The title of this post, identifying Joseph Ratzinger with Socialism is exaggerated on purpose, or is it?
I had a lot of fun with the responses to yesterday’s post about the unquestioned libertarianism of Elizabeth Warren. One thing is certain: many of the responses were mimetically sealed into the Democrat and Republican duopoly. Some respondents were so bound to their rivalries that they thought my piece was a call to vote Republican!
Is there a greater sign of the Right to Life movement’s failure than this very identification of their cause with the Republicans? God only knows by bearing right they exposed themselves to being abandoned by a party whose principles are dictated by a constantly shifting electorate. They betrayed a human rights issue to provincial politics dictated by a rivalry.
The very same Republicans who’ve sacrificed abortion to the shifting gods of conservatism have internalized the anti-socialist politics of the right. I don’t think I need to rehearse all the Obama-commie-Muslim accusations. Given how much of a NeoCon Obama has turned out to be I can’t help but daydream how better off we’d be if he’d veered toward some bastardized version of socialism.
Speaking of radicalism: I’ve lampooned Ratzinger a bit unfairly (but all in good fun) on these pages before here. I actually love the guy much more than I let on. I mostly made those points about him to wreck his image as a theological prude. He is a lot more positively innovative than the ultra-trads who idolize him as non-Francis would want to acknowledge. Ratzinger breaks their molds.
These don’t exactly map onto the American left-right divisions, but that’s precisely the point: there are many more options.
Despite his (erroneously) “conservative” image Ratzinger demonstrates a great degree of appreciation for the third-way socialist option. In fact, he is careful to make a distinction between two kinds of socialism in such a way as to show that this political tradition isn’t necessarily hostile to Catholicism:
“Back to Europe. A third model was added to the two models of the 19th century: socialism. Socialism took two main paths — the democratic and the totalitarian one. Democratic socialism became a healthy counterbalance to radically liberal positions in both existing models. It enriched and corrected them. It proved itself even when religious confessions took over. In England, it was the Catholic party, which felt at home neither in the Protestant-Conservative nor in the Liberal camp. Also in Wilhelmine Germany, the Catholic center could continue to feel closer to democratic socialism than to the conservative powers. In many ways, democratic socialism stands and stood close to the Catholic social teachings. It in any case contributed a substantial amount to the education of social conscience.”
I’ve been recently working through Gerald Beyer’s Recovering Solidarity: Lessons from Poland’s Unfinished Revolution and on a translation about Poland’s transition away from Solidarity into classical-liberal-capitalism. What strikes me most about this brief but important period in Polish history is how its embodiment of Catholic Social Teaching (Beyer claims it is the most complete such example in history) is more in line with socialism than anything the Americans or Europeans currently have.
There will be more about the above topic very soon.