According to legend, the Roman Emperor Constantine I began to normalize Christianity after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 313 AD. Within 77 years, the Nicene Creed (issued in 325 AD) regulating the new Catholic Church would replace (nominally) the ancient pagan religions under the most powerful totalitarian theocracy in history through the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD. It reaffirmed a single expression of the Apostolic Faith on grounds it would become both “catholic” (that is, universal) and “orthodox” (that is, correct in teaching) over both the spiritual and temporal realms of the individual’s life and politics — so much so in fact that Theodosius, the last universal emperor of the Roman Empire before the permanent split between Rome and Constantinople for administrative expedience, aggressively suppressed or purged all non-Nicene forms of Christianity, especially Arianism, while also establishing the Patriarchy of Constantinople to regulate the universal teachings of Nicene orthodoxy throughout his realm the following year during the First Council of Constantinople which affirmed the Nicene Symbolum and finalized the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Before his death in 395 A.D., Theodosius would ban heretics from residing in Constantinople after having confiscated their churches just three years prior.
The adoption of Nicene Christianity as Rome’s official imperial religion marked the 4th Century AD as perhaps the most consequential in Western civilization. Laid at Thessalonica was the new foundation within Europe known as Christendom, the spread of salvation through Christian theocracy throughout Asia Minor and North Africa which could only be reached through the Church. By 476 AD though, in spite of the city of Rome’s downfall, the actual empire, whose capital had already been relocated to Constantinople in 324 AD by Constantine, survived. Most significantly, one of the three emperors at Thessalonica, Gratian, declined the traditional imperial role as ‘Pontifex Maximus’ by relinquishing it to Pope Damasus, who immediately accepted it. After the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) fell to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Roman Catholic Church had already secured its indefinite survival as both spiritual and temporal ruler over the original Roman Empire for about 1,080 years, with the pope as ‘the Vicar of Jesus Christ’ and ‘head of the Church’ on the basis of Apostolic succession and papal infallibility. Finally, the pope remains identified by the ancient Roman imperial title of ‘Pontifex Maximus’ (‘Supreme Pontiff’), which dates back to the dictatorship of Julius Caesar.
The Southern Baptist minister Russell Moore penned in his January 2018 column “Why Theocracy is Terrible” that while the West perceives of the “problem of the Islamic Republic (of Iran) lay in the mullah-led government of Iran as not merely dictatorship but ‘theocracy”, many well-meaning, devout Christians might take to task these same individuals for advocating a world of ‘governments ruled by God’. He quotes New York Times columnist Bret Stephens’ claim that “Theocracies are awful and abusive, not only because they oppress human beings but because they also blaspheme God” before slamming Iran’s “klepto-theocracy”. Furthermore in the Bible, Christians too often ignore, or fail to draw the parallels between the Parables of Christ and other stories in the Old Testament, or even at the historical and sociological data disclosing how these theocracies harm their own people. As the Apostle Paul put it, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:6). Furthermore, God rules and reigns through his Word, divinely inspired through the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to stop testing God’s patience, and for all people, everywhere, to turn away from iniquity and repent, to find mercy in Christ (2 Pet. 3:9-10). The true Christian understands that God does intend to rule not just this world, but in fact the universe, that this kingdom will only accept new sheep inside the borders of the New Jerusalem who confess to Christ’s divine sovereignty given every other path remains crowded for the ungodly to settle and construct counterfeit kingdoms hostile to Him. After all, only Jesus, the Son of Man and Lamb of God, is anointed by the Lord to rule over the cosmos, while all other claimants are pretenders to the throne. In this time between his kingdom’s inauguration and final fulfillment, he is gathering the nations of the world seeking new redeemed disciples willing to embrace a clear distinction between Christ’s Church and the world (1 Cor. 5:12-13). The church without Christ is a mere iconoclast for death.
A theocracy, as with any totalitarian regime, must legitimize its infallibility on behalf of a god as with the Soviet Union, where the political machine required for a ‘civil religion’ to spiritually nourish the synergy of society with the economy through cultural engineering, subservient to the power and growth of the State. Furthermore, other parallels include that such a ‘civil religion’ augments state power under a cult of personality that cannot outwardly project its supremacy over all average mortals without it being projected somehow outwardly after years of relentless indoctrination of internalized hate, anger, greed and jealousy just malleable enough to protect the state from infallibility as does the papacy, who “in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” ‘A whole’ implies total conformity, a contributing factor behind the final downfall of the Papal States in 1870, in which Pope Pius IX cursed the Italian nationalists for opening “the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the Church, (to) make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against its divinely laid foundation… concerning the 1. institution, 2. permanence and 3. nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence of the whole Church depends,” for no Church is “unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples,” nor is any Church the universal truth independent of Christ by explaining that “The Roman Pontiff” — the self-proclaimed “true vicar of Christ” — is in fact “the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians” and not Jesus Christ himself, for unto Peter Christ had conferred as his covenant ‘this rock’ as the foundation on which to build “my/(Christ’s) Church… the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Only Christ possesses “the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church,” while the papacy, in justifying error, cites a conversation between Christ and Peter nearly 2,000 years ago.
Jesus, not the Roman Pontiff, is, according to his own words, the head of the church. All that Peter is tasked with is handling the keys of the kingdom of heaven. This does not mean that Peter’s teachings are infallible given the keys do not mean everyone who is a member of Peter’s church will get into Heaven based on ‘whatever’ he was to “bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Furthermore, in James 1:17, we are taught that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Lastly in James 3:1-2, perfection is a process not to be achieved by man-made designs: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check,” echoing 2 Samuel 22:31 which states that “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” No pope can intercede on behalf of Christ, as it is through Him alone that salvation can be attained, and be granted the final jurisdiction as subjects of a ‘Supreme Pastor and ruler of his whole fold’ charged with feeding his lambs and sheep with the catholic (‘universal’) doctrine.
POPE FRANCIS, THE JESUITS AND LIBERATION THEOLOGY
Pope Francis, an avowed socialist and champion of a single global government, denounced the “autonomy of the marketplace” and “financial speculation” as tyranny in his 84-page apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. As history’s first Jesuit pope, he identifies himself as a liberation theologian, though allegedly opposes the Marxist versions followed by the “‘progressive’ group of [Jesuit] theologians living out in base communities”. As he wrote in the preface to a book on the Catholic Church in Latin America, Una apuesta por América Latina (A Commitment to Latin America) by Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the proponents of liberation theology were unable to reformulate it after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it thus became an anachronism. His theologian of reference was Juan Carlos Scannone, a fellow Jesuit who had developed a theology centered on the “religious devotion of the common people”.
Liberation theology — as Gustavo Gutiérrez gave the movement its name with his 1971 book, A Theology of Liberation — is a synthesis of Christian theology and Marxist socio-economic analytics emphasizing a social concern for the poor and the political liberation for oppressed peoples beginning in the 1950s and the 1960s as the political praxis of Latin American theologians who popularized the phrase “Preferential option for the poor”. In his book, Gutiérrez, influenced by an existing socialist current in the Church which included organizations such as the Catholic Worker Movement and the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne, was also smitten with Paul Gauthier’s The Poor, Jesus and the Church (1965), with an understanding of history in which the human being is seen as consciously responsible for human destiny, while Christ the Saviour liberates the human race from sin — the root of all disruption of friendship, injustice and oppression.
According to Roberto Bosca, a historian at Austral University in Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio (later, the Jesuit Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis) had “a reputation as an opponent of liberation theology during the 1970s” but he “accepted the premise of liberation theology, especially the option for the poor, but in a ‘nonideological’ fashion.” Before becoming Pope, Bergoglio exposed his true colors:
“The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It’s the Gospel itself. If you were to read one of the sermons of the first fathers of the Church, from the second or third centuries, about how you should treat the poor, you’d say it was Maoist or Trotskyist. The Church has always had the honor of this preferential option for the poor … At the Second Vatican Council the Church was redefined as the People of God and this idea really took off at the Second Conference of the Latin-American bishops in Medellín.”
Despite cautiously sidestepping addressing the militant elements of liberation theology, Francis met with Gutiérrez, regarded as the movement’s founder by popularizing the phrase “preferential option for the poor”, which became a slogan of liberation theology later appearing in addresses of the Pope denoting the “insignificant”, “marginalized”, “unimportant”, “needy”, “despised”, and “defenseless”. Moreover, he makes clear that terminology of the poor in scripture has social and economic connotations, explaining that “Preference implies the universality of God’s love, which excludes no one. It is only within the framework of this universality that we can understand the preference, that is, ‘what comes first’,” while the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said at the time that liberation theology should no longer be ignored.
Bosca said Bergoglio was not opposed to liberation theology itself but rather to giving a formal “Catholic blessing to armed insurgency,” and thus, Blase Bonpane, a former Maryknoll father and founding director of the Office of the Americas, claims “The new pope has not been comfortable with liberation theology.” However, it is what Bergoglio has failed to say through any meaningful sharp condemnation of socialist Venezuela’s collapse and savage crackdown on protesters by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, despite the reiterated requests made by the local bishops out of (perhaps) sharing like ideological sympathy for Maduro and his left-wing allies, such as Evo Morales. Pope Francis’ beatification of Archbishop of San Salvador Óscar Romero, who was assassinated in March 1980 as he said mass, as a martyr to the church is seen as Francis’s strong support for the poor and those who defend that stance.
Latin American liberation theology has been met with stiff opposition in the United States, which accused it of using ‘Marxist concepts’, and led to a dressing down by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1984 and 1986. The Vatican rejected certain forms of Latin American liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class long oppressing indigenous populations since the arrival of Pizarro. Meanwhile, black theology refers to a theological perspective which originated in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world, which contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression by seeking to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation—“a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ,” according to James Hal Cone, one of the original advocates of the perspective.
Barack Obama’s family church prior to his presidency embraced black liberation theology under the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Communist era general of Romania’s secret police (Securitate) under Nicolae Ceaușescu, Ion Mihai Pacepa, claims that the KGB created liberation theology, and while commentators such as John L. Allen of Crux on the left and Damian Thompson of The Spectator on the right openly suspect Pacepa’s claims are exaggerated, former President and CIA chief George H. W. Bush admitted he could not comprehend how Catholic theologians could harmonize Catholicism and Marxism and support revolutionaries in Central America: “I’m puzzled. I just don’t understand it.” On the flip side, Hitler (himself a raised a devout Roman Catholic), agreed that the supremacy of the state under the pseudo-religious doctrine of ‘Science’, “cannot lie, for it’s always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge, to deduce what is true,” before condemning ‘the Christianity of the Catacombs’ as ‘the liar’ because whenever the scientific community “makes a mistake, it does so in good faith,” and therefore the amorality of science as acted upon by individuals kills in the name of progress or a more moral, ‘sanitary race’ to eventually become ‘the new man’. However, moral absolutism is identified as ‘a liar’ for its refusal to acknowledge the ‘changing truths’ as science progresses in nature. Science, now a veritable ‘religion of man’, is allegedly ‘impartial’ by way of the triumphs and failures of humanity — the highest form of organic life on the secular food chain, and must be ‘rigidly confined to the governing class’, who according to Bertrand Russell, are “Really high-minded people… indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s.”