Has the Vatican Really Become the Chaplain for the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

28 Oct

Last week, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) issued what it called a “reflection” on the current state of world economic affairs. This reflection has stirred up some controversy, because the PCJP suggests that part of the solution might be to establish a global financial authority.  There has been some confusion among the faithful because the media has framed the story as a spiritual endorsement of the “Occupy” protests that have been taking place throughout the Western world.

So as the archdiocesan “social justice guy,” I thought I would take the time to actually read the 18-page document and give an overview of what the Vatican has said.

The document is entitled “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.” While I think this document bears careful reading as an application of Catholic social teaching to the current world economic crisis, Catholics need to know it is not a doctrinal statement that binds the conscience of the faithful.  

In this statement, the PCJP follows Benedicts XVI‘s call to “re-plan our journey” in response to the current economic, financial crisis. While recognizing the causes of the crisis are varied and complex, the PCJP claims that the two chief causes are economic liberalism, which spurns rules and controls, and technocracy ideology–that is, the absolutizing of technology. The document advances the argument that the globalization of financial markets has created a situation in which a certain, small class of people is making decisions and taking risks that affect the lives of everyone on the planet. These players need to be brought under the control of the rule of law and bound by ethical considerations pertaining to the good of all persons–materially, culturally, and socially.

Realizing that the forces of history have brought the world together as never before for both good and ill, the PCJP states, “Recognizing the primacy of being over having and of ethics over the economy, the worlds’ peoples ought to adopt an ethic of solidarity as the animating core of their action . . . and embrace the logic of the global common good.”

In particular, the PCJP embraces Blessed  John XXIII’s hope for “a true world political authority” that he described in Pacem in Terris by calling for world governments to gradually develop a “world public Authority at the service of the common good.”  This “supranatural” world public Authority would build on the founding principles of the International Monetary Fund and act as sort of international Federal Reserve Bank.  While respecting the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, this global financial Authority would fill the current void in the global marketplace and regulate commerce in ways that stabilize world currencies and enable fair accumulation of wealth and capital for all the world’s peoples.

Some journalists have been quick to suggest that this document is an endorsement of Occupy Wall Street movement taking place in the West. While the document criticizes the current economic state of affairs and calls for reforms on a global level, it nowhere mentions or endorses any of the protests. I can’t see how this document in any way endorses the “Occupy” movement beyond sharing their concern that the world economy is in a bad way (who doesn’t?) and governments need to come together to fix it.

So what do you think? It looks like globalism is here to stay. In other words, our human exchange of goods, services, and ideas now happens on a global level. So is a global financial authority a good idea to facilitate this global exchange and ensure its fairness?  If not, what would you suggest?

Author Bill Scholl (socialjman) is the Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

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