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Pope Francis Isn't Holding Back—And U.S. Politicians Should Watch Out

Ideas
Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Pope Francis is no moderate. In what some are calling a “nearly revolutionary” speech, Francis gave a 55-minute papal tour de force in Bolivia Thursday night calling for a “structural change” to a global economy that runs “counter to the plan of Jesus.”

Francis and his predecessors have issued strong calls for global economic structural reforms before, but Thursday night’s address to the poor of Bolivia went above and beyond. “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites," he said. "It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you.”

If his September address to the U.S. Congress looks anything similar, House Speaker John Boehner and leaders of both parties might regret their invitation to the 78-year-old Jesuit pontiff. Here are the four foundations of his revolution.

In this July 3, 2015 photo, a life-size cutout image of Pope Francis stands over La Paz, seen from the cable car platform in El Alto, placed there by the transportation workers for commuters to pose with for photos, part of the city's promotion of the pope's upcoming visit to Bolivia. The pope's trip to South America that includes Bolivia is set for July 5-12, though he will only spend four hours in Bolivia's capital due to the altitude, church officials say. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
A life-size cutout image of Pope Francis stands on the cable car platform in El Alto, overlooking La Paz, Bolivia, on July 3, 2015.Juan Karita—AP
In this July 3, 2015 photo, a life-size cutout image of Pope Francis stands over La Paz, seen from the cable car platform in El Alto, placed there by the transportation workers for commuters to pose with for photos, part of the city's promotion of the pope's upcoming visit to Bolivia. The pope's trip to South America that includes Bolivia is set for July 5-12, though he will only spend four hours in Bolivia's capital due to the altitude, church officials say. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis outside a nursing home run by the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, in Tumbaco, Ecuador, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. The Quito home is for elderly who lack the resources to remain in their own homes or family members able to care for them. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Street vendors selling Bolivian and Vatican flags pass a large image of Pope Francis ahead of the pope's arrival to El Alto, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Due to the altitude, the pontiff will spend only a few hours in the capital city La Paz, which is near El Alto, during his South American tour. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Pope Francis waves to the faithful from a popemobile in El Quinche, Ecuador, July 8, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty and called for a new "social justice" where access to the earth's resources would be based on equality instead of economic interests. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. On his final full day in Quito Pope Francis pressed his case for a new economic and environmental world order saying the goods of the Earth are meant for everyone and must not be exploited by the wealthy few for short-term profit at the expense of the poor. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Faithful gather to attend a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Bicentenario Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Thousands of pilgrims braved wind and rain to camp out overnight for a mass to be given by Francis in Ecuador's highland capital Quito for an expected million people. REUTERS/Gary Granja
A woman holds a rosary and a wooden cross with an image of Pope Francis as she waits for the arrival of the Pontiff in San Francisco square, Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Francis is scheduled to meet with members of Ecuador's civil society and give and address in San Francisco Church. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the Bicentenario Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Thousands of pilgrims braved wind and rain to camp out overnight for a mass to be given by Pope Francis in Ecuador's highland capital Quito for an expected million people. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pope Francis walks with his pastoral staff to celebrate a Mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. Latin America's first pope arrived in this port city on Monday for the first big event of a three-nation tour where he's set compassion for the weak and respect for the environment as central themes. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis arrives to meet members of civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty and called for a new "social justice" where access to the earth's resources would be based on equality instead of economic interests. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis is greeted by a child as he meets members of the civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty and called for a new "social justice" where access to the earth's resources would be based on equality instead of economic interests. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pope Francis speaks as he meets members of the civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito
Pope Francis waves to the crowd lining the road to La Paz, as he rides aboard the popemobile from El Alto, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Due to the altitude, Pope Francis will spend only a few hours in the capital city La Paz. Bolivia is the second of three countries Francis will be visiting on his tour of the continent. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A life-size cutout image of Pope Francis stands on the cable car platform in El Alto, overlooking La Paz, Bolivia, on Ju
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Juan Karita—AP
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1. Land, lodging, and labor are “sacred rights.” In what is perhaps his boldest claim to date, Pope Francis argued that everyone has a God-given right to have a job, to own land, and to have a home. This, of course, is neither the promise nor goal of current economic systems established in the U.S. and around the globe. This also goes well beyond the traditional social teaching of the Catholic Church, which argues for the dignity of work, but doesn’t go as far to say that everyone has a God-given right to have a job.

2. People—not profits—must be the center of the global economy. Lambasting unbridled capitalism as a “subtle dictatorship” and the “dung of the devil,” Francis argued that when the “unfettered pursuit of money rules,” that “the service of the common good is left behind." Francis called on the people to counter this: “Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.”

3. We can't wait for change. In his recent encyclical, Pope Francis said that, “doomsday predictions" about the environment "can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” On Thursday, he argued the same could be said of economic injustices: “Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home.” To address this economic situation, Francis argued that people must not be afraid to say “we want change.”

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4. Lasting change must begin from below. The pope argued that structural change won’t be the “result from any one political decision.” Change from below works, the pope said, because when people get “caught up in the storms of people’s lives,” they are deeply moved and compelled to act.

Pope Francis’s speech didn’t reek of socialism, communism, or Marxism, but of a radical commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” the pope 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.”

If Pope Francis can sway Congress on this idea, then perhaps the world will begin to believe what so many of the poor already know: Francis truly is the vicar of that poor man who came two millennia ago to save his people.

Read next: Here’s a Picture of the Pope Being Given a Really Weird Crucifix

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