The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

at BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

Bleak Friday? Popes vs. Consumerism


Black Friday has long been the high holiday of consumerism in America, and now around the world. St. John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have been leading critics of consumerism, providing profound analyses of its consequences.

As an antidote to Black Friday, here is a collection of papal insights about how materialism hurts the human heart.

“The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the State and the marketplace. At times it seems as though he exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of State administration. People lose sight of the fact that life in society has neither the market nor the State as its final purpose, since life itself has a unique value which the State and the market must serve” — Pope John Paul (Centesimus Annus, 49).

“When he is far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease. Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors. A prosperous society, highly developed in material terms but weighing heavily on the soul, is not of itself conducive to authentic development. The new forms of slavery to drugs and the lack of hope into which so many people fall can be explained not only in sociological and psychological terms but also in essentially spiritual terms. The emptiness in which the soul feels abandoned, despite the availability of countless therapies for body and psyche, leads to suffering” — Pope Benedict XVI (Caritas in Veritate, 76).

“A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. … To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment.” — Pope Francis (Laudato Si, 222).

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades” — Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 2).

“The slavish conformity of cultures … to cultural models deriving from the Western world is perilous. Detached from their Christians origins, these models are often inspired by an approach to life marked by secularism and practical atheism and by patterns of radical individualism. This is a phenomenon of vast proportions, sustained by powerful media campaigns and designed to propagate lifestyles, social and economic programs and, in the last analysis, a comprehensive world-view which erodes from within other estimable cultures and civilizations. Western cultural models are enticing and alluring because of their remarkable scientific and technical cast, but regrettably there is growing evidence of their deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment. The culture which produces such models is marked by the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good. … A culture which no longer has a point of reference in God loses its soul and loses its way, becoming a culture of death” — Pope John Paul (World Peace Day, 2001, 9).


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Tom Hoopes

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Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II, The Fatima Family Handbook and What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia and the Register. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and has nine children.