The Bible warns that money is the root of all evil, and now Pope Francis has gone further in blaming rising inequality as the cause of "social evil".
Inequality is the root of social evil.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2014
The Pontiff's warning on Twitter comes after he previously attacked the "idolatry of money" that has helped create a "new tyranny" of unfettered capitalism.
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," he urged last November.
The Pope can count headline-grabbing French economist Thomas Piketty and the International Monetary Fund as allies in the fight against inequality. Piketty has laid out the shocking rise in inequality over time, while the IMF has analysed how inequality holds back economic growth. Even former cabinet minister Chris Huhne has weighed in on inequality in his Guardian column.
Piketty's acclaimed new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, topped the best-seller list on Amazon.com as he showed how the distribution of wealth has changed over centuries.
According to his much-discussed analysis, the rich have never been richer over the last century, even more so than after the Great Depression and the World Wars.
Piketty writes: "From 1977 to 2007, the richest 10% appropriated three-quarters of the growth. The richest 1% alone absorbed nearly 60% of the total increase of US national income in this period."
Meanwhile, recent research from the International Monetary Fund found that lower inequality is "robustly" linked with "faster and more durable growth".
The IMF's analysis also undermines warnings from free market supporters that policies to redistribute wealth such as progressive taxes on high earners will discourage "wealth creators" and hamper the economy.
"Redistribution appears generally benign in terms of its impact on growth," the IMF writes. "Thus the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution—including the growth effects of the resulting lower inequality—are on average pro-growth."
The growing chorus against inequality, from across the political and economic spectrum, has thrust it into the centre of public debate, as economists, politicians and pontiffs point out how dangerous the staggering rise in inequality is to the economy and how it needs to be solved.
As former energy secretary Huhne warns: "If the others wake up to what is really going on, conservative parties are going to have a big electoral problem."