On July 7, 2009 Pope Benedict, "pinned responsibility for the worldwide recession squarely on greed and an amoral fascination with technological progress for its own sake" (guardian.co.uk).
His 144-page encyclical "takes as its point of departure the argument that only a belief in the truth as proclaimed by Christianity can offer the necessary answers" (ibid.).
But whose "Christianity" does he have in mind?
He continues, "The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from 'influences' of a moral character [through separation of church and state], has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise" (ibid.).
The big question: By whom will "moral character" be defined?
During a Vatican press conference, the pope's technical consultant denied that the encyclical was anti-capitalist, but added that it "views capitalism in its historical dimension and goes beyond it" (ibid.).
What did he mean by "goes beyond it"? The article continues with specific recommendations from the pope that might provide at least part of the meaning.
"Then, in a passage that builds on ideas first voiced by his predecessor, John Paul II, the pope argues that globalization has made necessary a 'reform of the United Nations Organization and likewise of economic institutions and international finance so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth'" (ibid., emphasis added).
Is religious liberty in danger?
Could "real teeth" mean military power with direct papal approval to enforce Catholic values? Is the pope suggesting that the Catholic Church should define all morality and approve its global enforcement?
The Times of London (July 11, 2007) reports—in an article by Richard Own and Ruth Gledhill titled: If it isn't Roman Catholic then it's not a proper Church, Pope tells Christians—that "The Vatican has described the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as 'not proper Churches' in a document issued with the full authority of the Pope" (timesonline.co.uk).
Nicholas P. Miller, director of the International Religious Liberty Institute at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan interprets the pope's encyclical from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective. Miller read the pope's entire encyclical letter before commenting:
"Such language seems to reflect predictions that Seventh-day Adventists [along with other concerned religious organizations] have made for many years that at a time of international crisis [shortly before Christ's second coming], religious leaders would call for international enforcement of moral rules and standards. Is the Pope's recent letter a fulfillment of those predictions?"
The power of ideas
Miller appreciates the pope's concern regarding social justice and Christians' responsibility to be good stewards. Conversely, he is aware of the power of ideas that come from influential figures, few more influential than the pope.
"But we are concerned when the Pope, a religious, spiritual leader seeks to advise the governments of the world on the creation of a worldly, political entity that will implement global political, economic and moral policy through force and coercion" (ibid.).
Nicholas Miller then contrasts Jesus Christ's claim to that of the pope. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36).
Is the pope's letter advocating that a world-ruling power should initiate a social order that conforms—by coercion if necessary—to Catholic morality?
Miller suggests, "The Pope's choice of words is telling. He does not say 'some moral order,' or 'a moral order,' but 'the moral order.' Could this be any other moral order than the one articulated and taught by the Catholic Church?" (ibid.).
Historical accounts that reveal the relationships that have existed between the Catholic Church and various political states during the Middle Ages abound. One such relationship led to the Spanish Inquisition.
Miller feels the pope's recent letter could lead to international action. He explains, "During times of calamity and crisis, ideas that would usually be ignored often gain more traction" (ibid.).
The book of Revelation presents a clear message on this matter. It warns that a self absorbed, end-time religious, political and military power bloc will form and gain control of the whole world. Only the European continent has a long, ongoing history of totalitarian church-state rule.
Is it now on track to re-enact its former role?