Obama got it wrong. Embittered workers don’t “cling” to religion by choice. The ruling class he serves shoves it down their throats, as the media’s non-stop coverage of the pope’s visit reveals. The Catholic passivity Benedict preaches is — like all faiths — so useful to capitalists in stifling working-class anger that they made his every utterance and gesture front-page, prime-time “historic events.” But nevertheless, the pope’s visit is a mixed blessing for U.S. rulers. While they benefit from his spreading religious ideology among workers, they must also win mass political support for their widening wars. And, just as he did as a Hitler Youth in pre-World War II Germany, Benedict represents European bosses increasingly at odds with U.S. imperialism.
RULERS AIM SCANDAL AT CHURCH FOES OF U.S. BOSSES
His predecessor John Paul II mildly criticized the 1991 invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition that included large European contingents. At the time, Catholic bishops in the U.S. cooked up a theological justification for that war. Europe’s oil majors, like Total of France and Eni of Italy, scored big deals with “rescued” Kuwait. But by the 2003 invasion, when it became clear the U.S. would not share Iraq’s oil spoils with European firms, the prelates defied the Pentagon. Late in 2002, the National Council of Catholic Bishops declared, “We…find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq….[W]e fear that resort to war, under present circumstances…would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.”
U.S. rulers punished the Catholic leaders severely for their heresy. Starting with the Boston Globe that year, the bosses’ media let loose a flood of exposés detailing sexual abuse of children by priests, pointedly blaming bishops for enabling and protecting pedophiles. Hardly breaking news — sex abuse has been rampant in the church for centuries. But imperialist U.S. rulers played it up to rob pro-European clergy of all credibility. Referring overtly to the abuse scandal but implicitly to geopolitics, a New York Times editorial (4/17/08) reminded pope-struck readers of “stunning failures of the overwhelming majority of U.S. bishops.”
VATICAN COZYING TO CHINESE RULERS
Now, as its European backers cement ties with China’s rulers, the church is following suit, increasing the likelihood of an armed U.S.-China clash over U.S. protectorate Taiwan. The London Sunday Times (2/17/08) reports, “Tempted by the prize of a historic visit to China by Pope Benedict XVI, the nation’s leaders have authorised a renewed effort…to heal their rift and inaugurate diplomatic ties….
[T]he Vatican is prepared as part of an eventual settlement to move its embassy from Taipei to Beijing.” The Times quoted a senior Vatican official, “There is no problem with breaking relations with Taiwan….we have a duty to spread the values of the gospel.” Those “values,” no doubt, embrace China’s recent purchase of a $2.8-billion stake in French oil giant Total.
But U.S. rulers tolerated and even welcomed Benedict because religion hinders a rational analysis of the world’s two opposing classes and prevents workers from fighting back accordingly. “Pie-in-the-sky” promises of heavenly rewards and meaningless, mystical concepts of “good” and “evil” devoid of class content can help lead workers into militaristic patriotism. Parochial schools preaching “Church and Country” furnished millions of recruits for the U.S. war machine in the last century.
Grossly underpaid teachers in one New York Catholic school union have the right response to papal pandemonium — strike. Our Party’s goal is to organize working-class militancy like this into a mass communist party that will eliminate the warmakers and their religious apologists.