Blog of Obscurity

A Very Munchkinly Blog

Monday, April 04, 2005

Criticism of the Pope

The Other Blogger mentioned some of the criticism of the Pope that he had heard. I suppose the oddest criticism that I have been hearing was about the Pope's opposition to "liberation theology".

For those who don't remember, "liberation theology" was a kind of messianic Marxism, using Catholic language to make Marxism seem like it would bring "social justice". Given that this was being used to sell the idea in Central America during the 1980's, a time when Marxist revolutionaries were taking over - or trying to - throughout the region, the use of Catholic language was certainly a good marketing idea. But the Pope stepped in, noting that Marxism leads to effective slavery, brutality, and the lack of any kind of justice; the Pope also banned priests from taking holding political office, at least in part to make sure that the misguided Central American priests did not tear apart the countries of Central America by making their wars religious in nature.

The reason that criticizing the Pope for his opposition to this thinly-masked Marxism is odd is that the Pope was right: Marxism has not, in any place or time it has been tried, resulted in social justice. It has frequently resulted in a fairly even spread of wealth and position in society - except, of course, for high Party members - but that has been an equality of poverty and brutality, not wealth and comfort. Besides, this was one of the three people most key to ending Communism as a large-scale movement (along with Reagan and Thatcher), so it's not like anyone should have expected the Pope to embrace Marxism in the form of "liberation theology".

Another thing that interests me about the criticisms of the Pope is that all of them that I have heard boil down to one thing: the Pope defended Catholic doctrine in relation to matter X, where that doctrine was at odds with the doctrine of the Left. This is true not only of the Pope's opposition to Marxism, but also to his stands on birth control (frequently recast to involve AIDS in Africa) and the ordination of women. Where the Pope went along with the Left's doctrine - opposition to right-wing dictators, opposition to the Iraq war, or the promotion of democratic reform in S. Africa - there don't seem to be any critics.