The Church and Globalism, Part I

For many orthodox Catholics, the word “globalization” immediately raises hackles — it evokes fears of loss of national sovereignty, of undesirable immigration, of Masonic conspiracy: in a word, the spectre of a Satanic “One-World Government.” Images of the Bilderbergers, the Round Table, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Club of Rome, the World Federalist Movement, the European Union, and, of course, the United Nations come to mind. Against these sundry organisations and many like them are ranged such folk as the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, the American Free Press, and the Larouchies – with the possible exception of the last (who defy easy description) – all would be characterised by such…um…worthies as the Southern Poverty Law Center (itself the subject of sizzling exposes in 2000 and 2010 by Harper’s’ Ken Silverstein) as “Far Right.”

Many more traditionally-minded Catholics have absorbed some of their political views from such groups. For these folk, such spectacles as that of Pope Benedict XVI addressing the United Nations General Assembly back in 2008 are nothing short of scandalous. Add to this affair his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, wherein he seems to speak approvingly of globalization, and the release in 2011 of a document by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calling for the establishment of a world authority over the global financial system, and for many you have the stuff of nightmares.

But while not wanting to gainsay those more learned than myself in conspiratorial lore, before we accuse the Pope of making himself a sort of chaplain to World Masonry, we should perhaps look at some of the questions involved a little more closely. The first thing we need to bear in mind is that the Church herself is a global institution transcending national boundaries — as are each of her larger religious orders. It is for this reason that she maintains a world-wide web of embassies as the world’s oldest diplomatic service, as does the Sovereign Order of Malta. The Pope’s annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See is often referred to as a sort of “State of the World” speech.

This global vision dates back to the earliest days of the Church. After Constantine, as the Roman Empire became ever more Catholic, the concept of the “Holy Empire,” of “Christendom” arose, as the temporal equivalent to the Church – an idea enshrined in Theodosius the Great’s making baptism simultaneously entrance into Roman Citizenship. Long before any Freemasonic lodges spoke of a universal republic, Guelphs and Ghibellines alike agreed that the Universal Church was coterminous with the Universal Empire – however much they might dispute specific issues between Pope and Emperor. Speaking for the latter group, Dante wrote his de Monarchia, Pope Innocent III representing the apogee of the opposite side. Francisco de Vitoria and the School of Salamanca elaborated international law and the idea of a family of nations for Charles V. At that very time, however, the Protestant Revolt tore half of Europe away from the Church, and set up strictly national churches in the Protestant countries.

Not too surprisingly, those on both sides of the divide who advocated religious reunion looked for political as well: Tommaso Campanella, O.P., for example, in his City of the Sun; Gottfried Leibniz; Novalis; and many others. The same impulse could be found in such ventures as the Holy Alliance. But rise of Nationalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the overthrows of Bl. Charles I of Austria and Nicholas II of Russia (which removed any living aspirants after the Roman Imperium) removed from the board any practical remnant of the old notion of Christendom.

Now, all human beings, whether fallen or redeemed, have certain natural instincts in common. Beyond the merely physical, these include the urge to worship whatever they conceive to be beyond them, to revere whomever they think of as their betters, to assist or to oppress those beneath them. All of these can be either noble or perverse. Of a like nature are two other urges, present in all Mankind at once: to divide us from them, and to gather all together in unity. The “Universal Republic” so beloved of the Freemasons and despised by their opponents, and the Res Publica Christiana (a phrase used most forcefully by Pope Clement XIII) of the Catholics stem from the same basic natural impulse – although the latter is supernaturalised and so perfected, while the former is, to say the least, open to corruption. But here as in so many other areas, the purely natural and the supernatural contend for notice; at times it is hard to tell them apart. Especially in the political realm, it falls to the Popes to try to steer the faithful aright.

In this area, Infallibility is no help to them, alas. History is replete with failures in Papal diplomacy and politics. Urban VIII backed the Protestant King of Sweden against the pious Emperor Ferdinand II; Alexander VIII supported William of Orange against James II at the battle of the Boyne. Although subsequent Popes continued to recognise his son James III as rightful King, when that exiled sovereign died in 1766, Clement XIII withdrew that recognition from his heir, Charles III; at the latter’s arrival in Rome that year, Clement went so far as to fire the heads of the English, Scots, and Irish Colleges who had dared to show their King royal honours. Although Pius VI had honoured Louis XVI as a martyr, his successor, Pius VII (who as Governor of the Marches had urged accommodation with the French Revolutionary invaders and discouraged the resistance) came to an accommodation with Napoleon. While this action left the Revolution’s strongest opponents (the “Vendeens,” the Chouans, and the Papalists of Avignon), feeling betrayed – and so leading to the schism of the “Petite Eglise” – it also failed of its goal: Napoleon exiled and imprisoned the Pope. So it was with Leo XIII’s ralliement after the death of the Count de Chambord (which split the French Church while failing to safeguard the Concordat); Pius XI’s dealings with the Cristeros, the Popolari, the German Centre Party, and Action Français; and Pius XII’s intervention in the affairs of the Australian Catholic Social Studies Movement and the attendant disputes between Cardinal Gilroy and Archbishop Mannix. This phenomenon was most notable in Paul VI’s dealings with such as Cardinal Mindszenty in pursuit of his Ostpolitik.

Now, to be sure, these efforts and many others like them on the part of various pontiffs often had disastrous effects. But it is important to bear in mind that the Popes involved – many of them saintly – were not part of an anti-Catholic conspiracy. Rather, they were fallible men trying their best to preserve the freedom of the Church to operate in perilous times. It should be remembered that Papal diplomacy has had its share of successes as well as failures; but given the high stakes involved (the salvation of souls, for example) the price of Papal failure can be astronomical.

Nevertheless, as with all of us, the Pope of the day has to wrestle with the realities of the world around him — and today, Globalisation is one of them. On one level, it is intensely personal. Thanks to the medium which you are currently perusing, anyone can be in touch with like-minded people across the globe — and the miracle of translate devices allow you to render almost anything into, well, Googlese, if not quite English. Building upon the foundation of colonialism which extended European religion and civilisation across the globe, we are all, like it or not, economically as well as technologically linked.

In response to this, and to the historical misadventures of our past century, various regional and international organisations and structures have arisen, with a myriad of differing personalities bearing innumerable agendas – some malevolent, some not so. The United Nations, the European Union, and various other international and multinational groupings take on ever more of the trappings of governance. Looking at the anti-Catholic ideology so prevalent in the United Nations and the European Union today, it is hard to believe that many of the latter institution’s founders – Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer, and Charles de Gaulle, for example, were pious Catholics (however one might disagree with many of their political views) who saw in their handiwork the basis for a modern Christendom. Thanks to the late Archduke Otto von Habsburg, that particular vision, in a clearer, purer form, survives among such as the Paneuropa Union, Identita Cristiana, and the disciples of Interlingua – although difficult to discern in today’s EU reality.

The question of how to respond to globalism is much as any other the Papacy and the Church have faced in their history. Do we resist it? Accept and attempt evangelise it? Ignore it and hope it will go away? All of these strategies have been tried at different times by different Popes in response to the various challenges they have faced, and succeeded or not. In the present case, the Popes since 1945 have attempted the second strategy. In our next instalment, we will look at what the United Nations actually do, and how and where the Church has come into conflict and/or cooperates with it. It will not be our undertaking to endorse or condemn this cooperation, but to understand it. As loyal Catholics, we are never required to accept the purely political judgements of the Pope, but we owe the Vicar of Christ the attempt to respectfully comprehend his actions.