commentary: The Catholic Church is Changing Direction
From Right to Left
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 01-Feb-14; Sermon #1196c; 10 minutes
The Roman Catholic Church historically has been a formidable political, religious, and economic power, now comprising over 1.2 billion members, having for centuries played a major role in the political intrigues' world (as mirrored in major literary works, such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables). Its heretofore historical defense of conservative principles, capitalism, and traditional Biblical morality is about to change dramatically. When Pope Benedict assumed power, he sought to rid the clergy of pedophiles and adherents to Marxist-based liberation theology, firing 500 priests who followed this leftist doctrine. With the rise to power of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church appears to be taking a dangerous leftward swing, making it a militant advocate for the 'poor and downtrodden,' and an enemy of capitalism, advocating a strident brand of liberation theology. We live in interesting times.
The history of Western civilization clearly shows that through the periods of times labeled as the Medieval, the Reformation, the Renaissance, and continuing right on up to this present age, the Catholic Church has been a formidable force that all informed people have had to consider as part of their world. As a clear example of the Catholic Church's considerable influence, consider novels that you may have read, or novels made into movies that you may have seen, that were placed in the time periods that I just mentioned. Tales such as A Tale of Two Cities, The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, The Three Musketeers, and even the Robin Hood tales, Ivanhoe and many, many other stories built around English royalty like Elizabeth I, Henry V, or Henry VIII.
Most of the plots woven through the historical times of those novels were of the genre and were built around tense political issues that arose because the Catholic Church either approved or disapproved of the policies and actions of the ruling class. The Three Musketeers is a clear example of a novel in which the main enemy of the Musketeers was the evil Cardinal Richelieu. In Les Miserables, which is set within the turmoil following the French Revolution, the Catholic Church plays a less obvious role, but it is involved.
There are many, many more real personalities besides those that I've named who have had to literally contend with or submit to the Catholic Church in real time as the day-to-day events unfolded during their reigns. The Catholic Church has a worldwide membership of 1.2 billion people, making it the world's largest organized religious entity that is not bound by borders but by the beliefs of the people who hold to its doctrines. Many of those billions look to it for political and social guidance, and thus, it is not merely a religious organization of the world. Though it does not possess a military, it is both a political force because of the huge number of voters who respond to its recommendations regarding issues but also because of its massive economic strength.
In some ways, because of these strengths, it is more similar to a very large nation of this world rather than what we normally think of as being a church. Sometimes, brethren, it really throws its weight around and seemingly bullies its way to victory regarding its desires. The Vatican is actually officially a state, the smallest of all states of this world. It occupies just a few square miles of territory. But with a billion people strong, it is in that area regarding demographics more powerful than any nation except possibly for China and perhaps India. Its population is three times greater than the United States of America.
Throughout its checkered history, it has normally been what we would consider to be conservative morally, because it generally teaches biblical morality. But as an institution, it does not go to war but does very definitely take sides in warfare, and it is over this issue that many run-ins with European royalty took place. The Catholic Church has what we would call a State department. Are you aware of that? It also has an intelligence service just like the nations of this world, and it's intelligence service is held by some experts in the field to be the world's best. It keeps very close tabs on what is going on in this world because it is in their best interest to do so. Unlike the Church of God, they are intimately tied to the world because they are very much part of it and they act to protect their interests.
Now, throughout the period of time that I have had personal knowledge of it, it has been viewed as a conservative organization. It has always been, during this period of time, anti-Communist, anti-dictatorship, pro-Republican form of government, and pro-capitalism. But under the present Pope, that stance appears to have been thrown out the front door of St. Peter's. Articles by well known journalists report the present Pope is in the process of turning recent past Catholic church policy almost literally upside down compared to what it historically has been. By recent past, I mean the last 40 to 50 years, and Pope Francis is moving very rapidly.
Ambrose Evans Pritchard, the international editor for business of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, wrote a detailed article that Pope Francis has become the guiding beacon for producing what the Pope calls "a church for the poor." In short, that's his name for liberation theology. It is taking over the Vatican. This is very intriguing because it was just a little over 25 years ago that Pope John Paul systematically sought to stamp out what he named as that singular heresy (liberation theology), primarily operated in Latin America. He wanted to get rid of it. That operation was carried out by the man who was known then as Cardinal Ratzinger, and Cardinal Ratzinger became the Pope who resigned about nine months ago, the first Pope to do so in Catholic church history, in order for the present Pope (Francis) to take the office he just vacated.
Cardinal Ratzinger was a very conservative German, a strict disciplinarian who was head of what the Papacy calls the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That's the Catholic Church's internal investigation group, called in these detective stories you see about police, the IA (Internal Affairs). It seems that Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope to clean the Church of the heresies and sexual scandals confronting it. And in that office, he fired or forced the resignations of around 500 priests worldwide who were found to be heretical for following liberation theology, or for their involvement in the sexual abuse of young altar boys. It seems that as soon as he finished that job, he was shown the front door.
Listen to this; this is a little bit confusing. It appears now that the resignation of Pope Benedict may have been forced to make way for a more liberal approach to the world. It seems contradictory, to say the least, to clean up the church by getting rid of the heretical liberalities so that the liberalities can be installed with full force by new blood. That seems to be what is happening. Evangelii Gaudium, the title of the address Pope Francis delivered to the world about two weeks ago and was the paper that inspired the blog that I quoted from (and then apologized for), is the doctrinal statement of this giant, leftward swing of the Catholic Church that has begun. It may give us a clue as to what we are going to confront as the Beast forms and Christ returns. We are living in very interesting times.