Let me look at two public statements recently made by the Pope. First, on August 23 John Paul II pointed to a new spirituality when he urged international leaders to find effective ways of balancing development with ecological protection. The idea of an "ecological vocation" has become an urgent moral responsibility in today's world, he said (America, Sept. 9, 2002, p. 5). During the whole month of September, the media publicized and commented on the green approach of this every-day-surprising Pontiff. Second, with regard to the perspective of a war against Iraq, John Paul II became more strident in his opposition to the stance of the United States.
Of course there were concrete pretexts for the Pope to take these two positions. The first was the UN summit on development (August 26-September 4) held in Johannesburg. The second was the imminence of the war the United States has announced against Iraq. I am aware of this. Here, however, I would like to focus these positions in another perspective. I want to analyze the repercussion these statements had on the German elections that took place September 22.
The German voters are certainly the most stable electorate in the world. The German political reality is not difficult to understand. Let me sketch a simplified picture of it. There are two main parties in the German scenario - the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The former represents the right, the latter the left. These two parties have almost the same strength and number of representatives. After World War II, the Minerva's vote (deciding vote) almost always fell to a third party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP). This party had only a small number of representatives, but enough to tilt the scale toward one or another of the two giants. Thus, each party vied for the FDP vote to assure victory to its candidate.
This simple picture changed about a decade ago with the rise of another party, the Green Party, which sometimes has surpassed the number of representatives of the FDP. This has changed the political equilibrium. The Green Party situates itself to the left of the SPD and normally supports the latter. With the scenario moving faster to the left, the FDP ceased to be the indecisive lady in the balcony uncertain of the champion on whom she would bestow her colors, and entered the arena straightaway supporting the CDU. The picture again comes into focus: on one hand we have the CDU plus the FDP; on the other hand we have the SPD plus the Green Party.
Since 1982 Helmut Kohl (CDU) occupied the power for four terms until the last election (1998), when he lost to Gerhard Schroeder (SPD). In view of the poor economic results of the Schroeder administration, it was a common opinion that he would lose the election September 22. The political calculations considered it certain. Given the extraordinary stability of the German mentality, it does not change easily, principally it would not change at the last moment. Well, it changed in the last month. What was this new robust factor that entered the scene? What happened in this last month that altered the picture and let Schroeder win with the minuscule majority of 1.2%, the smallest margin of victory in a general election since World War II? (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 23, 2002, pp. A1, A11).
According to the media, Schroeder won thanks to his last-moment-platform of strongly attacking the United States in its position against Iraq, and in emphasizing his green agenda, which found reception in a Germany afflicted by floods. Curiously, what the media did not say, is that the two points were exactly the same two items that John Paul II had stressed only some weeks before, giving the progressivist German Episcopate just enough time to spread the word among Catholics. A point to remember, the Catholic Church today is the largest religious denomination in Germany (34%) and the voice of its Episcopate has a considerable influence among the CDU grassroots, which is mainly composed by Catholics. It is not difficult to imagine a Bishop, like progressivist Cardinal Karl Lehman, president of the German Episcopal Conference, emphasizing points of the John Paul II's statements to bring more Catholic votes to the alliance SPD and Green Party in order to keep the left in the government. Therefore, in my opinion, the decisive factors that entered the scene to modify the previous situation were the Pope's pronouncements and the action of the Catholic ecclesiastical structure.
Were the Pope's statements premeditated actions to influence the German voters? Or was it only an unfortunate coincidence that gave the victory to Schroeder?
A Moribund WCC
Everyone has heard about the World Council of Churches. I am guessing, however, that not all readers would be able to make a concise necrology of this institution should it pass away. Let me help by providing some information on the entity, before describing its probable imminent death. Founding the WCC was the first act of the Amsterdam Conference (1948), which brought together representatives of around 150 Protestant sects and a few Schismatic ones. Its objective was to create a forum for discussion among the religions with the aim of moving toward some kind of unity. This unity was never achieved. In fact, the WCC was never allowed to speak on behalf of its members. From time to time it holds a general meeting called the Ecumenical World Assembly of Churches, as well as meetings of its Central Committee. As the number of its members increased (today it includes 330 sects), its position became more liberal. In the last 10 years the WCC entered into a crisis. The so-called Orthodox participants accused it of being too liberal and losing sight of its first goals. Unless it would change, they threatened, they would leave. Now the threat is very close to becoming a reality that could quite possibly result in the demise of the organism.
On this topic, the latest news comes from Paris, the Actualité des Religions magazine (September 2002, p. 39). A decisive phase of the "Orthodox"- Protestant relations will take place in an upcoming meeting of the WCC's Central Committee. Five years ago, a commission was formed to study the role of the "Orthodox" in the WCC and make suggestions regarding the future of the organization. Now this commission is ready with its conclusions, which will be reported officially at the next meeting, even though the press has already received copies. The major point of contention, according to the report, is the common prayer said at the ecumenical meetings. The "Orthodox" consider this prayer an artificial performance lacking any theological base. Therefore, they oppose it. The Protestants, on the contrary, think that one must "pray together" in order to "live together," which they consider a goal of the organization. According to the opinion of German Lutheran bishop Rolf Koppe, president of the mentioned commission, the impossibility of praying together constitutes an "opened wound in the body of Christ." He no longer has hope for the organization, as indicated in one of his suggestions: "Would it not be more honest to recognize the impossibility of resolving central points of theology, and to separate amiably after fifty years of common course?"
To this suggestion, the French magazine makes its commentary in the form of a question: "Would this, then, be the death of the WCC?" I don't know if it will die or not. What I know is that the present day situation reveals yet another spectacular failure of ecumenism. If the WCC does expire, I would guess that the Vatican heads who direct the Conciliar Revolution will probably have to change their plans. Qui vivra, verra [Let's wait and see].
Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian guru of "liberation theology," has changed hats. Yesterday he was a known admirer of Marxism and a leader of the revolutionary social struggle. Now he is trying to appear as a thinker for the ecologist movement. The Italian bulletin Adista (March 25, 2002, pp. 5-7) published an article by him that I will summarize, and comment on its main points.
According to Boff, globalization has two fundamental aspects: one bad and one good. The bad is called "global-colonialism," and it consists of having transformed the whole Earth (upper case, please) into a huge corporate bank in which everything is viewed as an object of profit. Gaia ( a name of the divine "Mother Earth") has "to be respected in its own autonomy and subjectivity," said Boff. This bad globalization does not take in count "our telluric roots and origins, since as human beings we came from the Earth."
This kind of globalization is exclusivist. It tends to form two groups of nations. On one hand, a very small group lives in material opulence, but in an astonishing spiritual poverty. On the other, a great multitude of nations remains with its people in barbarism, abandoned, destined to die before their time, victims of the plagues and degradations of the Earth.
In short, Boff adopts the same deleterious and romantic view of Communism. Until now, the anti-capitalist dish that Boff is serving is basically the same one he used to offer a few years ago. The only notable difference is an Indian spice, a pantheistic curry powder - the divinity of the Earth, our "telluric roots" - that has been sprinkled over the food.
But there is something new. Boff admits that the ecological revolution takes advantage of some technological improvements made under Capitalism. He claims that this bad globalization nonetheless created conditions for the good globalization by establishing a great means of global communications and an immense commercial and financial network. Doing this, it stimulated relations among all the peoples, continents, and nations. It created the pre-conditions for the good globalization.
Here, Boff adopts McLuhan's theory of the "global tribe" or "global village" to which the cybernetic revolution would be heading. Boff's new approach does not signify a change of direction on the road of Marxism. Rather, it is a milestone advance in the same route. Before, he was preaching the dictatorship of the proletariat. Now, he is preaching the next step dreamed of by Karl Marx, the final "synthesis" that would be established in next stage of the Communism's development. The good globalization, he continues, would offer not only material advantages, but it would also be a human globalization, that is to say, the era of integral ecology. Such an age would be characterized by mankind's awareness of belonging to a universal evolutionary process. A perfect harmony would be reached when humankind would have achieved a complete reciprocity among its members, when the capacity for love and spiritualization would have penetrated collective decisions. The main characteristic of the good globalization will be mankind's awareness of essential belonging to the Earth and the Universe. When this consciousness has become a permanent state, we will have entered the era of integral ecology.
"The realization of human globalization," exclaims Boff, "will represent the end of the exile. From then on, all the tribes of Earth will gather together in the bosom of the great and generous Mother Earth." In other words, everything will have returned to the original pan, or, if you want to adopt the language of Teilhard de Chardin, everything will be "Christified."
Therefore, the new recipe of Leonardo Boff is easy to follow: Take pieces of the Marxist class struggle and chop them into small pieces. Add the ribs of McLuhan's "global village" theory. Cover it all with the juice of Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionist concept. Spice it with the curry powder of Indian pantheistim according to taste, and let the ensemble cook slowly. If you want to serve it hot, add salt, cayenne pepper, and vinegar: you will have the boiling, red, and violent ecology that we saw in Seattle, Genoa, and Durban. If you want to serve it cold, add spinach and sugar: you will have the chilled, sweet, green ecology that could be symbolized by the occultist smile of Dalai Lama.