Over at the New York Times today, Ross Douthat describes the pope’s new encyclical as “relevant and challenging.” Well, those are adjectives that can mean anything, but so far as the politics (I have no comment on the theology) of what the pope had to say are concerned, there was very little really that was new, let alone (as Ross suggests elsewhere in the same piece) “radical”. If I may quote something I wrote (I know, I know) on NRO’s Corner the other day:
So far as I can discern, Benedict is basically doing little more than reiterate the “social market” view of political economy that has long been at the core of continental european Christian Democracy or, to put it another way, the “Rhineland-model” capitalism under which he spent most of his adult life. This is not a view I, or many, supporters of the “Anglo-Saxon” (to use the adjective often used to describe it) approach to the market economy, would share, but it’s hardly new. As to the pope’s (dreadful) idea that there should be some sort of “world political authority” to, in some respects, “manage” the global economy, that again should be no surprise. Of all the forms of Christianity, Roman Catholicism is traditionally probably the most “universalist” (in the sense of the lack of attention it pays to the nation-state) and the Vatican is, of course, no stranger to notions of either top-down government or, dare I say, it, the authoritarian. Under the circumstances the pope’s support for this world authority may be thoroughly misguided, but it’s hardly a shock.
As it happens, I have thought for quite a while that the GOP may be evolving in the direction of european Christian Democratic parties such as Germany’s CDU (albeit with some distinctly American characteristics). If the pope’s encyclical is interesting in any political sense, it is interesting primarily as a reminder of where the priorities of such parties lie.