shed a constructive and kindly light into many corners of this complex and convoluted domain. Pope Francis and the Caring Society examines the Pope’s contributions to the ethics of markets, the functioning of capitalism, the economic dimensions of social organization, and the economics of family life. In putting these issues into their wider context, this book makes an instructive contribution to the Christian appreciation of economic processes.”
Nicholas Rescher, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh; former Editor, American Philosophical Quarterly

“For two thousand years, Christianity has scrambled conventional categories. The truths of the faith, including the tenets of Catholic social teaching, defy the world’s political preconceptions and cut across earthbound ideologies. Pope Francis and the Caring Society is an important new book that gives the Church’s teachings the deep consideration that they deserve.”
Arthur C. Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a much-needed volume. The questions of capitalism and socialism, and of how—indeed, whether—markets and morality can mix, could not be more timely. Pope Francis’s frequent and powerful statements of concern not only about the poor generally but about how their lives might be negatively affected by market-based economies have thrust these questions into the world’s consciousness. The volume’s editor Robert Whaples has assembled an all-star group of thinkers to address Francis’s thought on everything from poverty relief to the family to climate change. The chapters in turn explain Pope Francis’s thought, explore its implications, and evaluate it critically yet charitably. Francis has rightly refocused our attention on the least among us, and the eminence of his position, as well as the depth of his thought, make his work worthy of careful consideration. This terrific book shows his thought the respect it deserves by examining it carefully, not just interpreting it but offering judicious emendations and even corrections where warranted. For anyone interested not only in understanding the Supreme Pontiff’s thought and its significance, but in seeing learned and distinguished commentators display both its strengths and its weaknesses, this volume is a must-read.”
James R. Otteson, Thomas W. Smith Presidential Chair in Business Ethics and Professor of Economics, Wake Forest University

“Ever since the publication of Pope Francis’s quite lengthy encyclical, we have needed a careful look at its suppositions, economic, ecological, and philosophical. Pope Francis and the Caring Society more than meets that need. Laudato si’s concerns can mostly be met but usually by means other than those suggested in the document. At bottom, the real question this book clearly addresses is, What is the ‘practical reasoning’ about man’s ability to exercise ‘dominion’ over the earth?”
James V. Schall, S.J., Professor Emeritus of Political Philosophy, Department of Government, Georgetown University

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is not only about Pope Francis, but even seems in some sense to have been written for him. As the first Pope to come from the developing world, and the first from Latin America, Francis brought to his pontificate quite a few immense strengths, including an acute and affecting concern for the many millions all over the world who are trapped in grinding poverty and hopelessness, and a gently Franciscan persona of gracious and unpretentious humility. Yet he has, like his predecessors, had to learn many things on the job; and his understanding of economics needs to catch up with the promptings of his generous heart, if his pontificate is to fulfill its transformational potential. Francis will find no more generous critics or more respectful guides in these matters than the authors whose essays are contained in this wise and helpful volume.”
Wilfred M. McClay, Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty and Director, Center for the History of Liberty, University of Oklahoma

Pope Francis and the Caring Society answers the Pope’s call for engagement on the timely questions of consumerism, inequality and capitalism. Though the authors generally disagree with Francis from a policy perspective, they share both his theology and his understanding that the questions we face are, at bottom, spiritual. The result is a respectful and illuminating dialogue which should serve as a model for how a divided polity can address its most contentious issues.”
Chaim N. Saiman, Professor of Law, Villanova University

“In Pope Francis and the Caring Society, the authors explore the complexities of Pope Francis’s thinking on the market, poverty, and the environment. Part explanation of the Pope and part exhortation to the Pope, the book examines where he stands relative to the Catholic tradition, to mainstream economics, and to his own personal experience as an Argentinian. The authors have provided an illuminating, important, and broadly accessible conversation between and integration of economics and religion.”
Andrew E. Busch, Crown Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow, Claremont McKenna College

“Since his elevation to the papacy four years ago, Pope Francis has challenged both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to pay special consideration to the needs of the poor around the world. In the magnificent volume, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, scholars from a range of disciplines elucidate the current pontiff’s views on the roles of businesses, markets, and the profit motive in contemporary society with particular focus on economic development and ecology. This book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to go beyond media sound bites to understand how Pope Francis regards authentic human development in the context of global poverty alleviation and preservation of the environment, and how his thinking connects to the ongoing Apostolic Mission of the Church.”
Michael L. Troilo, Wellspring Associate Professor of International Business, University of Tulsa

“Although it might be nice if God gave us all knowledge about how the world works, the Bible is silent on many areas in economics and environmental science. Pope Francis and the Caring Society provides incisive analysis of what Pope Francis believes on many policy issues and why. While praising Francis’s theological views, this superb volume suggests that his musing on economics are not infallible. Economics in no way supersedes religion, but it is vitally important for many crucial questions including how best to serve the poor and uplift their lives worldwide.”
Edward Peter Stringham, President and Director of Research and Education, American Institute for Economic Research; Kathryn Wasserman Davis Professor of Economic Organizations and Innovation and Deputy Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Endowment, Trinity College

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a greatly-needed engagement with Pope Francis’s thought. Critical while respectful, the authors support many of the objectives of the Franciscan pontificate, while questioning the means he proposes. This book is an important work both for college courses and anyone on Christian social thought.”
Jennifer Roback Morse, President and Founder, Ruth Institute

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is outstanding and absolutely essential reading for those seeking to engage the theology and values of Pope Francis on the issues of our day: the economies in contemporary democratic republics, the wealth and poverty of peoples, the political implications of a Christian theology of care and compassion, the values of liberty and family, and, of increasing importance for national and international relations, the challenge of addressing climate change. It will also be of great interest for non-Catholic and general readers seeking an intelligent, critical guide to the interrelationship of politics, economics, and religious faith.”
Charles Taliaferro, Professor of Philosophy, St. Olaf College

“The very fine book Pope Francis and the Caring Society contains helpfully sympathetic and constructively critical reflections on Pope Francis’s environmental and economic views. That judicious combination seems to me exactly what the Holy Father’s invitation to dialogue on these topics asks for, and the authors and editor are to be commended for their learned response to that invitation.”
Christopher O. Tollefsen, College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina

Pope Francis and the Caring Society delineates the tension felt and expressed by many economists, business people, and civic and religious leaders with the pronouncements in the encyclical, Laudato si’, by Pope Francis. This book would be especially useful in courses on business ethics and bioethics as well as classes taught by theologians, philosophers, law professors, and economists. I recommend the book to Christian colleges and universities, including those where Catholic Social Thought has a presence in the core curriculum. A wide range of topics are covered concerning Francis’s views on global environmental issues, capitalism, poverty, consumerism, the role of government including global authority, property rights, and private versus compulsory charitable giving. Attention is also given to the longitudinal evolution of the Pope’s views on the role of market economies to solve problems of scarcity.”
Gary M. Quinlivan, Dean and Professor of Economics, Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Saint Vincent College

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is an outstanding contribution to the dialogue on social and economic policy that Pope Francis has called for.”
Paul Moreno, William and Berniece Grewcock Chair in Constitutional History and Dean of Social Sciences, Hillsdale College

“Even those of us who are not Roman Catholics can hardly fail to notice when a pope speaks on immensely important issues on an international stage and with great media fanfare. The contributors to the impressive volume, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, have taken up Francis’s call to dialogue on economic and environmental issues and provide a model of charitable, fair, and nuanced scholarly engagement. While exposing many shortcomings in Francis’s thought, they also sympathetically embrace his concern for the well-being of the poor and the natural world and quite successfully show better ways to achieve these noble goals. But one of the real strengths of this work is that its relevance extends far beyond contemporary debates about a particular pope: it eloquently unfolds many perennial themes of a humane political economy that will remain timely for many years to come—for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”
David M. VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California

Pope Francis and the Caring Society’s examination of subjects ranging from the family to the environment to capitalism to philanthropy to the Argentinian experience is indispensable reading for anyone interested in understanding and constructively engaging the social vision of Pope Francis.”
Kenneth L. Grasso, Professor of Political Science, Texas State University

“Pope Francis has raised important and challenging questions about capitalism, consumerism, poverty, inequality, environmental stewardship, and other concerns arising out of our economic practices and institutions. The wonderful book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, addresses those concerns without trivializing them, yet also moves the discussion in hopeful and productive directions. The authors demonstrate thorough understanding of the tradition from which Pope Francis draws to critique market economies, the influences upon him, and the economic realities with which Francis seems less familiar. This book is a worthy contribution to the dialogue that Pope Francis has invited.”
Adam J. MacLeod, Associate Professor of Law, Faulkner University

“As political discourse in today’s culture becomes increasingly partisan and adversarial, Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a refreshing model of what proper civil and religious discourse should look like. It is not only a magnificent expression of what the Second Vatican Council called ‘the special vocation’ of the laity to order temporal affairs according to the Gospel, it is also a richly illuminating response to Pope Francis’s call in Laudato si’ for fruitful dialogue between science and religion. Nowhere is that dialogue more necessary, and more consequential for human welfare, than in the area of economics. Written by ten experts in economics and religion, this book is a must-read for every Catholic who desires a faithful engagement with Catholic Social Teaching, from laypersons to the highest reaches of the Vatican.”
Nathan W. Schlueter, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Hillsdale College

Pope Francis and the Caring Society is a stunning achievement. It is high-level scholarship put in prose that is accessible to the lay reader. And it is must reading for biblical exegetes, theologians, pastors and Christian leaders in general because, in a fair and careful way, the book brings conceptual economic clarity to those who often speak to and for the church about matters economical without the training to do so. One main purpose of the book is to clarify and defend the proposition that the teachings of Jesus (and scripture generally) set the ends for Christians (and many of these ends are set for everyone by way of natural law) regarding a cluster of related issues taken up within its pages, but it is the science of economics that provides knowledge of the best means to reach those ends. Much—usually unintentional—harm has been done by people who have failed to learn the economic justification for those means, but with the publication of Pope Francis and the Caring Society, that problem can now be laid to rest. A marvelous book.”
J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University

Pope Francis and the Caring Society re-examines the merits of free markets in the light of Pope Francis’s views about the economy, charity, and the environment. The book’s measured discussions carefully explain and often defend Francis’s opinions, but they also make clear the benefits capitalism offers for reducing poverty, advancing charitable giving, and dealing with today’s environmental issues.”
Mark Blitz, Fletcher Jones Professor of Political Philosophy and Director, Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, Claremont McKenna College

"Pope Francis and the Caring Society is an outstanding book challenging the flawed economics behind Francis’s simplistic view that ‘capitalism’ is evil and government redistribution of income is good. On the contrary, true charity is only possible when it flows from individuals, not governments. Capitalism enriches societies and enables individuals to act more, not less, charitably. This great book demonstrates that government aid is ‘dead aid’—it perpetuates dependence, robs the working poor of their dignity, and deadens the charitable impulse by crowding out private efforts which are far more effective. In short, capitalism is an expression of giving, first in the marketplace, then in civil society where individuals and associations are remarkably generous in their giving. If I could put one work in the hands of Pope Francis, it would be this outstanding volume."
Jonathan Bean, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University

“On first blush, one might think this volume [Pope Francis and the Caring Society] is a paean to the social teaching of Pope Francis. While it is very fair and even charitable toward the Pope’s social theories, it also seeks to correct or modify those theories when they do not correspond to the facts. The Foreword was written by the late scholar, Michael Novak; the several contributors are acknowledged experts in their respective fields, who endeavor to analyze and situate Francis’ positions from within his own very limited experience of Latin America, and particularly of Argentina. Their hope is that this engagement would lead Francis to a presentation of social theory which is more consonant with proven data from the world of economics and politics in dialogue with the Church’s immemorial commitment to natural law theory. They ground their hope in the realization that Pope John Paul II espoused certain positions in his first social encyclical (Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987) which, when respectfully challenged, were modified by him in Centesimus Annus in 1991 (in fact, he invited scholars to ‘educate’ him at Castel Gandolfo one summer!). I am not very sanguine that these authors can expect a similar response from Francis.”
Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., Editor and Publisher, Catholic Response; Founder, The Catholic Answer; Founder and Superior, Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman; Executive Director, Catholic Education Foundation

“I am glad to announce that a book now exists that offers a fair, accessible, irenic overview and analysis of Francis’ economic views, as they are expressed in his speeches, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (2013), and his encyclical Laudato si’ (2015). Edited by Robert M. Whaples, Professor of Economics at Wake Forest University and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Pope Francis and the Caring Society offers seven incisive essays, bookended by a lengthy introduction by Dr. Whaples and conclusion by Robert P. Murphy, a Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. What makes this collection so effective is that it devotes equal time to three key issues: 1) establishing the full context for Pope Francis’ pronouncements; 2) evaluating and critiquing those pronouncements from numerous angles; 3) demonstrating by hard statistical evidence that capitalism has proven to be the greatest liberator of the poor. At all times, the authors treat Pope Francis with the respect he deserves, while seeking to establish a healthy and fruitful dialogue between the spiritual and pastoral concerns of the Pope and the more practical, utilitarian concerns of economists. . . . Pope Francis and the Caring Society is an important and timely book that deserves a wide readership. Along with the contributors, it is my hope and prayer that Pope Francis will read this book and be challenged by it to study more carefully the positive aspects of capitalism and its proven power to help lift millions of people around the world out of a crushing poverty that offers them neither a future nor a hope.”
The Imaginative Conservative

"Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert Whaples, a Roman Catholic professor of economics at Wake Forest University, is an interesting book because the essays it contains includes important normative questions. The book’s exposes the apparent differences between so-called 'capitalist economic thinking' on the economy and that of what Francis, the most important and literate pope in centuries, charges against 'capitalist thinking' on government sponsored redistributions, public charity, the environment and acute problems in income distribution. (Interestingly Roman Catholicism, from the beginning, engaged in much of the kind of monopoly behavior Francis now criticizes). Some but certainly not all the contributors understand, as Francis, a possibility that actual capitalism in much of the world has produced reduced economic growth through rent- seeking regulation, global warming through 'growth,' and (possibly) widening disparities in income distribution. (Forbes calculates a fast-growing category of over 1800 billionaires in the world). These issues are of great importance and normative debate is necessary, especially a debate that includes the importance of religious, political and social institutions. Only hard evidence, not ideology or religious apologia, will suffice to answer these questions."
Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Professor and Eminent Scholar in Economics (Emeritus), Auburn University; author, The Marketplace of Christianity (with Robert D. Tollison and Robert F. Hébert) and Economic Origins of Roman Christianity (with Robert D. Tollison)

“Along with many other conservative evangelicals and Catholics, I’ve not been fully sure what to ‘make’ of Pope Francis. He is clearly a man of God with a deep love for the poor and an even deeper personal humility. And he is certainly a champion of Nicene orthodoxy. But how is one to respond to his pronouncements on economic and environmental issues? . . . For those who share my questions and concerns, I am glad to announce that the book Pope Francis and the Caring Society now exists that offers a fair, accessible, irenic overview and analysis of Francis’ economic views, as they are expressed in his speeches, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (2013), and his encyclical Laudato si (2015). . . . What makes this collection so effective is that it devotes equal time to three key issues: 1) establishing the full context for Pope Francis’ pronouncements; 2) evaluating and critiquing those pronouncements from numerous angles; 3) demonstrating by hard statistical evidence that capitalism has proven to be the greatest liberator of the poor. At all times, the authors treat Pope Francis with the respect he deserves, while seeking to establish a healthy and fruitful dialogue between the spiritual and pastoral concerns of the Pope and the more practical, utilitarian concerns of economists.”
Louis A. Markos, Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities, Houston Baptist University; author, From Achilles to Christ, Lewis Agonistes, On the Shoulders of Hobbits, and other books

“The new book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, appears like a team of economists forced to study the encyclical Laudato Si’ in theory and then wonder if it might work in practice. Most of the team members answer the question with a qualified no. Published by the Independent Institute, the work was written as a sincere effort to heed the pontiff’s call for ‘dialogue’ on the economic and ecological issues underlying the controversial encyclical. . . . it provides the sound economic and ecological teaching that is missing in the debate. Such issues need to be addressed urgently to dispel confusion. . . . the book initiates a debate that has the added benefit of educating its readers on the Church’s teaching on many issues like natural law and other moral and economic principles that would otherwise remain clouded. This alone makes the book valuable. . . . In today’s brutal world, it is refreshing to see a civilized debate that is carried out with great respect and reverence for the papal office. . . . the authors must take a look at the bottom line. . . . They cannot fail to point out hard statistical evidence that the present economic theory is benefiting the world’s poor. The poor are not getting poorer in market economies as Francis claims. Pastoral concerns are important but they should not obscure the facts. This is the great strength of the book. It respectfully yet forcefully presents the facts. The expertise of the authors is displayed as they are all quite in their element. They do not apologize for the achievements of free markets. The links are clear between private property and the real alleviation of poverty. The disasters of socialist policies are documented and unambiguous. Thus, each scholar presents compelling arguments to support the general thesis defending free markets and private property. . . . The concluding arguments of Independent Institute research fellow Robert P. Murphy are especially helpful to the debate. Dr. Murphy points out the founding principles of economics were first discovered by Catholic scholars during the Middle Ages. The Church has always been involved in seeking economic justice. He points out that the proper role of the Church is ‘teach people the ends to pursue, while economists can offer guidance on the best means of achieving them.’ He writes that ‘dialogue’ requires a ‘more thoughtful reading of the other’s perspective.’ Pope Francis and the Caring Society provides such a perspective. It should be especially read by those on the left that often misrepresent Church teachings, including Laudato Si’, to their advantage. . . . In these postmodern times, the liberal tendency is to reject rational debate and resort to demagoguery and the repetition of slogans. The book is much more for those who defend right theory and want to make sure it works in practice.”
Crisis Magazine

Pope Francis and the Caring Society comes at a time of some confusion among Protestants and Catholics about the application of moral norms to public life. Critically engaging the teachings of Pope Francis, this stimulating volume speaks to several issues of popular concern—poverty, economic mobility, markets, and environmental stewardship—with clarity and insight. Among its many contributions are a thoughtful sensitivity to how Francis’s' perspective has been shaped by his personal history and context in Argentina, and how disciplinary expertise (from within economics especially) might inform and shape Francis’s teachings. This book will challenge its readers to resist reaching precipitous conclusions and to ask good questions about how markets and morality intersect.”
Jesse D. Covington, Professor of Political Science, Westmont College


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News Date
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Wake Up! on Catholic Community Radio Thu., Nov. 16, 2017
“Looking at Laudato Si’ in Theory and Practice” Pope Francis and the Caring Society is reviewed at the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property Thu., Nov. 16, 2017
“Looking at Laudato Si’ in Theory and Practice” Pope Francis and the Caring Society is reviewed at the American Society at Return to Order Thu., Nov. 16, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Spirit Mornings Bruce McGregor and Jennifer Brown Tue., Nov. 14, 2017
Pope Francis and the Caring Society cited on Mon., Nov. 13, 2017
“Looking at Laudato Si’ in Theory and Practice” Pope Francis and the Caring Society is reviewed in Crisis Magazine Mon., Nov. 13, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society is interviewed on “A Closer Look with Sheila Liaugminas” (Relevant Radio) Tue., Nov. 7, 2017
Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert Whaples: reviewed by Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas (The Catholic Response) Wed., Nov. 1, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Sacred Treasures on Radio Maria network Mon., Oct. 30, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Morning Drive In Person With Dina Marie on Mater Dei radio Thu., Oct. 26, 2017
Pope Francis and the Caring Society is reviewed on The Imaginative Conservative Thu., Oct. 26, 2017
“Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity?” Pope Francis and the Caring Society and Independent Institute Founder and President David Theroux quoted on Thu., Oct. 26, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on GRN Alive with Dave Palmer radio show Tue., Oct. 24, 2017
Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on the Mike Janocik show on WLCR radio (KY) Thu., Oct. 19, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on the Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Catholic Radio Tue., Oct. 17, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on the Morning Glory Radio Show on the EWTN network Mon., Oct. 16, 2017
“Quotation of the day on Pope Francis’s misguided worldwide campaign against capitalism and entrepreneurs” Sr. Fellow Lawerence McQuillan, contributor to Pope Francis and the Caring Society cited on Wed., Oct. 11, 2017
“Eleven scholars respond to Pope Francis’ clarion call for dialogue” Pope Francis and the Caring Society featured on Religion News Service Wed., Oct. 11, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on the Mike Schikman show on WSVA radio Mon., Sep. 18, 2017
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Meet the Author on Radio Maria network Thu., Sep. 14, 2017
“3 Good Things about ‘Price Gouging’” Research Fellow Robert P. Murphy cites Pope Francis and the Caring Society on Thu., Sep. 7, 2017
Pope Francis and the Caring Society cited on Thu., Sep. 7, 2017
“3 Good Things about ‘Price Gouging’” Research Fellow Robert P. Murphy cites Pope Francis and the Caring Society on Wed., Sep. 6, 2017
Pope Francis and the Caring Society cited on Economic Policy Journal Mon., Sep. 4, 2017
“What Pope Francis Gets Right—and Wrong—about Economics” Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and Caring Society interviewed on Ave Maria Radio Tue., Aug. 1, 2017
“The Two Sides of Pope Francis” Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, contributing author to Pope Francis and the Caring Society Op-Ed on Mon., Jun. 5, 2017
“Robert Whaples on the Economics of Pope Francis” Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society appears on Econ Talk Podcast Mon., Mar. 13, 2017


Upcoming Events
Event Date
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society to speak at the Madison Program at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 4:30 pm ET Wed., Mar. 7, 2018
Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society to speak at the Acton Institute Lecture Series, Grand Rapids, MI, on Wednesday, May 17, 2018, 12 noon ET Thu., May. 17, 2018

Past Events
Event Date
“Is Capitalism a Caring Society? A Dialogue between Economists and Pope Francis” Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society speaks at Hillsdale College—Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Hillsdale, MI Tue., Sep. 12, 2017
“Strengths and Weaknesses of Capitalism: A Dialogue between Economists and Pope Francis” Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society speaks at The Napa Institute—Thursday, July 29, in Napa, CA Sat., Jul. 29, 2017
“An Economic Appraisal of Laudato si’” Research Fellow Robert Whaples, editor of Pope Francis and the Caring Society speaks at The Napa Institute— Thursday, July 27 in Napa, CA Thu., Jul. 27, 2017