The Conflict of Interests

Jimmy Wales was at the recent Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting held at the Vatican towards the end of April in 2012 and he was quoted by the Catholic News Service as praising the Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” and was cited as saying that “I would say what struck me about it was how modern it is and how in tune it is with modern thinking”.

Jimmy must be being diplomatic here so that he gets back on their invitation list because if he had read the 1963 encyclical in full and the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and looked at the recent history of Europe from the 1800s to the UN declaration then he would see the encyclical for what it is; a pastiche that is the plagiarism of the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment mashed up with the long running monologue that the Papacy has with its desire to maintain an autocratic rule of the peoples of Europe.

The Pope’s encyclical wraps the UN declaration and then tacks on a vast number of bizarre hyperbole claims about what has happened in society such as the rise of the working classes and the role of women. The last 2/3rds of the document from about paragraph 46 onwards the encyclical degenerates into a sophomoric theory of statehood and how our rulers have a divine right to be our rulers which is more or less the social contract of Hobbes’ Leviathan written 300 years before.

This focus on statehood is a recurring theme with the earlier encyclicals of Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII also voicing a hatred of communism and socialism and a desire for what can only be seen as fascism. Unfortunately into this furrow that the Catholic church had ploughed in Europe sprouted the very seeds of the totalitarianism that the Church seems on paper to want to avoid, though in itself it is a totalitarian ruler. Whilst we could attribute  such a result to incompetence the Catholic Church is not a new player in European politics as it has ruled vast states for hundreds of years in its own right and so I think we can safely say that the between-war rise of fascism was engineered as much as the Papal interactions with the Habsburg Monarchy had been orchestrated over the preceding 500 years in Europe. With abject failure from a humanist point of view I might add given the bloodshed at every generation of the common man.

With the 20:20 vision of hindsight the incompetence of the secular rulers in Europe is understandable in that they simply wish to grow and hold power but the Enlightenment gave the common man the idea that the power extends from the people. This is an anathema for the Pope who believes that power extends down from God.

From the French revolution through to the Congress of Vienna and the subsequent revolutions in Europe around 1848 to the First World War then the second World War through to our modern European democracies there has been a gradual flow of power from a divine rule of monarchies to the humanism of representative democracy. The Vatican has resisted this at every bloody step for it knows that the waxing of the people is the waning of the theocracy.

It has taken over 200 years of this Conflict of Interests by the Papacy from the dawn of the Enlightenment to our tentative peace in modern Europe and, rather than accept the error of their ways they, with the hubris of the righteous, dictate Papal encyclicals to rewrite history in their own words.

Jimmy, take care that your well-meaning desire for dialogue doesn’t just make you but a pawn in the long running game of temporal rule that the Vatican plays (and plays well). The rock upon which the Church is built is a millstone of humanity and Jimmy, you’ll just be grist to that mill.