First, throughout history, free-market capitalism has been a great driver of economic growth, and as my colleague Ben Friedman has written, economic growth has been a great driver of a more moral society.
Second, “trickle-down” is not a theory but a pejorative used by those on the left to describe a viewpoint they oppose. It is equivalent to those on the right referring to the “soak-the-rich” theories of the left. It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.
Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.
I’d like to add, fourth, that the Church did such a great job that it only took seventeen-hundred years before it significantly improved the quality of life of all Europeans, which just happened to coincide with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism.
UPDATER: Ludwig von Mises:
Of course, as a rule capitalists and entrepreneurs are not saints excelling in the virtue of self-denial. But neither are their critics saintly. And with all the regard due to the sublime self-effacement of saints, we cannot help stating the fact that the world would be in a rather desolate condition if it were peopled exclusively by men not interested in the pursuit of material well-being.
(h/t Cafe Hayek)