As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, there has been a veritable tsunami of authorities — usually self-appointed — insisting that “democratic” (or any other kind of) socialism is not merely consistent with Christian social teaching, but is the purest form of it. The evidence presented . . . okay, asserted without a shred of evidence . . . was that C.S. Lewis “approved” of socialism.
|Pope Benedict XVI, not a socialist|
Since the individuals making that assertion didn’t bother to support it with any evidence or even a vague reference or cite, we did a search for mentions of Lewis and socialism. All we found was a statement that any rational person would take as rejecting both socialism and capitalism.
This is consistent with the socialist modus operandi. Anxious to find any justification for their position, they twist everything to fit their private interpretations. If that doesn’t work, they simply find something new to twist.
Thus, when Pope Francis failed to live up to the expectations of the socialists for not following through on things he never said and promises he never made, advocates of the “new” socialism cast their nets wider. This led seekers to “Europe and Its Discontents,” an essay in the anthology Europe: Today and Tomorrow (2004) by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. After Ratzinger’s election as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, the essay was revised and included in Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam (2006). The latter is a compendium in the form of a dialogue with the atheist philosopher and politician Marcello Pera, at that time president of the Italian Senate.
|Cardinal Ratzinger, also not a socialist|
Although it was written before Ratzinger became pope, a passage from the essay was — surprise! — widely touted as proof of a papal endorsement of democratic socialism. Like Francis’s reported statements, however, the piece was not what it might have seemed at first glance.
In the essay, after sketching a very brief history of Europe up to the French Revolution, the cardinal noted that out of the wreckage of the vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire two views of the State emerged, both of which were called “liberal.” These, to paraphrase and summarize, were:
· French or European (Totalitarian) Liberalism. The collective or the State itself is sovereign. People have only such rights as are useful or expedient and are agreed upon by consensus or by those who have power. Church and State are completely divorced; the State absorbs the Church, or the Church takes over the State.
· English or Germanic (Laissez Faire) Liberalism. The political or economic élite that controls the State is sovereign. This élite has whatever rights it can maintain against others, while ordinary people only have such rights as the élite finds useful or expedient.
|Pope Pius XI condemned socialism . . . oops.|
As declared in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the idea of the American system is that the State “establish[es] justice” and keeps order at the direction of “We, the People.” In this way a “more perfect union” is formed that provides the proper environment for every person to promote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it.
In a state in which economic and political sovereignty starts with the human person — not society in any form (Cf. Divini Redemptoris, § 29) — the State has only such rights as the citizens delegate to it. Organized religion (“Church”) and State are separated into their respective spheres, but with common areas of interaction and mutual support. Each person is free to follow any religious or spiritual belief or philosophy as long as no one is harmed. Nor may the State, the only “social tool” with legitimate monopoly power, interfere.
|"Hi, guys. Did you miss me?"|
Although the United States is predominantly Protestant (at least in culture), the future pope noted that the American model allows more equitable cooperation between any organized religion and the government. As he noted favorably, if not entirely correctly, “[t]he religious sphere thus acquires a significant weight in public affairs and emerges as a pre-political and supra-political force with the potential to have a decisive impact on political life.” (Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. New York: Basic Books, 2006, 70.)
(Ratzinger, of course, seems to have meant “political” in its much broader, Aristotelian sense. This would not be prohibited under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which precludes control by any religious body over the monopoly powers of the State, i.e., governance and administration.)
Despite the prevailing Protestant culture and the limitations on organized religions — and surprising many — Ratzinger maintained that in regard to Church-State relations the U.S. “is in profound compliance with the faith.” (Ibid., 71) He then made the statement that a number of people have taken as an endorsement of democratic socialism:
|Bishop von Ketteler, not a socialist, either.|
Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt quite at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness. [Emphasis added.] (Ibid., 71-72; cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Europe: Today and Tomorrow. San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2004, 28.)
As this passage gives the impression that Ratzinger gave a moderate approval of socialist goals, it is possible for someone seeking to justify democratic socialism to take it as something of an endorsement. A critique of Marxist or totalitarian socialism that follows (Ibid., 72-74.) only strengthens that impression. There are, however, two serious problems with asserting that the passage constitutes an endorsement of democratic socialism or anything else — which we will address in the next posting on this subject.