A recent encyclical released by Pope Benedict XVI -- coupled with some well-circulated, highly Photoshopped images of the Roman Pontiff -- has caused many in his American flock to fear that he is, in fact, the Evil Emperor Palpatine from George Lucas' Star Wars movies.
Besides the arresting resemblance between the Pope and British actor Ian McDiarmid, who plays the Emperor, the Pope's call for a global authority with "real teeth" in Caritas in Veritate has caused more than one conservative Catholic to grab his lightsaber and fire up the Millennium Falcon. Here is the pertinent text from the Vatican website:
In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. [¶ 67, emphasis in original]
However, before seeking refuge on Tatooine from the incipient Galactic Empire -- replete with Darth Obama as Benedict's right hand man -- the prudent and politically conservative Catholic might be inclined to read the entirety of the document, wherein the Pope teaches:
A particular manifestation of charity and a guiding criterion for fraternal cooperation between believers and non-believers is undoubtedly the principle of subsidiarity...[it] is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development. In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. [¶ 57, emphasis in original]
And if that's not enough to get you out of the X-Wing and back on the moisture farm, you might check out the former Cardinal Ratzinger's "severe critique" of the U.N.'s proposal for a New World Order from way back in 2000.
As far as other Catholic reactions go, George Weigel's article has criticized this and other points in the encyclical, and his general summation of the document is that it is partly Benedictine, and partly a concession to the wayward Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. There are less scathing views from none other than Fr. Joseph Fessio and George Neumayr (among others), which you can peruse here at Catholic World Report.
Finally, it would be advisable for all Catholics with an intellectual bent to read the primer (Rerum Novarum - 1891, Quadregisimo Anno - 1931, Centesimus Annus - 1991) before passing judgment on this latest text.
There is room for a faithful Catholic to object in good conscience to particular policies which the Pope may suggest -- and Benedict says as much when he admits that the Church "does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States'" -- but one should be advised of the Lumen Gentium text:
The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. [¶ 37]
And yes, claiming that the Pope has joined "the Dark Side" finds its theological equivalent in "the gates of hell have prevailed". This blog, for one, is loathe to make any sort of despairing claim of that ilk.
God bless Pope Benedict and our Holy Mother Church!