Never mind “the Galileo controversy” (a good response to that is here, by the way). The Church should rule the world.
One of the things that I have noticed that Catholics seem to be very wary of discussing is the history of the temporal power of the Church. Most of us have heard or read about the pompous popes, the conniving cardinals, and the notorious nepotism, so I suppose that it is not terribly shocking that Catholics would shrink when Church history is discussed.
But there is surprisingly little for which we should be ashamed, despite what the classic Protestant and secular narratives dictate.
DEFENDING OUR HISTORY
Protestants spread a lot of false propaganda during and after the Reformation. Lutherans, especially, consistently made it a point to implicitly and explicitly label the Pope as “Antichrist” and “Lucifer.” Protestants also frequently invented lies about past popes.
Pope Alexander VI is a great example of the much-maligned popes. He has been accused of having carnal relations with his daughter, throwing the infamous Banquet of Chestnuts, and having his enemies killed off.
Well, there is no proof that any of that ever happened. The daughter thing? There is absolutely no solid factual basis for it. The banquet? Msgr. Peter de Roo, after searching the Vatican Archives extensively, debunked that one. It was allegedly recorded by Johann Burchard, the pope’s master of ceremonies, in his diary, but it seems inconsistent with Burchard’s writing style. It is also contrary to the majority consensus of historians. The murder of his enemies? I can find no proof of that, either, but I guess that such activity was just commonly assumed to have taken place, given the time period.
(For more about Pope Alexander VI, watch a video about him that I created.)
Oh, and the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the like? Christians have killed far, far fewer people than have atheists and members of most other faiths (which is demonstrated here). Also, a fantastic guide to the Inquisitions (and the difference between the Spanish Inquisition, a state-managed affair, and Inquisitions managed by the Church) is available here.
Meanwhile, the Church has done good. The Church denounced slavery way before other entities (read about the complicated history here), created the blueprint for modern education (read about that here, here, and here), and has always served as the primary advocate for basic economic fairness.
WHAT COULD CHURCH RULE LOOK LIKE?
The Church “cannot and must not replace the State” (quote from Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical). After all, there is a separation between God and Caesar, as evidenced by Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20. But that does not mean that the Church cannot act as the final arbiter in important matters.
Church rule could work a little like Iran’s system. (Try not to cringe about the comparison.) The Supreme Leader of Iran only involves himself with matters that either relate directly to his religious beliefs or concern important government appointments. He typically does not bother himself with normal, everyday things. Under this theoretical system, the Pope (and/or his delegates, if a regional system were preferred) would essentially act in the same capacity, only on a global scale. This would also be technically similar to the U.K.’s system, which requires royal assent (approval from the monarch) before bills passed by Parliament can become law.
Under the theoretical system, the Church would not usurp the State (as some might fear), but rather, enlighten it. The Church would actively serve as the cornerstone for ethics in the public and private spheres.
In Her theoretical leadership role, the Church would provide moral and economic stability. Finally, abortion, euthanasia, gay “marriage,” and other societal ills could be ended. Finally, the world could experience the economic principles contained in Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, etc. Finally, we could have peace.
I know what some are thinking: Wouldn’t such a system be open to abuse?
The answer is: of course, like all systems are. But while clergy make mistakes, they rarely do so with the sort of nonchalance that politicians often do.
For example, in 2012, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol at a police checkpoint in San Diego. An officer who was at the scene told The Associated Press, “He was a driver that was obviously impaired but he was quite cordial and polite throughout. He was not a belligerent drunk at all … There were no problems with him throughout the night.” The archbishop spent the night in custody, then immediately apologized and asked forgiveness.
Compare that with the infamous Sen. Ted Kennedy and his “Chappaquiddick Incident.”
I long for the days of St. Ambrose, a bishop of Milan, who excommunicated Emperor Theodosius for the emperor’s reprehensible actions. In response, the emperor bowed to authority and did penance. If only our leaders today were as humble.
People might call me “overzealous,” or an “Ultramontanist,” but I simply want to bring Christ fully to the world.