Billionaire investor Ken Langone has told New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan that Pope Francis may be hurting fundraising projects for the Roman Catholic Church with his controversial criticism of capitalism.
Langone, the Home Depot founder who is leading the push to raise $180 million to give New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral a facelift, said at least one seven-figure donor is reluctant to give financial aid to the church following the pontiff’s comments, according to CNBC.
The pope angered capitalists in the U.S. and around the world with his attack in November on trickle-down economics, which he said leads to a “culture of prosperity” that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Langone, who calls himself a devout Catholic and prays every morning, told CNBC he had brought up the problem a couple of times with Dolan.
“I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’” Langone said.
The pope made his comments about capitalism during his first “exhortation”, a 224-page document that appeared to vilify the rich while attacking “an economy of exclusion and inequality” resulting from “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”
The pope also lambasted the “idolatry of money” and called capitalism “the new tyranny,” adding that in many cases the wealthy were “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”
The criticism was immediately slammed by the likes of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, who called it “pure Marxism,” and Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, who said he was “not enamored” with the pope’s “economic perspective.”
In response to Langone’s comments, Dolan told CNBC that the Pope Francis’ message had been misinterpreted. He said he told Langone, “Well, Ken, that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father‘s message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people. ‘Ken, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We’ve gotta correct to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father’s message properly.’ And then I think he’s gonna say, ‘Oh, OK. If that’s the case, count me in for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.’”
Dolan added that in his conversations with the pope, he had praised Americans for their spirit of giving.
“In the one long sit-down that I had with him, the Holy Father told me that he has a lot of gratitude for the generosity of the Catholic Church in the United States. He’s aware of our help to the missions, to the poor of the world, to international development, to peace . . . and justice.”
Still, Langone urged the pope “to celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.” He also that “there is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving” as the United States.
According to CNBC, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in the Charities Aid Foundation’s most recent World Giving Index.
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By Drew MacKenzie