Will we soon see a distinguished-looking older man in long, white robes walking among the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York’s Zuccotti Park? Is Pope Benedict XVI joining the protest movement?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a strong and thoughtful critique of the global financial system that paralleled many of the criticisms of unchecked capitalism that are echoing through Lower Manhattan and cities around the world.
The report spoke of “the primacy of being over having,” of “ethics over the economy,” and of “embracing the logic of the global common good.”
But Vatican officials were careful to say that their report was not a direct response to the worldwide demonstrations. “It is a coincidence that we share some views,” said Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the council.
Needless to say, Catholic conservatives were not happy with the document, and they did all they could to minimise its importance. George Weigel (pictured), the conservative Catholic writer, took to National Review’s blog to denigrate the Pontifical Council as “a rather small office in the Roman Curia” and to insist that its document “doesn’t speak for the pope, it doesn’t speak for ‘the Vatican,’ and it doesn’t speak for the Catholic Church.”
Oh really? Then for whom does it speak? Weigel wasn’t done. “This brief document from the lower echelons of the Roman Curia no more aligns ‘the Vatican,’ the pope, or the Catholic Church with Occupy Wall Street than does the Nicene Creed,” he wrote.
My, my. It is always entertaining for those of us who are liberal Catholics to watch our conservative Catholic friends try to wriggle around the fact that, on the matters of social justice and the economy, Catholic social teaching is, by any measure, “progressive.”
Conservatives regularly condemn liberal “Cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose among the church’s teachings. But the conservatives often skip the parts of the moral buffet involving peace, social justice and what Pope John Paul II called the “idolatry of the market.”
– E.J. Dionne
E.J. Dionne: The Vatican meets the Wall Street occupiers (The Washington Post)
George Weigel: The Pope, Chaplain to OWS? Rubbish (National Review Online)
Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary System in the Context of Global Public Authority