Is the Pope Capitalist?

By Reid, Stuart | The American Conservative, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Is the Pope Capitalist?


Reid, Stuart, The American Conservative


HILAIRE BELLOC said, "Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe." As far as Catholics such as George Weigel and his neocon pals are concerned, however, that is so Old Europe. To them it makes much more sense to say, "America is the Faith and the Faith is America."

From the Faith of America comes the Weigelian Church, which preaches liberal capitalism, pre-emptive war, the Little Way of Sarah Palin, global democratic revolution, and faith and works. Walker Percy saw this Church coming in Love in the Ruins. He called it the American Catholic Church. One of its major feast days was Property Rights Sunday, during which the ACC would display a blue banner showing Christ holding the American home (with white picket fence) in His hands.

The ACC would probably not have liked the pope's new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate--Love in Truth--any more than Weigel does. Caritas runs to 30,000 words and is a summary of Catholic teaching on such matters as economics, trade, and employment. It is, in other words--at least as far as the media is concerned--a politically charged document. And since Weigel is one of America's most politically charged Catholic thinkers--known, especially, for his strong support of George W. Bush--his views on the encyclical had been eagerly awaited.

In some quarters, George Weigel is seen as a guardian of orthodoxy, a hammer of the dissenting liberals who question papal teaching on such matters as contraception, abortion, and marriage --the "cafeteria Catholics" who pick what they like from the Catholic menu and turn their noses up at the rest.

Now suddenly, in his reaction to Caritas at National Review Online, Weigel has himself become a dissenting Catholic. He was not pleased that, for example, the encyclical says more about wealth redistribution than wealth creation and spoke of its "clotted and muddled" language and "confused sentimentality." Caritas was disjointed, he declared, the work of so many hands that "the net result is, with respect, an encyclical that resembles a duck-billed platypus."

With respect? Quack, quack. What irked Weigel especially, I suspect, is that Caritas in Veritate lavishes great praise on the Pope Paul VI's 1967 social encyclical Populorum Progressio, which was denounced as "souped-up Marxism" by the Wall Street Journal. For some rightwing Catholics that verdict became de fide, along with National Review's gag--"Mater, Si, Magistra, No"--on the publication of John XXIII's equally progressive social encyclical Mater et Magistra in 1961. …

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