I read Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate' last night. To describe it as challenging is a transcendental understatement.
In the most polite and diplomatic Vaticanese, His Holiness goes through global capitalism, global capitalists, and their opponents like a dose of salts. Nothing and nobody is spared critique. Any economist stewing in their own orthodoxies' hypercorrectness and tempted to take him on should be aware that Joseph Ratzinger knows his economics so well that they will only make themselves look stupid if they try.
He does not appear to endorse any model, which may disappoint advocates of distributism, but declares instead the necessity of finding not a new model, but the right model; one which places the development of the whole person at its core.
Yet just when the conservatives have been whooping, cheering and high-fiving their way through the previous 79 pages, he says something which makes us stop short - indeed, should make us stop short, and seriously reflect on whether political conservatism is compatible wth orthodox Roman Catholicism. It left me reeling.
In Chapter Five, Paragraph 67, he writes,
"To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration; for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority."
This places him in direct opposition to both Chinese Communist chauvinism and American neconservative exceptionalism. It pits him against both the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party. And it pits him against Pat Buchanan as surely as it does against Fidel Castro.
This is an incredibly brave and bold thing for him to say; and one will have to reflect on one's own positions. After all, causa finita est.