It’s no great secret that Roman Catholic ‘social’ teaching, normally seen as a form of corporatism, is a touch difficult to reconcile with free market economics, even more so in the era of Pope Francis, a man who absorbed too much and understood too little during his youth in Peronist Argentina.
That said, this (via the Catholic Herald) was, well, quite something:
“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.
Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.
A national conscience so positive that, until recently, it positively insisted that women should only have one child each, and positively reinforced that insistence with methods up to and including forced abortions, a practice that may not have disappeared quite so completely as the Chinese regime now likes to suggest.
A national conscience so positive that it can’t see what’s wrong with the Laogai, China’s gulag, the largest system of forced labor camps in the world.
And a national conscience so positive that Mao, the murderer of tens of millions, remains venerated.
Back to the Catholic Herald:
The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”
What they might say is that in the U.S. there is more of a separation between the economy (and thus the individual) and politics (and thus the state), than corporatists—whether of the Vatican or Chinese Communist variety—might like.
The Catholic Herald:
Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.
He accused US president Donald Trump of being “manipulated” by global oil firms, and said that, as opposed to those who follow “liberal thought”, the Chinese are working for the greater good of the planet.
This bishop, like his pope, cannot, it seems, resist the lure of conspiracism: Demagogues—a species certainly not confined to the Vatican—tend to be like that.
Note too Sorondo’s obvious disdain for the very idea of “liberal thought” – and, to be clear, by “liberal” he means classical liberal.
That should come as no surprise.
And this was no one-off. Here’s Sorondo last year (via Crux):
“China could be a model we need today to respond to globalization, a model for the dignity and freedom of human beings…”
Sorondo’s remarks are, I am sure, the product of deep ideological conviction, however revolting, but they also, doubtless, come with another, more cynical objective, flattering a dictatorship with which the Vatican is currently very keen to cut a deal over the appointment of bishops.
A sort of Lateran Two, you might say.