Samuel Gregg on Pope Francis, Argentina, and Economics
Date: January 8th, 2017

During the first four years of Pope Francis’s tenure at the Vatican, the pontiff from Latin America released two social encyclicals that have touched upon various economic issues — Evangelli gaudium (2013) and Laudato si’ (2015).  To explain the background of Pope Francis’s statements, we are joined by Dr. Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, and author on various books on markets and morality.  Dr. Gregg begins by discussing what encyclicals are, what social encyclicals are in specific, and how some important ones issued by various pontiffs over the past century or so.  He notes that encyclicals are largely directed at the bishops, but are also read broadly by lay Catholics and others to take cues on how various socio-economic trends can be read through Catholic social teaching.  We go back to the first encyclical to address industrial capitalism — Rerum novarum (1891) and walk through some of the differences and continuities with Quadragesimo anno (1931), Lumen gentium (1964), Gaudium et spes (1965), Centesimus annus (1991), and the two aforementioned documents written by Pope Francis.  Sam notes that while many pundits will focus on some of the economic sections of these documents, Evagelli gaudium is primarily about reaching the peripheries of society with the Christian Gospel.   We then spend time discussing the economic history of Argentina as a means of understanding the socio-economic context that formed Jorge Bergoglio’s mindset.  The role of Juan Perón and Peronismo in affecting the economic trajectory of Argentina, one of the ten richest countries in 1900 but which fell significantly behind other developing nations over the course of the 20th century.  Perón promulgated a very “corporatist” set of policies, and Sam explains how Catholic thought influenced this ideology.  We also review the period of economic liberalization under Carlos Menem in the 1990s and the “great depression” that affected Argentina at the turn of the 21st century.  From this historical perspective, we look Bergoglio’s intellectual development with Dr. Gregg noting that the future Pope Francis wasn’t a theologian, had some skepticism of “high theologians,” and how he spent much of his career focusing on pastoral formation.  Nonetheless, when it comes to his views on economics, Bergoglio was influenced by various threads of Peronismo, which works its way into Bergoglio’s teleogía del pueblo (or “theology of the people”), which should not be conflated with liberation theology.  We then discuss some critiques of this view of economic life, including the difficulty in defining who “the people” are and how we determine what they really want.  Sam finishes off with some reflections on what he has learned over the decades of studying theology and economics.  Recorded: December 16, 2016.


Dr. Samuel Gregg’s bio at the Acton Institute.

Understanding Pope Francis: Argentina, Economic Failure, and the Telogía del Pueblo” by Samuel Gregg in The Independent Review.

Morality, Law, and Public Policy, by Samuel Gregg.

Economic Thinking for the Theologically Minded, by Samuel Gregg.

On Ordered Liberty, by Samuel Gregg.

The Commercial Society, by Samuel Gregg.

Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy, by Samuel Gregg.

Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future, by Samuel Gregg.

Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing, by Samuel Gregg.

Laudato Si': Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed,” by Samuel Gregg.


Robert Sirico on Markets, Morality, Faith, and Freedom.

Bob Subrick on Religion and Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, and Vernon Smith.

Theodore Malloch on Spiritual Capital and Virtuous Business.

Art Carden on Christian Ethics, Charity, and Economics.

R.R. Reno on Pop(e) Francis.

Jeremy Lott on the Media’s Pope-O-Rama.

James Felak on Picking Pontiffs and Pope Francis.

One Response to “Samuel Gregg on Pope Francis, Argentina, and Economics”

  1. […] four years.  He released two encyclicals, Evangelli gaudium (2013) and Laudato si’ (2015).  Samuel Gregg recently sat down with Anthony Gill of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion for an in depth discussion on Pope Francis’ encyclicals among a few other topics such as […]

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