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  • The Catholic Church and Socialism

    Here is a recent exchange of comments on the website of National Review Online in response to an article entitled  

    “The Pope, Chaplain to OWS ?”

    “Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish,” says voice therapist Lionel Logue to King George VI as the brassy Australian walks the about-to-be-crowned king through a particularly orotund part of the coronation ceremony in The King’s Speech. Logue’s comment nicely sums up the media and Catholic Left commentary on a “Note” released today by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary System in the Context of Global Public Authority.”
    Drudge got it wrong: “Vatican Calls for ‘Central World Bank’.” CNBC got it wrong: “The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a ‘global public authority’ and a ‘central world bank’.” The best of the Italian Vaticanisti, Sandro Magister of L’espresso, linked Occupy Wall Street and “the Vatican at the Barricades” in the headline of his insta-commentary, a theme also harped upon by the deposed editor of America, Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J.

    All of which was “rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.”

    The truth of the matter is that “the Vatican” — whether that phrase is intended to mean the Pope, the Holy See, the Church’s teaching authority, or the Church’s central structures of governance — called for precisely nothing in this document. The document is a “Note” from a rather small office in the Roman Curia. The document’s specific recommendations do not necessarily reflect the settled views of the senior authorities of the Holy See; indeed, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the press spokesman for the Vatican, was noticeably circumspect in his comments on the document and its weight. As indeed he ought to have been. The document doesn’t speak for the Pope, it doesn’t speak for “the Vatican,” and it doesn’t speak for the Catholic Church.

    Which, to their credit, the two senior officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace tried to make clear in presenting the document at a Roman press conference. Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the council, said that the document was intended to “make a contribution which might be useful to the deliberations of the [upcoming] G-20 meeting.” Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., the secretary of the council, was just as subjunctive as his superior, saying that the document was intended to “suggest possible paths to follow.” Both Cardinal Turkson and Bishop Toso indicated, in line with long-standing Catholic social doctrine, that the Church-as-Church was incompetent to offer “technical solutions” but rather wished to locate public policy debates within the proper moral frameworks.

    To suggest, as most of the immediate reporting and commentary did, that the Catholic Church was endorsing one or another set of proposals for re-ordering international finance, and was doing so as a matter of exercising its doctrinal authority, was a very bad category mistake, reflecting either the pitfalls of instant analysis in the 24/7 news cycle, progressivist-Catholic spin, or both.

    As for the document itself, no morally alert person objects to bringing discussions of global finance within the ambit of moral reasoning; that is an entirely worthy intention. Catholics (and others) are entirely free to disagree — as many already have, and vociferously — with the specific suggestions of the Justice and Peace document. Father Reese and other advocates of the Catholic Revolution That Never Was will likely try to brand those critics “dissidents,” which is more “rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.” That the specific recommendations of the document reflect what will seem to many an uncritical internationalism of a distinctly Euro-secular provenance is an interesting matter that will doubtless be discussed, vigorously, within the Catholic family for some time to come. So will the tension between more recent Catholic discussions of transnational and international political authority and the core Catholic social-ethical principle of subsidiarity, with its settled opposition to political and economic megastructures and concentrations of power.

    Bottom line (so to speak): This brief document from the lower echelons of the Roman Curia no more aligns “the Vatican,” the Pope, or the Catholic Church with Occupy Wall Street than does the Nicene Creed. Those who suggest it does are either grossly ill-informed or tendentious to a point of irresponsibility.

    Reader Joe Corr responded to this as follows:

    If this statement has nothing to do with official Vatican policy, then I wait eagerly for a “Note” from a rather small office in the Roman Curia that will call for returning to the gold standard, that will tout the human dignity of market economies or will warn us of the dehumanizing aspects of state-run economies. Somehow, I think my wait will be a long one.
    The Catholic Church’s modern culture is socialist. Any observant Catholic who sits through Sunday sermons or listens to the prayers of the faithful will not miss that point. It helps explain why Senator Ted Abortion Kennedy, relentless partisan of socialist health care, received a lavish Catholic funeral, con-celebrated by seven priests, that also included a eulogy from a Catholic cardinal. It helps explain why a majority of Catholics voted for Barak Obama, the most stridently pro-abortion presidential candidate in American history. It helps explain why Catholic bishops only belatedly withdrew their support for Obamacare because of abortion concerns. It seems to me that suggesting the modern Catholic cuture is not socialist is what is in fact “rubbish.”

    Yours truly, The Libertarian, in turn, had this to say:

    As a libertarian I support everybody’s right to follow any religious belief he likes. That doesn’t prevent me from having a personal opinion about it.
    Both socialism and the church are promising a paradise in the life hereafter (the church after death, socialism after how many years ?), if only you are willing to practice altruism to the extent of self-denial and self-negligence. They both believe in social engineering, they both believe that man is inherently bad and needs to be re-educated and reformed to comply with their image of the “perfect” man. Both have their own saints, whether they are called St.Martin or Rosa Luxemburg. Both beliefs depend on extreme brain-washing techniques to keep their followers in line. Both advocate a totalitarian, hierarchical structure of government and reject any ideas that contradict their own dogma. Both claim to work for the betterment of man.
    Where is – indeed – the difference ? 

    The Libertarian would like to invite comments from readers ! 
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