Cardinal Maradiaga’s Poisonous Fruit

Vaticanologists are making much of a major speech by one of the eight cardinals the pope has designated as leaders of reform, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.

The speech is ambitious: It offers a comprehensive re-reading of the Church’s role in politics, and of the government in economics. The cardinal makes bold, sweeping assertions in a tone as confident as Karl Marx or Ayn Rand: “With the New Evangelization we restart (start anew) from the beginning: we once more become the Church as proclaimer, servant, and Samaritan.”

Does the cardinal really mean that the Church ever ceased to be these things? If so, when? And by what authority does the speaker makes this implicit attack on all his predecessors? By the experience of the Church in Latin America, where large swaths of his flock have fled to Pentecostalism?

Which popes, precisely, is he accusing here:

Too many times [the Church] gives the impression of having too much certitude and too little doubt, freedom, dissension or dialogue. No more excommunicating the world, then, or trying to solve the world’s problems by returning to authoritarianism, rigidity and moralism, but instead keeping always the message of Jesus as her sole source of inspiration.
Such grand and unsupported attacks on an institution’s past are a common rhetorical device of revolutionary movements, which demonize the past, thus gaining the power to shape the future.

Power is the point here: For all his protestations of “humility” and “service,” the cardinal imagines a Church that will have extensive political and economic power, wielded through laymen and politicians whom it can mold. In what shape political and economic principles does he hope to mold them?

Cardinal Maradiaga makes his sympathies clear when he quotes as an authority on the morality of international investment the Swiss radical Jean Ziegler – a longtime defender of Fidel Castro, who has called the United States an “imperialist dictatorship”:

The globalization of the exchange of services, capital and patents has led over the past ten years to establish a world dictatorship of finance capital. . . .The lords of financial capital wield over billions of human beings a power of life and death. Through their investment strategies, their stock market speculations, their alliances, they decide day to day who has the right to live on this planet and who is doomed to die.
Ironically, Ziegler here denounces foreign investors for threatening poor people with death; on other occasions he has condemned the United States for forbidding its citizens to do business with Cuba.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga makes a point

Globalization has helped tens of millions in long-impoverished places like India and China move from grinding poverty to relative prosperity – even as wealth stagnated or shrank in Europe and North America. Talented people in developing countries are no longer doomed to subsistence agriculture or foreign-aid handouts; increasingly, they can compete against better-paid, comparatively privileged workers in richer countries. This reality is something Jean Ziegler prefers to ignore.

The Cardinal elaborates on Ziegler’s conspiracy theory, writing himself:

The effects and consequences of the neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies are not hard to uncover: they invade us with the industry of entertainment, they make us forget about human rights, they convince us that nothing can be done, that there is no possible alternative. To change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords. Chimerical? Utopian?

The Church decidedly bets on living the globalization of mercy and solidarity.

So democracies like ours are “neoliberal dictatorships,” which the Church will help reform through the “globalization of mercy and solidarity,” that is, by helping governments to seize wealth from some people, skim its own share off the top, and distribute that wealth to others. Those “others” will doubtless be grateful, as Hugo Chavez’s supporters were in Venezuela; indeed, they will form powerful voting blocs dependent on state redistribution of wealth, as directed by humble clergymen.

This shows no awareness of decades of research about the true causes of poverty: the lack of clear property rights, political corruption, crony capitalism, populist politics, and centralized bureaucracy. Such problems cannot be solved by foreigners, but by local action to build up a culture of enterprise and institutions that protect small business owners. But it’s much more convenient, comfortable, and conducive to grabbing power to blame everything on the Yanquis

The good cardinal has already shown in the past his proclivity for shifting blame. In May 2002, the cardinal explained who was really to blame for the sex abuse scandal: Jews in the media.

Tiny coteries of evil investors cause starvation in the developing world, while cabals of Jewish journalists try to smear the innocent bishops. Is it all clear now? Based on Manichean, conspiratorial analyses such as these, we humble, loving “Samaritans” must reject the pharisaical Church of the past, and march forward to use the guns and prisons of the state to enforce “mercy” and “solidarity” among the classes and the nations.

In Quod Apostolici Muneris, the great Leo XIII frankly condemned socialism as a Satanic counterfeit of the Gospel. If I might be permitted to cite this pope from the Church’s compromised past:

they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life. . . .But the boldness of these bad men, which day by day more and more threatens civil society with destruction, and strikes the souls of all with anxiety and fear, finds its cause and origin in those poisonous doctrines which, spread abroad in former times among the people, like evil seed bore in due time such fatal fruit.
We see that fruit today.  And I’m not biting. Neither should you.