By Blogger Chuck Redfern
The supposedly “unpredictable” was really predictable – and it now unfolds to our surprise: Religious authorities applaud the world-wide “Occupy” movement as others quake.
While not mentioning the protest, The Vatican dropped the greatest non-bombshell on October 24th when it denounced “the inequalities and distortions of capitalistic development.” As usual, headline writers exclaimed irony. An example: “Occupy Wall Street’s Most Unlikely Ally: The Pope,” written above an article which said, essentially, that this is no big surprise. The 17-page message, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority,” is one more drumroll for The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. You’d swear they’re protesting millennial kids veiled in old man masks. Sample the Occupy-like phrases: “The inequalities and distortions of capitalist development” … “the economy needs ethics” … “selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a mammoth scale” … “no one can be content with seeing man live like a wolf to his fellow man” … “We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest.” The clerics quoted Pope John Paul II’s 1991 warning against “an idolatry of the market.”
Their solution: An intentionally vague “global political authority” that would ensure an economy imbued with ethics.
Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor of America, said the document “will cause heartburn in the Tea Party.” He commented, “This will surprise most Americans who think the pope is a Republican because he opposes abortion and gay marriage. But when it comes to economic justice, Pope Benedict XVI is to the left of President Obama. Heck, he is even to the left of Nancy Pelosi.” It’s all old news. Reese points to a 2009 encyclical in which “the pope favors the redistribution of wealth. When was the last time you heard a liberal Democrat use those words?”
I wonder: Do Catholic Tea Party loyalists understand that their pope – their eminence, their holy father, their Vicar of Christ whom they claim stands in an apostolic succession dating back to Peter – disagrees with them? Bang the drum quickly, lads and lassies, because your esteemed one calls for a one-world government. He would leash free enterprise and drive it to obedience school. Do you get it?
Apparently not. George Weigel of the National Review dismissed the Council as “a rather small office in the Roman curia,” then plundered the Thesaurus for snooty epithets. E.J. Dionne could only respond: “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.’” In fact, Catholics have protested greed for centuries. Aeons, even.
And so have Protestants. Thus more non-bombshells plopped when a group pledged to protect the Occupy London protests with a “ring of prayer.” Other splats: Bostonian activists made “room for the holy;” Sojourners traveled to Wall Street; Vincent Gonzalez pondered “interfaith synergy” at the protests.
Meanwhile, secular sympathizers are mumbling. Froma Harrop noted the recent Oakland violence as well as noisy and trashy Occupy sites. “Occupiers,” she said, “time to quit while you’re ahead – for you’re less ahead with every confrontation involving police or other civic authorities.” She rang a Vietnam-era bell: “Declare victory and leave … Time to get off the lawn and go online.” A University of Massachusetts poll seemed to bear her out: 35 percent viewed the movement favorably, which was down from other polls, although the occupiers are still more popular than the Tea Party and Wall Street financiers.
Harrop seems unaware of the Occupy Facebook and web sites, but her criticism chimes of wisdom. The Oakland riots showed that a few violent people can disrupt the movement in its current form – so don’t pledge marriage vows to the “occupy” tactic. Remember the aim, which is to dismantle America’s platform of greed and to build compassion. If the form is wearing thin, abandon it for something else.
Meanwhile, remember those who have advocated your cause for centuries. Aeons, even.
Chuck Redfern is Interim Pastor at First Baptist Church in Meriden.