There is no better way to begin this Part X post than with quotes from Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Ratzinger Report, 1985, Second Printing 1986, Ignatius Press, in Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology, p. 190. It is as if he were looking 30 years into the future at some of the concerns we’ve been discussing:
“What is theologically unacceptable here, and socially dangerous, is this mixture of Bible, christology, politics, sociology and economics. Holy Scripture and theology cannot be misused to absolutize and sacralize a theory concerning the socio-political order. Of its very nature, that order is always contingent. By sacralizing the revolution — mixing up God, Christ and ideologies — they only succeed in producing a dreamy fanaticism that can lead to even worse injustices and oppression, ruining in the praxis what the theory had proposed.”
“It is also painful to be confronted with the illusion, so essentially un-Christian, which is present among priests and theologians, that a new man and a new world can be created, not by calling each individual to conversion, but only by changing the social and economic structures. For it is precisely personal sin that is in reality at the root of unjust social structures. Those who really desire a more human society need to begin with the root, not with the trunk and branches, of the tree of injustice. The issue here is one of fundamental Christian truths, yet they are deprecatingly dismissed as ‘alienating’ and ‘spiritualistic’.”
I was struck by the word “painful” which then Cardinal Ratzinger used, as I too am feeling this entire process of reading and analyzing Laudato Si has been quite painful and deeply sad, but necessary. Re-reading pages 169-190 of the Ratzinger Report (Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology) has enabled me to finally cut through so much that has been confusing and unexplainable in Laudato Si, and I highly recommend the reader’s consulting that chapter directly. The content of that Chapter 12 was given to the interviewer, Vittorio Messori, prior to the release of Ratzinger’s Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” given August 6, 1984, with the approval of Saint John Paul II. Ignatius Press has printed the entire content of the published “Preliminary Notes” to that “Instruction” as the text of a “private theologian.” More of Cardinal Ratzinger words will be included in upcoming Parts of the Laudato Si review, for the sake of explanation and interpretation. For now, it seems important to continue with excerpts of Laudato Si which raise questions of collectivism.
Among the key questions related to this Part X are 1) can consensus among yet unidentified participants, of unknown skills and motives, ever trump sovereign countries’ rights (except perhaps as between allies in a global war like World War II) and still be in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding subsidiarity? 2) why is there any hope that artificial structures like summits, paper agreements or special appointees would be any more successful in implementation than was the League of Nations or has been the U.N.? 3) how far has all of this already gone, unbeknownst to citizens of countries likely to be most impacted negatively? 4) when one considers all the reasons the world has not been able to come together for an alleged common good, how would there be anything different in new structures, when weak humans are still weak humans? 5) how is ‘common good’ to be assessed and by whom in a world becoming increasingly degenerate, and failing to have made any impact on so many more apparent social evils? 6) What unspoken dangers lurk in the persistent pursuit of lofty global ambitions?
So as at the beginning, also at the end?
On a more biblical level, might one contemplate whether or not there is an effort afoot to reassemble the peoples of the world into a new Tower of Babel; some of these efforts do seem to be hoping to do so. In Genesis 11:1-9 we read: “Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”
God did warn that Babel was “only the beginning.” Here are the relevant quotes from Laudato Si, which envision a superstructure of sorts — this time a superstructure of organization, in opposition to subsidiarity and possibly also trying to regather from all the earth a scattered (in many senses) humanity, to do what belongs to the Second Coming? The organizational superstructure language focuses on bringing together a consensus from all over the earth, about the earth, in the “dialogue” for which Pope Francis repeatedly calls, to agree on and enforce causes of action.
Does this sound like too much of a stretch? Too untenable? Then consider these words of Cardinal Ratzinger regarding liberation theology: “… by fighting for justice and integral liberation, by transforming unjust structures into more human ones … is exercised by repeating in history the gesture by which God raised Jesus, i.e. by giving life to those who are crucified in history. Man has taken over God’s gesture — this manifests the whole transformation of the biblical message in an almost tragic way, when one thinks how this attempted imitation of God has worked out in practice and continues to do so.” (Page 184, Ratzinger Report.)
Laudato Si Quotations
One should carefully ask what is being created if the following quotations from Laudato Si were to prevail:
“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness … so we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration …. etc.” (#43) It is particularly striking how these words are blatantly disconnected from what Americans in particular value from the Declaration of Independence … “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Where is Liberty? And experience shows us all that we don’t have a “right” to happiness, but rather the right to pursue happiness. It is a strange juxtaposition, raising questions of “Why?”
“‘A true ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time” (#51)
“The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.” (#52)
“…we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations.” (#53)
“”…The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.” (#53)
“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good….” (#54) With this kind of attitude toward certain interested sectors of the issue, who claim a right or need to participate, how can the repeated call for open and honest dialogue ever be honored? Of course participants will have vested interests, the Aparecida Document notwithstanding. In particular, that Aparecida Document is mentioned in an article in America, saying “one particular aspect of Pope Francis’ biography [is] his relationship with the Fifth Latin American Episcopal Conference held in May 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil, and its possible consequences for this pontificate. At Aparecida, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected by his brother bishops to chair the important committee charged with drafting the final document. This was not an incidental fact but a token of his leadership in such events.” http://americamagazine.org/trail-aparecida [With more time and resources it would be interesting to revisit the Aparecida document and examine it as a source for Laudato Si, considering even that wider publicity for Aparecida might be one of the purposes of the Laudato Si encyclical.]
“…this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation.” (#64) Given concerns about the infiltration of Liberation Theology, the word choice seems odd.
“To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.” (#129)
“We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.” (#141) Reminiscent of the “central planning” of socialist countries.
“…social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society….” (#142)
“A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.” (#164).
“…the international community has still not reached adequate agreement about the responsibility for paying the costs of … energy transition.” (#165)
“World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.” (#166)
“… the 1972 Earth Stockholm Declaration … enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth, the obligation of those who cause pollution to assume its costs and the duty to assess the environmental impact of given projects and works…. (#167)
“International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interest above the global common good.” (#169) Shouldn’t this statement be clarified to say “alleged global common good,” since so much is unproven, except the ever-persistent desire for more cash from the wealthier nations. What countries’ representatives, assuming the responsibilities for which they were elected, would not see their job as primarily protecting their own nations’ interests? How does subsidiarity fit into these concepts at all, except as a denial of free will of the individual, and denial of sovereign rights of nations?
“As the bishops of Bolivia [at a Bolivian Bishops Conference] have stated, ‘the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused.'” (#170)
“Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.” (#173)
“What is needed … is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called ‘global commons.'” (#174)
“The same mindset which stands in the way of making ‘radical decisions’ to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of the goal of eliminating poverty. A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions.” (#175). And in this particular statement, the real link between the environment and the “poor,” mentioned so many times in this Encyclical, is clearly displayed.
“It is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions.” (#175). And in this very sentence, discussed in Part IX relative to an out-of-context quote attributed to Pope Benedict, all the dangerous elements are exposed in a clear statement of how someone can argue that the “end justifies the means.” From whence comes the hope that nations, governments and politicians, so roundly criticized for inability (or unwillingness) to act, to rule, govern and sanction will then appoint (unelected) ‘functionaries’ in a super secular and greedy world who will be effective, responsible and above reproach? Doesn’t the entire argument collapse on itself! Or else, perhaps confessionals will no longer be needed, if people transcend all temptation and greed and intimidation! More likely, the faults of a persistently fallen human race will not be erased by new ways to manipulate, but rather be stimulated by the opportunity.
“…the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.” (#193)
There is also a challenge to private property rights in Laudato Si:
“In some places, … the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty….”ecological” neighborhoods … are closed to outsiders … we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities….” (#45)
“The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’ The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.” (#93)
“Saint John Paul II…explained that ‘the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them.'”(#93) [Context not verified.]
“The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property.” (#238) [Meaning is not obvious; context not verified.]
Collectivism, Marxism, Socialism?
If some of the above statements sound suspiciously like socialism, or Marxism or Collectivism (i.e. the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it; the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state,) it is not surprising. ‘Tis the perennial error in the swing of the pendulum to the left.
Certainly this is all NOT to say that Pope Francis is or is not a collectivist or any version of that ilk, as not enough information is provided. Rather, it is to note the risks of associating the Catholic Church with those who are socialists, and the dangers that they will misuse and abuse all that many hold dear, being especially divisive within the Church, e.g. against Americans, whose God-given Freedoms are enshrined in our constitution, and bred in our bones. In Part XI, we will consider what some might regard as hostile statements from Pope Francis aimed toward the North American continent in particular and relate more of the context between Pope Francis’s and Cardinal Ratzinger’s words.
The author Messori recounts Ratzinger’s words:
“… in the West, the marxist myth has lost its attraction for the young and even for the workers. There is an attempt, therefore, to export it to the Third World on the part of those intellectuals who actually live outside countries dominated by ‘real Socialism’, indeed, it is only where marxism-leninism is not in control that there are still people who take its illusory ‘scientific truths’ seriously.” (Page 187, Ratzinger Report).
“[Cardinal Ratzinger] … then went on to tell me how dismayed he was by reading many of these theologians: “A continual refrain is this: ‘Man must be liberated from the chains of politico-economic oppression; the reforms are not enough to liberate him, indeed they lead away from liberation; what is necessary is revolution, and the only way to bring about a revolution is to summon people to the class struggle.’ Yet those who repeat all this seem to have no concrete and practical idea how a society could be organized after the revolution. They limit themselves to repeating that the revolution must be brought about.” (Page 189, Ratzinger Report).