I've a friend from high school who has become a Ron Paul fanatic, and absolutely convinced the IMF and World Bank are, as he says, "evil."
He wrote asking me how I could "follow" someone so "creepy" who supports these "evil" organizations. Are the IMF and WB really evil? I don't know enough to say one way or the other. I know for sure, they're not perfect and they often require those to whom they lend money to do things that work against the Natural Law and thus the common good.
But there's a reason the Church works with such organizations, which I outline here.
The simple answer and one I've been
meaning to get back to you with is that ... Well, first, let me start by saying
I'm at a disadvantage. You can pop off a one-liner ad hominem attack, which is
impossible to answer in like fashion.
The simple answer is that I do not follow Benedict. I follow
a Person, Jesus Christ, and through baptism, both you and I were indelibly
marked as members of His Body, the Church. I believe He (Jesus) is not some
mere mortal, some nice rabbi whose disciples went overboard, not some great
social teacher who never wanted to be seen as divine, but, rather, is Who He
said He was, the Son of God, i.e., God the Son, the Second Person of the
Trinity, inseperable from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (which I can
prove through pure deductive reasoning, i.e., without any recourse to the
typical theological arguments).
Because I believe in Him, and because I have studied the
Bible, the history of Scripture and the Church and what its earliest members
believed, I also believe what Scripture says about the office of Peter (if you
have a Bible lying around, check out Matthew 16:16-20). Benedict is only the
latest successor in that office (which is unbroken). And if Jesus says the
teaching authority of that office will be protected by the Holy Spirit from
error in matters of faith and morals, then I take Jesus at His word. He is,
after all, God and thus omniscient, while I can only see what is right in front
of my nose, relatively speaking.
From all of this flows two considerations:
1) The IMF or a proposed CWB or whatever do not fall within
the realm of faith and morals. He can use these insitutions to further a world
that is more faithful and moral, but they don't fall under faith and morals, as
such. Therefore, he can err/make a mistake in this, and I can still trust in
the promises Jesus made vis-a-vis the Petrine office.
2) Since its very inception, the Church has taken the
imperfect instruments and institutions of this world, sacralized them, and used
them to more perfectly bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. Bringing
about God's kingdom on earth ultimately is an impossible task. However, that
doesn't give the Catholic Church an excuse for not trying to accomplish what it
can of it.
As some examples, while there are good intellectual
arguments for placing Christ's birth on December 25, it is generally accepted
that the early Christians took over this date since it coincided the Feast of
Saturnalia, an often hedonistic festival. The Church coopted this festival,
scrubbed out the bad bits, and used it to draw its members to greater holiness.
Rome and Assisi each has a church that bears the same name
and the same origin. Both are called Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which literally
translates as the Church St. Mary over Minerva. Minerva was the goddess of
wisdom, and the church took over two temples to this deity, consecrated them,
and sacralized them. Just around the corner from the one in Rome is the
Pantheon, whose official name is Santa Maria ad Martires (St. Mary of the
Martyrs). Near the turn of the first millenium, it was consecrated as a
Catholic church. That is why it is the only remaining fully intact building
from ancient Roman times left in the city. Otherwise, it would have been torn
down so its stones could be used as building materials.
Is paganism good? No, not at all. It's false religion.
Whatever good points this or that pagan cultus may have, the fact is that in
the end, each is diabolically influenced to lead people away from true faith,
which is in Jesus Christ.
But should the Church have totally jetissoned everything of
old pagan institutions simply because paganism leads people away from
Christianity? No. She took from them what is good and true (for even the worst
heresies or beliefs have some truth to them), and built off of those to make
Similarly, the Church does the same thing today. It takes
the world as it is, not as it wishes to be. You mentioned previously that you
found the Church's permanent observer status at the UN reprehensible. Had it
not possessed that status, it could not have worked with other nations and
various NGOs to defeat the anti-person elements at conferences such as those in
Cairo and Beijing during the Clinton administrations. Timothy Wirth and Hilary
Clinton, the administration's representatives to those conferences, were
hell-bent on fostering abortion as an inalienable human right.
Given that abortion is murder, the Church could never stand
for this. It worked with the aforementioned entities and won great victories,
despite tremendous reviling in the media and every force of every
industrialized nation arrayed against it and its coalition.
Similarly, when some conflict is ready to break upon us or
has already done so, the weight of the Church's moral voice and authority often
keeps or restores the peace. At least her work on behalf of peace and justice
makes it much more difficult for combatants to wage war or start conflicts with
What institution possesses a greater voice that the Holy See
against the arms trade today, which impoverishes developing nations and causes
so much injustice in myriad ways amongst their inhabitants?
We can make the same point about the IMF, etc. Go back to
2000, the last Jubilee Year. (Wikipedia "Jubilee Year" to see what is
the big deal about that.) No one worked harder than the Holy See to get debt
forgiveness for countries whom the IMF was holding hostage with its
confiscatory interest rates (or with those of lendor nations, etc.). Bono of U2
worked right alongside the Holy See to accomplish this great work of justice and
he lauded the Church's efforts.
Today, the Church continues working with such financial
institutions. Why? Because it recognizes that never has the world had more
wealth and abundance. And yet there are still those who go to bed starving to
death, who suffer from curable disease, who lack access to clean water, basic
sanitation, or simple medicine, who can't access capital to start businesses
without paying egregious interest rates (Bing "brick kiln children"
and Pakistan if you want your heart to break and to see what I mean), who are
discriminated against and have no options simply because of their caste or
gender. The list goes on.
The Church's Caritas organization -- an umbrella group for
all its charitable outreaches, etc. -- does so much to right these wrongs
without involvement from any financial institution. However, it and other
offices within the Holy See work with existing, imperfect institutions -- some
so imperfect that people take to calling them "evil" -- in order to
accomplish what good they can with them.
Furthermore, by having a seat at the table, they have the
opportunity to express concerns that are not unlike yours. That doesn't mean
they agree with every one of your concerns. People of good will can and do
disagree on matters of how to accomplish the greater good (or even what the
greater good is, for that matter).
Therefore, to wrap up, I think you're totally wrong, X.
By taking the road you propose, the Catholic Church would have a greatly
reduced ability to bring about peace, justice, and stability in our world. It's
the same thing with the various diplomatic relations the Holy See (as opposed
to the Vatican) maintains around the world. It does so with some pretty nasty
countries because this gives them entree and a certain level of authority that
would not otherwise exist.
That isn't to say it gives a hearty thumbs up to these
institutions or those nations with whom it maintains relations. It is to say
that it is working for a greater good, and it has decided -- after centuries of
working the issue from both sides, btw; keep in mind that the Holy See has the
oldest diplomatic corps in existence -- that this is the most prudent way to
move people, nations, and institutions towards conditions which would more
perfectly reflect heaven.
As I noted above, we can never attain heaven on earth.
Anyone who says we can is either delusional, lying, or manipulative beyond
belief. But we can bring the world closer to the ideal that is the kingdom of
heaven on earth. That is not a bad thing.
Finally, here's what I know about Benedict. He is a
brilliant man. No one makes the sort of scholarly impact he has made by
possessing a mediocre mind. He could have put that mind at service to himself,
to science, to any number of things. Instead, he chose to put his talents at
the service of Christ and his fellow man. He has opposed all sorts of things
that are truly "evil," often at the cost of great criticism and
vilification. Imagine if you got the sort of abuse you've heaped on him or that
others have. How would that feel for you, Steve (and Kent)? Personally, I can
imagine a lot of other ways to feel good than that, putting it mildly. He did
this even when people in the highest reaches of the Catholic Church's hierarchy
opposed him. He has always called a spade a spade, and it's often greatly
angered a lot of people. This is not a man who turns a blind eye to evil. This
is not a man who keeps quiet about injustice or evil or the like.
Therefore, given that he's been studying these issues for the
last 65+ years or so, and has been on the right side of so many issues so
often, might you not want to give the man, this good man the benefit of the
doubt? Or are you, who has been on the earth almost 40 fewer years and has far
less education, really so arrogant as to think you alone have it all figured
out and can thus stand in judgment of this man and his heart (which you can't
possibly know ... ever). Are you really so capable of judging him
"creepy"? As I said in my last missive to you, I agree his dark
circles give him a weird look when he smiles, but he's almost 87 years old.
Wrinkles and dark circles under one's eyes will do that to you.
I've not written this to give offense, so if anything I have
written has done that, please forgive me. But I would also ask that you take a
less glib, facile take on things.
And hopefully this will have been some use to you.
I love you, X, and I hope all is well with you and yours
in [your hometown].