In the Leftist theological journal Concilium, Belgian professor Johan Verstraeten accuses Pope Benedict XVI of selling out to the capitalists. Basically, the Vestraeten accuses His Holiness of concentrating too much on personal morality and individual charity instead of focusing on “unjust institutions”, for maintaining a generally positive view of business competition, and for stressing subsidiarity and refusing to equate Catholic social teaching with European social democracy. Cheisa has here reprinted a defense of the pope by Italian professor and senator Stefano Ceccanti (H/T The Pittsford Perennialist). Ceccanti accuses Verstraeten of distorting Catholic social teaching by taking the few parts of the tradition that he likes and discarding the rest. So far, so good.
Really, not much needs to be said of the Concilium critique. We’ve heard this all many times before. The accusation that the Church is holding back the Workers’ Revolution by preaching personal morality is actually a bit charming in its quaintness. It’s like having a new movie come out where a black-hatted villain ties the hero’s girlfriend to railroad tracks. A criticism of the Church that doesn’t involve condoms or sexual perversion? How refreshing! All we need to do is dust off the old reply. What Leftists mean when they say “just institutions” is not what morally sane people would mean by that expression. What Leftists mean is communism, which any believing Catholic regards as a grossly unjust institution. By being an anti-communist, the pope is challenging unjust social structures in a significant way.
Ceccanti eventually gets to this response, but he puts it in a very weird way:
To tell the truth, however, the positions of Verstraeten and of others like him appear to be characterized theologically by a “leftist conservatism,” which has not yet taken into account the collapse of the Berlin Wall and its anti-monarchical lesson, against the overweening power of the state and of politics.
These currents criticize the magisterium precisely because it has instead taken that lesson into account. But by doing so, they reproduce in the social sphere the traditionalist rejection of religious freedom: a rejection that is also rigorously statist, motivated in defense of “iustitia in veritate” against the free choice of the erroneous conscience in good faith.
In short, Verstraeten and… Lefebvre have more elements in common theologically than one would believe by thinking solely along the political axis of right and left.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight: communism and monarchism are basically the same? The fall of the Berlin Wall was a defeat for monarchy?! A traditionalist commitment to the social kingship of Christ is no different from a totalitarian atheist commitment to extirpating the Sacred? Do these classical liberals realize how stupid they sound? They think they’re being profound when they say that there are only two forms of government: liberal democracy and everything else–all cases of everything else being basically the same and morally equivalent to Stalin. In fact, to anyone who has ever thought outside the liberal box, this sounds as ignorantly provincial as a man who imagined that there are only two types of people: Americans and foreigners–all foreigners being basically alike.
But doesn’t he have a point? Don’t antimodernist Catholicism and communism have something important in common, namely that they both posit some idea of the good life and the common good, and they authorize the state to impose this by force? Well, yes, but this is true of all ruling ideologies, including liberalism, with its fetishism of autonomy and officially imposed atheist utilitarianism. No need to go on–everybody here knows the hollowness of liberalism’s pretense to be a “neutral” doctrine that upholds individual consciences in a special way. As soon as we leave our part of the web, though, we see what strong a hold liberalism’s boasts still hold over the educated public.