Lately I've been in a conspiracy hunting mode, so I've been spending a great deal of time thinking about the timing and content of some recent decisions and acts of the Vatican---and also some past decisions and acts of the Vatican because they are all of a piece. I'm not liking the conclusions I'm arriving at, but do they ever lend themselves to a great conspiracy. I am coming to the conclusion the Vatican is actively pushing to either foment a schism or to empty the pews in the West. The goal of my conspiracy theory seems to be the Vatican needs to clean the Church in the first world of all but conservatives and traditionalists. The rest of us are seriously being encouraged to take a hike. The big question for my theory is what would be the purpose of such a strategy? The best conspiracy theories always deal with secret groups of power brokers out to take over the world and so my theory says it has to do with global politics and how that fits into what this Vatican may consider a war for the hearts and minds of humanity.
What fuels my conspiratorial thinking is a book I read about ten years ago, Malachai Martin's "Keys of This Blood". It was a truly fascinating epic about global politics in which Martin maintained that John Paul II saw himself engaged in a spiritual global war against secularism and materialism in both their forms--communism and capitalism. Malachai wrote that JPII saw Roman Catholicism as the only other truly global player who could compete in a war for humanity's mind and soul. It was JPII's mission to set Catholicism up in such a way that it could use both communism and capitalism to further it's own global agenda---think collaboration with Reagan and the CIA to fund Solidarity which was the domino that took down Eastern European Communism.
Martin implies that because Roman Catholicism no longer has armies or military alliances to further it's own cause, the war has to be fought by other means and so information exchange became the Church's calling card. I would add financial dealings as well, given all the scandals, but I don't remember that Martin went into the possibilities in the financial world. But as far as information went, Catholicism had professed religious sworn to obedience in virtually every country and most villages through out the world. Catholicism was in places neither of the other two players could get valid information---think about the current Vatican take over of Caritas Internationalis and the insistence of 'obedience first' in JPII/Benedict bishops, and then the Vatican has historically been the master of secrecy in how one does business.
In addition, Martin maintained JPII strongly believed Catholicism had to be a tight ship answerable only to it's pope/general. The rowdy liberal Vatican II loving progressive wing and their subversive notions of collegiality had to be silenced, expelled, or legislated out of the way--think of the hundreds of decisions, major and minor which have come down the pipeline against the liberal wing in the last forty years. After all, no effective army has ever won a war by allowing it's troops to vote---think Bishop Morris's statements about how the Vatican kept turning his arguments about listening into giving laity a vote. (If you do enough of this kind of thinking you can see dots everywhere.)
At the time I read this book, I really thought Martin was a great writer, using current and historical events to draw a great fictional read--a la Dan Brown. I thought of it as fiction, but now I'm not so sure at all. My paranoid conspiracy theorizing had me thinking Martin was onto something. This Vatican may actually be acting on the idea that they are engaged in a global political war to be the dominant player in the life of humanity and acting on truly gnostic concepts of worlds of good and evil at war with each other. Think all the current spiritual warfare talk coming from very interesting quarters.
Martin wrote his book in 1990 and did not foresee a few obstacles for the Vatican. First was the rise of a militant form Islam. Second was the information explosion which has blown major holes in the power of secrecy to effect diplomacy. This explosion has also severely crimped anyone's ability to keep the troops marching in lock step--as even the highly regimented Islamic and closed communist societies have found out. Third, the concurrent explosions in the sciences of cosmology, physics, psychology, and biology are impossible for any one single entity or person to keep up with, and all have had a serious impact on how people view and discuss spirituality. So although I can't say the Vatican has refused to deal with any of these fields, I can say they are hamstrung because they refuse to deal with some of them outside the margins of a natural law theology which was formulated nine hundred years ago.
In my final analysis I have come to the conclusion this political gambit/war the JPII Vatican may have thought they were engaged in and winning, has changed radically,ut they don't seem capable of adjusting to these new realityes. b Like other totalitarian political states, they don't seem to be able to adjust to the new realities. Benedict can continue to foster Catholic identity for all he's worth, but he will find only his lock step bishops and a small percentage of laity will stay with him. He can write off or chase out most the first world Catholic population, but if he lives long enough he will see it was the absolute wrong strategy. He should have listened to at least some of what was being said because some of it was in the vanguard of understanding aspects and consequences of the social changes we now see.
When Martin wrote Keys of the Blood, John Paul II had the kind of world paradigm operating in which he could play political games with the Church, and he did a lot of good in a lot of areas., but Benedict no longer has the same world paradigm operating. In less than twenty years, even the poorest of Southern continent countries will have moved well past the kind of Catholic Identity issues Benedict is constantly affirming. The number of cell phones in these countries actually surpasses the per capita number in the West, and with a lot of those phones comes Internet access, and with that comes extreme difficulty in controlling the information flow.
In the end my conspiracy theory comes to naught, at least in my mind. I'm just not so sure that the Vatican has done the same kind of end state analysis. Some of the acts and decisions of the last two weeks would say they haven't. The sad part of all of this is that the teachings of Jesus are still incredibly relevant and will become even more relevant. I can't say the same thing for some of the doctrine, dogma, and organization of the Church, but I have no vested interest in the system, and that's the difference.