A Cautious Man
July 10, 2009
 
Leap of Faith
Well, President Obama once again pals around with another leftist leader. Well, maybe not "pal around", and maybe "leftist" isn't exactly the right word. But, if you're looking for somebody with a fairly left-wing view of world economics, who has a big megaphone and is not afraid to use it, then consider the guy who released this material earlier this week:

The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale ...

And:

Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.
That would be the Capo di tutti capi of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI (a/k/a "B-16"). President Obama and the Pope had a meeting today, but you won't hear the same howling from the right about a Benedict-Obama handshake as you would regarding, say, a Hugo Chavez-Obama get-together. Actually, the right-wing is probably upset with the Pope for this meeting, but that's another story.

The Pope may not be a party animal, but on economic issues he's not exactly in step with the Republican Party line. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), released earlier this week, he addressed international economics, the environment, immigrant workers, and other related issues. He's definitely a "big picture" guy, and his picture involves a lot more international cooperation and less cut-throat capitalism -

Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.

As described by commentator David Gibson -

But what is clear, whether one reads every word or just excerpts, is that the pope is a liberal, at least in American political terms. He says this is not a document proposing "technical solutions," and stresses the greed and sin at the heart of the current economic crisis. Yet he rigorously and consistently applies the Golden Rule to economics and finance, calling for greater regulation of the markets and -- get this -- "a true world political authority" that can put "real teeth" into international governance.

Not even the purportedly "socialist" Barack Obama, who will meet with Benedict on Friday for the first time at the Vatican, would imagine going that far.

As several commentators have noted, the hostile attitude of right-wing American Catholics (which the press and especially Fox News love to highlight) just doesn't carry over to the Home Office in Rome. As noted by E.J. Dionne -
But the Vatican clearly views Obama through a broader prism. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio in Washington, has privately warned American bishops that harsh attacks on Obama threaten to make the church look partisan.

The Vatican press has been largely sympathetic to Obama, and in a recent article, Cardinal Georges Cottier, who was the theologian of the papal household under Pope John Paul II, praised Obama’s "humble realism" on abortion and went so far as to compare the president’s approach to that of St. Thomas Aquinas. (Pray this won’t go to Obama’s head.)
...

[T]he pope and many of his advisers also see Obama as a potential ally on such questions as development in the Third World, their shared approach to a quest for peace in the Middle East, and the opening of a dialogue with Islam.

American conservatives will continue to hammer away with complaints about "European-style socialism" as they oppose President Obama's proposals. Taking a step back, I would suggest, just might show that reference to an older philosophy may be more applicable. As President Obama noted in a meeting with some of the American Catholic press last week, there is much "common ground" to be explored.

[Edited to add] A slide-show of President Obama's peek at the Pope.

[Edited 7/13 to add] A pertinent cartoon, making this same point, found on today's "The Week in Editorial Cartoons" on Daily Kos -


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