Pope’s Criticism of Wealthy Makes Donor Hesitate to Give

Pope Francis's recent comments about capitalism have made at least one wealthy philanthropist think twice about continuing to support one of the Church's major fundraising projects, CNBC reports.

Billionaire investor and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, who is spearheading a $180 million campaign to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, told CNBC that one potential seven-figure donor to the campaign had expressed reservations about the pope's characterization of free-market economics as "exclusionary" and his criticism of a "culture of prosperity" in America that leads some to become "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor." Some of the statements  are from Francis's first teaching, or "exhortation," a document issued in late November in which the Roman Catholic pontiff was critical of ideologies that "defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation."

According to CNBC, Langone has raised the issue more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, who told Langone the unnamed donor's concerns were "a misunderstanding of the Holy Father's message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people." Once the donor understands the pontiff's message properly, said Dolan, "I think he's gonna say, 'Oh, Okay. If that's the case, count me in for St. Patrick's Cathedral.' "

Langone told CNBC that he wants to make clear that wealthy Americans are among the biggest donors to charitable causes in the world and that there's a "vast difference between the pope's experience in Argentina and how we are in America." Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and a practicing Catholic, agreed that the pope's beliefs are likely informed by his experience in Argentina, where poverty rates skyrocketed  in 2001 after what was then the largest sovereign default in history plunged the Argentine economy into turmoil. Brooks, who has read the exhortation in the original Spanish, said it is "limited in its understanding of economics from the American context."

"For American Catholics and Americans in general, we have a moral responsibility to the poor to spread the word of true free enterprise around the world," said Brooks. "By doing that, we have the best shot of meeting the Holy Father's objectives, which are good objectives."