Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Was Pope John Paul II Conservative or Liberal?

Yesterday I commented on a blog at New Sisyphus. That blog was A Critique of Pope John Paul II and the comment I left (at New Sisyphus) generated some rather sharp responses

First off let's deal with the "first elephant" of New Sisyphus. "The first elephant is the strong and strident anti-Americanism of both the Pope and the Church in general." This "first elephant" I think can be broken down into two elephants. As New Sisyphus deals with the Pope's economic philosophies and then hits on the Pope's approach to Iraq.

First off the Papacy and the church transcends right and left, conservative or liberal, American or otherwise. The Pope is Christ's spokesman on earth. Early this morning at the Belmont Club Wretchard blogs about the dire social situation in the UK and I find his commentary (working with commentary by Theodore Dalyrymple) to summarize the problem the Pope was crying out to.

The one nation many in the world seek to emulate is the USA. Our stars, our hangups, our fads are often the world's. This is a general truism. You can go to many places in the world and you will see Michael Jordan gear and not just in the cities of the world but in deeply rural as well. So the world does look up to the USA as role model. If the USA tries to allow all sorts of immorality and then free its citizenry from the results of that immorality then what is the rest of the world to do? Certainly the USA has more influence than say Belgium. It behooves the USA to set good examples to the world.

Doing a quick google search on the Pope and his stand on capitalism reveals a general trend of oversimplification of the Pope's views on capitalism. In short he was not opposed to capitalism.
It should be noted that in today's world, among other rights, the right of economic initiative is often suppressed. Yet it is a right which is important not only for the individual but also for the common good. Experience shows us that the denial of this right, or its limitation in the name of an alleged "equality" of everyone in society, diminishes, or in practice absolutely destroys the spirit of initiative, that is to say the creative subjectivity of the citizen.
Source: Sollicitudo rei socialis Pope John Paul II 1987
That is to say, the Pope recognizes the bedrock of capitalism is not only legitimate but necessary for the common good. The problem arises due to the nature of the conflict that arose between the nations following Capitalism and those following Marxism. The Pope notes the conflict between the two economic systems retarded economic development of the poor nations of the world.

The problem occurs when one's idea of freedom and liberty cut themselves off from the community.
It is precisely in this sense that Cain's answer to the Lord's question: "Where is Abel your brother?" can be interpreted: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his "brother's keeper", because God entrusts us to one another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfilment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted.

There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.
[Emphasis added] Source: Evangelium vitae Pope John Paul II 1995

This is what the Pope rails against. The combination of capitalism and the loss of a sense of community. The two are tied by The Truth which we are slowly loosening ourselves from.

I particularly like the Pope's reference to Cain. Modern American man following in European man's footsteps answers "Am I my brother's keeper" by retorting, no my government is. The problem is then the American man then refuses to give the means to the government to keep our brother.

Now do not misunderstand me here because this is very important. We here in America have a choice. It is up to us to become our brother's keeper if we do not help the less fortunate among us on our own private initiative then the government will. If the government then decides to take care of us then the cynical golden rule takes affect. He who has the gold makes the rules that is to say the Nanny state arises.

One must be careful when condemning the Pope to use his words and not the words of more minor church officials. Granted outright criticism may exist (at least in terms of our economics) but it seems the materials I have quoted have put those criticisms in a more proper light. Responses to the rest of the criticisms will come in a later blog.