NEW YORK – The major Italian newspaper La Stampa has cited WND and radio commentator Rush Limbaugh in an article about opposition to Pope Francis’ recently expressed views on the free enterprise system, framing the debate as “the world of the conservative USA vs. Bergoglio.”

“U.S. radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has unleashed his usual verbal abuse, sparking a new debate. In this debate one can make out an underlying resentment felt by U.S. conservatives toward Francis,” wrote Italian journalist Paolo Mastrolilli in an article that was republished by La Stampa’s English language Vatican Insider.

Mastrolilli paraphrased a remark by Limbaugh on the host’s top-rated radio show: “Pope Francis is a Marxist, and it is hypocritical of the Catholic Church to criticize capitalism when this is where it gets its funding from.”

Later in the article, Mastrolilli takes on WND, focusing on a WND commentary published Dec. 1 titled “Jesus Christ is a Capitalist,” by Virginia attorney Jonathan Moseley.

“Jesus Christ is weeping in heaven hearing Christians espouse a socialist philosophy that has created suffering and poverty around the world,” Moseley concluded, after arguing that Francis’ views on poverty mirror socialist economic theories. “It is impossible to love one’s neighbor as yourself without fighting against socialism, meaning government meddling in private lives.”

After writing that Limbaugh’s radio show has an estimated 20 million listeners and is worth $400 million, Mastrolilli singled out Moseley as one who shares Limbaugh’s opinions regarding Francis’ economics.

“Tea Party activist Jonathon Moseley, for example, published a WorldNetDaily column saying that Jesus is crying over the pope’s socialist philosophy,” Mastrolilli noted. “According to Moseley, Jesus himself had rejected the theory of redistribution when he was asked whether it was right for a brother to share his inheritance with other family members: ‘Jesus spoke to the individual, never to government or government policy. Jesus was a capitalist, preaching personal responsibility, not a socialist.’”

WND reported last week Pope Francis, in his 84-page apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel,” castigated unfettered capitalism. He described it as an ideology that worships “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” to produce “a new tyranny” that results in the earnings of the already rich “growing exponentially” while the poor suffer an income gap “separating the majority form the prosperity enjoyed by the happy few.”

Urging Christians to say “No” to what he characterizes as “the new idolatry of money,” Francis expressed his belief that income redistribution is essential to a moral theory of economics.

“I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: ‘Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs,’” Francis wrote.

In his apostolic exhortation, Francis embraced a vision in which the cruel reality of poverty takes on a moral imperative.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points,” he asked.

“Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

The pope charged that capitalists and free market advocates “end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

Francis was equally harsh on the Roman Catholic Church itself, returning to a theme he brought up often with the priests and parishioners of Buenos Aires: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting an dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

In July, Francis issued his first papal encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” or “The Light of Faith,” a collaborative work begun by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The document is strong on the theological orthodoxy that Catholics came to associate with Benedict and short on the human feelings, the “joy of the Gospel,” that Catholics are beginning to associate with Francis.

In his radio broadcast Thursday, Limbaugh objected, “I won’t play villain in the pope.”

Limbaugh made clear he did not want to make himself the center of the growing worldwide controversy.

“I’m not gonna join it. I’m not gonna allow these people, at least I’m not gonna participate these people making me the bad guy, ’cause I am not. I am one of the guys in the white hats in this soap opera, and I always have been, and I am not gonna let them turn me into a black-hatted character. I’m just not gonna do it, ’cause it’s all made up,” Limbaugh insisted to his listeners.

“This anger, this outrage, it’s all phony. I mean, you’ve got people who themselves hate the Catholic Church but, all of a sudden, now having to weigh in: ‘Well, who do we hate more, Limbaugh or the Catholic Church?’”

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