The diplomatic lessons of John Paul II —time to dust off that unmitigated success…
(CUSA) – The moral value of the state should always be suspect. Even moreso when the whiff of creeping totalitarianism can be experienced from a group of politicians enriching themselves in the name of the people.
In comparing the long papacy of John Paul II and the rather new reign of Pope Francis George Weigel shows where the latter could learn from the former as he develops a diplomatic style that will be successful not simply rhetorical. —Ed.
There seems to be a great forgetting in the Vatican about John Paul II’s teaching about economics, the nature of 21st-century poverty, and the empowerment of the poor.
I have no problems whatsoever with recent papal and Vatican critiques of a technology-driven approach to economic life that is bereft of moral reference points and that ignores, when it does not undercut, the restraints on production and consumption imposed by a morally serious public moral culture.
And I don’t like the kind of corporatism that sees the Boeing Company giving Bill Clinton a $250,000 honorarium for an hour or so of Clintonian hot air before depositing another large chunk of change in the slush fund known as the Clinton Foundation and underwriting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s political action committee.
I don’t like it when other corporations play this game, either, and I don’t imagine John Paul II would have thought this kind of corporatist back-scratching embodied his understanding of how the “free economy” should interact with democratic politics in the free and virtuous society of the 21st century — the outlines of which he offered in the encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991).
Moreover, today’s papal and Vatican emphasis on the problem of “exclusion” in the globalized economy would have resonated with John Paul II. After all, this was the pope who, on meeting Polish prime minister Hanna Suchocka for the first time, asked her a pointed question about exclusion.
Suchocka had explained the bold decision of the now-governing Solidarity leadership, formed in trade unionism, to put the country through a form of economic shock therapy in order to ignite growth (which Poland has in fact enjoyed ever since); John Paul’s first question to the prime minister was, What would she and her colleagues do for those who fell between the cracks in this fast-forward transition?
Insofar as John Paul II had a political-economic worldview, he was a kind of conservative European social democrat. He was not a libertarian in any sense of the term; he believed that a vibrant public moral culture was necessary to discipline and temper the tremendous energies set loose by political and economic freedom, so that the net result was real human flourishing and the advance of the common good.
On the other hand, he had a very low view of what might be called the “moral cash value” of the modern state. His experience, and his deep intellectual grasp of some important dynamics in political modernity, had taught him that the modern state, including the modern liberal state, had inclinations to a creeping totalitarianism — the phenomenon his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, would call the “dictatorship of relativism” (embodied in these United States by Justice Anthony Kennedy and his four lockstep colleagues on the port side of the Supreme Court)…
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