The Pope Needs a Dose of Marxism

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In Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical, CaritasinVeritate, of July 7th, the Church sets forth her position on the present crisis. A prophetic text, charged with urgency, is called for, given all the crises that affect humanity and severely threaten the life system and its future. But that is not what we received: rather, we got a long and detailed reflection on most of our present problems, ranging from the economic crisis to tourism, from biotechnology to the environmental crisis, and projections about a globalized world Government. The genre is not prophetic, «whichwouldpresupposeaconcreteanalysisofaconcretesituation» and would make it possible to pass judgment on the problems in view, in a denunciation- announcement form. But it is not in the nature of this Pope to prophesize. He is a doctor and a teacher. He elaborates the official position of the Magisterium, whose perspective comes not from below, from the real and conflictive life, but from above, from an orthodox doctrine that softens the contradictions and minimizes conflicts. The dominant tone is not of analysis, but of ethics, of what should be.

Since it does not analyze the extremely complex, present reality, the magisterial statement sticks to principles, to balancing, and defines itself by what it does not define. The subtext of the text, that which is not said in what is said, betrays a theoretic innocence that unconsciously assumes the functional ideology of the dominant society. It is already noticeable in the central topic ―development― the subject of so much criticism now, for not taking into account the ecological limits of the Earth. The encyclical says nothing about this. Its vision is that the world system is fundamentally correct. What exists are dysfunctions, not contradictions. The diagnosis suggests the following cure, similar to that of the G-20: rectifications and not changes, improvements, and not a change of paradigm, reforms and not liberations. It is the imperative of the teacher: «
tocorrect»; not the imperative of the prophet: «toconvert». Reading the text, long and heavy, we end up thinking: How good a dose of Marxism would be for the present Pope! Marxism, starting from the oppressed, has the merit of unmasking the contradictions present in the system today, bringing to light the conflicts of power, and denouncing the uncontrolled voracity of the market society: competitive, consumerist, non-cooperative and unjust. It represents a social and structural sin that sacrifices millions, on the altar of production for unlimited consumption. This should be prophetically denounced by the Pope. But he does not do that.

The text of the Magisterium, heroically out of and above the present conflictive situation, is not as ideologically «
neutral» as it strives to be. It is a text that propagates the prevalent system, one that makes everyone suffer, especially the poor. It is not a question of whether or not this is what Benedict XVI desires, but it is the structural logic of his magisterial discourse. By renouncing a serious critical analysis, he pays a high price in theoretical and practical inefficacy. He does not innovate, he repeats.

And thus he misses an enormous opportunity to address humanity at a dramatic moment in history, from the symbolic capital of transformation and hope that is contained in the Christian message. This Pope does not esteem the new heaven and the new Earth, that could be envisioned through human efforts, he only knows this decadent life, unsustainable in itself (his cultural pessimism), and the eternal life and the heaven that will come. He thus distances himself from the great biblical message that has revolutionary political consequences, when it affirms that the final utopia of the Kingdom of justice, love and liberty will only be realized to the degree those virtues are built and are anticipated, within the limits of time and of historical time, among us.

Curiously, in the abstractions of recurrent theological notions («
onlythroughChristiancharityis integraldevelopment possible»,) when he «forgets» the magisterial tone in the final part of the encyclical, he talks of sensible things, such as the reform of the UN, the new international economic-financial architecture, the concept of world Common Good and the relational inclusion of the human family.

To paraphrase Nietzsche: "
- Leonardo Boff, Theologian, Earthcharter Commission.
(Free translation from the Spanish by, Refugio del Rio Grande, Texas).
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