The Pontifical Council for Peace, Justice…and Sauron?

Distributists and followers of the “Austrian school” of free market economics are notoriously at odds with each other over what constitutes a just economic order. We disagree, at times vigorously, on how to structure an economy that best guarantees the rights of the family and that offers the best opportunities for prosperity and liberty. We do not even agree whether Catholic social teaching really applies (we Distributists think it does).

But if there is one institution that could unite us, even if it unites us only in opposition, it is the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.

The PCJP on Monday published a document, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority.” The best thing that can be said about it is that it is not a Magisterial document, and that the PCJP is a low-level Vatican bureaucracy—a distinction that will be lost on the mainstream media and non-Catholics.

At best, “ Towards Reforming” is problematic, with some downright frightening prescriptions for reshaping the worldwide economy. At worst, it is a blueprint for a George Soros agenda that at the same time will feed the worst Fundamentalist paranoid fantasies about “the whore of Babylon” and her desires for world domination. It calls for nothing less than the establishment of a worldwide government, which it calls, variously, “a supranational Authority,” a “world Authority,” a “world political Authority,” a “global government,” or with ominous simplicity, the “Authority.”

“Towards Reforming” begins well enough. Since the Catholic Church has a divinely instituted mission to unite all peoples in Christ, “Towards Reforming” rightly states, “Every individual and every community shares in and is responsible for promoting the common good.”

Then we get a summary of the financial history of the past few decades, including the inflation in the 1970s and 80s that was “related to the sudden sharp rise in oil prices.” Easy credit in the 1990s caused “speculative bubbles which later turned into a series of solvency and confidence crises.” The Note mentions “the outbreak of the crisis in 2008” that was “characterized by a different factor compared with the previous ones, something decisive and explosive,” without really saying what that “something” was. However: “Generated in the context of the United States, it took place in one of the most important zones for the global economy and finances. It directly affected what is still the currency of reference for the great majority of international trade transactions.”

This financial crisis had “consequences for the real economy,” particularly in construction, and “a negative trend in production and international trade with very serious repercussions for employment as well as other effects that have probably not yet had their full impact.”

On a few things, the Note is correct, such as when it decries the exponentially widening gulf between the rich and the poor. While worldwide income rose steadily in the twentieth century, “At the same time, the distribution of wealth did not become fairer but in many cases worsened.”

 

“Don’t Mention the… Usury!”


So far, there seems to be little to argue with, but what is notable is what is missing. While “Towards Reforming” blames the financial crisis on too-easy credit and too much lending, it makes no mention of usury, and the omission may be linked to the embarrassing practices of the Vatican bank.

And despite all the talk about easy credit, lending, and international trade, the Note makes no mention of ruinous deficit spending by governments. There is not a single mention of the crippling, mounting debt that governments, particularly Western governments, continue to run up. On the contrary, “Towards Reforming” suggests “taxation measures on financial transactions” and, euphemistically, “forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds.” In other words, more taxes, and more spending, including bank bailouts. How has that worked so far? And how does it serve justice to shield financial executives from the consequences of bad decisions?

Furthermore, and even more inexcusably, “Towards Reforming” omits any mention of how banks in the United States were encouraged by federal law to sell home mortgages to people who could not afford them. If the Pontifical Council cares about justice, how can it fail to excoriate Congress for shackling the poor to the usurer’s chain, all in the name of a “right” to become a homeowner? The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies shelter as an “essential need,” and private property ownership is a sacred right. But no man should be oppressed by usury, so that he is unable to acquire productive property and is forced to live beyond his means, going into debt beyond his ability to pay.

Finally, while “Towards Reforming” contains plenty of talk about international trade, nation-states, and the different problems faced by developed and developing countries, it does not defend the family as the basic unit of society. There is no mention of wages, just or otherwise. There is no mention of the family as the source of social cohesion, or of how strong families are the best guarantee of liberty in any society, including economic liberty. Indeed, tellingly, the Note seems not to be addressed to ordinary people at all, but to global elites. Indeed, starting with Paul VI, this appears to be the direction the Church has been taking, focusing on macro- instead of microeconomics. With respect to “Towards Reforming,” maybe there is a reason for this.

The Note condemns capitalism (“economic liberalism”) as

a theoretical system of thought, a form of ‘economic apriorism’ that purports to derive laws for how markets function from theory, these being laws of capitalistic development, while exaggerating certain aspects of markets….without measuring them against reality.

This is directed at Western neoconservatives, who need to hear it. But here  it is merely an appetizer. A few paragraphs later, we get to the meat: the call for a global political and financial authority. To be fair, the promotion of a global authority to help manage an increasingly interconnected global economy is nothing new, and the Note cites Bl. Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris and Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate. The Pontifical Councilors are rightly wary of strong nations joining to serve their collective self-interests, to the detriment of weak nations. No Distributist can object to this.

 

Whoops! Man is Fallen. Who knew?


Even so, I do not see how we can find the call for a global financial authority anything but unsettling.

For instance, how does a global financial authority accord with subsidiarity, which requires “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order”? (CCC no. 1883) Quoting from Caritas in Veritate, the Note does mention subsidiarity. It names subsidiarity as the bulwark against “the danger of a central Authority’s bureaucratic isolation…which would otherwise risk being delegitimized by an excessive distance from the realities on which it is based and easily fall prey to paternalistic, technocratic or hegemonic temptations.”

Of course, but in the context of the entire Note, the appeal to subsidiarity remains superficial. In any case, how does the Pontifical Council think such an arrangement would work in our (fallen!) world?

This is the Note’s biggest failure: it has forgotten that man is fallen. Like some capitalists who tout salvation through free, unfettered markets, and like some Distributists who tout salvation through a back-to-the-land, off-the-grid lifestyle, the Note omits the most basic fact of human history: that man, through greed, stupidity, laziness, or any other vice, can pervert even the most just economic and social arrangements.

Resorting to psychobabble, “Towards Reforming” declares, “By freeing his imagination, man frees his existence.” And while it does not outright advocate the type of earthly, secularist paradise that littered the twentieth century, the Note encourages “an effort of community imagination,” that will “transform not only institutions but also lifestyles and encourage a better future for all peoples.” Without reference to Christ’s Mystical Body on earth, the Catholic Church, this is meaningless, and may even be dangerous. (I thought we freed our existence by placing our faith in Jesus Christ….)

 

The Lord of the World


Returning to practical matters, who does the Pontifical Council want to manage this world political Authority?

It would seem logical for the reform process to proceed with the United Nations as its reference because of the worldwide scope of its responsibilities, its ability to bring together the nations of the world, and the diversity of its tasks and those of its specialized Agencies.

The United Nations? You mean, the same United Nations that put Saudi Arabia on its human rights commission? The same United Nations whose “diversity of tasks” includes pushing abortion and contraception in every developing nation on earth? And speaking of global institutions, again, while “Towards Reforming” rightly condemns the growing disparity between the world’s rich and poor, this disparity has certainly been aided and abetted by such existing global institutions as the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, GATT, NAFTA, and so on. Yet the members of the Pontifical Council, with straight faces, call for yet another “global Authority.”

“Towards Reforming” almost sneers at national sovereignty, decrying nationalism that “has lingered on, according to which the State feels it can achieve the good of its own citizens in a self-sufficient way.” Instead, the Note argues, “It has become natural to think of an international community that is integrated and increasingly ruled by a shared system.” Therefore,

Conditions exist for definitively going beyond a ‘Westphalian’ international order in which the States feel the need for cooperation but do not seize the opportunity to integrate their respective sovereignties for the common good of peoples.

While alliances and cooperation between nations are preferable to conflict and dog-eat-dog competition, where in Catholic social teaching do we find any support for “integrating respective sovereignties”?

“Towards Reforming” brooks no dissent:

It is the task of today’s generation to recognize and consciously to accept these new world dynamics for the achievement of a universal common good. Of course, this transformation will be made at the cost of a gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world Authority and to regional Authorities.

So we will have Regional Authorities too? The imagery that arises is that of the Mouth of Sauron, happily sitting in an Orthanc left vacant by a deposed Saruman. I would charitably submit to the good clerics on the PCJP that (as Gandalf warned) Sauron does not share power.

Finally, how does “Towards Reforming” foresee implementing its world Authority? Early on, it admits, “A supranational Authority of this kind should have a realistic structure and be set up gradually,” and says it “cannot be imposed by force, coercion or violence, but should be the outcome of a free and shared agreement and a reflection of the permanent and historic needs of the world common good.”

Near the end of the document, however, we get this: “However, it should not be forgotten that this development, given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.”

Does it really say this? Echoing the excuse that Saruman made to Gandalf, the Pontifical Council seems to be “deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose.” Chilling.

I do not pretend to know the motives or the intentions of the members of the Pontifical Council. All I know is what I read, and what I read in “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority” is a call for a false, earthly paradise, one that is divorced from Christ and His Church. And here is the Note’s biggest omission: it says not a single word about Grace, the Sacraments—especially the Holy Eucharist—or the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, through which man can achieve some measure of justice and peace in a fallen world, but which always points to our true home: the world beyond this one, where we will join the saints before the Holy Trinity in Heaven.

By

Sean P. Dailey has been the editor-in-chief of Gilbert Magazine. Prior to that he was a reporter and religion page editor for the NewsTribune in La Salle, Illinois, and a police reporter and education reporter for The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois. A a veteran of the US Marine Corps, Sean lives in Springfield with his family.

  • http://www.liturgicalenvirons.com Steven Schloeder

    “This is the Note’s biggest failure: it has forgotten that man is fallen. ”

    vs.

    “In a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world Authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind. However, it should not be forgotten that this development, given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.”

    vs.

    “Only a spirit of concord that rises above divisions and conflicts will allow humanity to be authentically one family and to conceive of a new world with the creation of a world public Authority at the service of the common good.”

    The nota acknowledges the Fall, but seems to do so in order to justify the social disruption needed to establish this Authority — which of course must be “at the service of the common good”.

    What a botch.

    • sarto

      What this Roman document noticed and most people don’t is that, while capitalism and the power of the corporations has gone global, control has remained local. No country, even our own, can harness the instinctively acid effects of capitalism, which eats away at every structure, changing it forever.

      So, after capitalism finally accomplishes its reductio ad absurdum, the remnants of the world that have survived the ravages of our market economy will have to figure out what to do next.

  • http://realphysics.blogspot.com Lawrence Gage

    Steven, good point.

    Another way to express it is that the Note acknowledges our fallen nature, but (implicitly) excludes its authors or whatever Ruling Authority as participants in it. The authors are suffering from the modern disease of Cartesian dualism.

    It’s also noteworthy that a global (secular) authority is not in the interest of the Church, as an institution, or her mission. Even aside from the fact that the secular power is run by secular humanists, this power’s interest can only be “peace” not Truth. Historically, if I’m not mistaken, the medieval Popes worked to weaken or divide the European empires in order to leave unchallenged the Church’s authority. Of course the situation is a bit different in the modern context of a Church will minimal secular power, but I believe the same principle holds. A power that can unite the world can also suppress the Church and persecute the Faith. With divided authority, the Church can (at least) always take refuge in the next country.

    LG

  • digdigby

    The Lord of the World – someone has got to run this worldwide money empire – I nominate Satan. This is Catholic ‘Social Justice’??? Brought to you by the same folks who think it a good idea to replace ‘France’ and ‘Spain’ with ‘Europe’ and yet bitterly defend ‘Mohawk Indian sovereignty’.

    • http://distributistparty.bravehost.com/ Chris Campbell

      Now, this is not Catholic Social Teaching, it merely borrows some trappings of it…like 60′s Hippies, who co-opted it here and there….largely because “conservatives” and Americanists ignored CST themselves….

  • Rick DeLano

    “So far, there seems to be little to argue with, but what is notable is what is missing. While “Towards Reforming” blames the financial crisis on too-easy credit and too much lending, it makes no mention of usury, and the omission may be linked to the embarrassing practices of the Vatican bank.”

    Bravo. The very first to point to the sixty four thousand pound elephant in the room.

    The Catholic Church surrendered enforcement of Her infallible teaching on usury about two centuries back.

    The results are now clear, and they are inexpressibly awful.

    Exactly one author, that I have seen, has even mentioned this.

    It is the key point to understanding all that has grown up as the New World Order, all that has grown up as the global financial system now in advanced state of collapse. Our entire economic system has degenerated into a lurching series of catastrophes, based as it is upon a profound contradiction of what is knowably True: usury is a form of theft which requires in return for a loan, that which demonstrably does not exist.

  • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

    Usury is bad mainly because it is an unnatural love of money, in itself, not necessarily because it is theft.

    But it is not even theft if the two parties agree to it and indeed, interest payments can be paid quite demonstrably by increasing the length of production and thereby increasing output that can be used to satisfy the interest.

  • Rick DeLano

    “Usury is bad mainly because it is an unnatural love of money, in itself, not necessarily because it is theft.”

    >> To the contrary. It is theft. It is the requirement that one return that which does not exist in exchange for a loan. If adopted on a societal scale it will, in each and every case and without exception, and perfectly lawfully, destroy the economy and reduce the citizenry to slaves.

    This has been known for millennia, through the infallible exercise of the magisterium of the Church.

    It will very very soon now become (has already become, for the Greeks) a distinctly uncomfortable example of how unwise it is to abandon the Truths of God for the best thinking of men.

    “But it is not even theft if the two parties agree to it and indeed, interest payments can be paid quite demonstrably by increasing the length of production and thereby increasing output that can be used to satisfy the interest.”

    >> In other words, the theft can be facilitated through the diversion of resources into the pockets of the usurers. A moment’s reflection on the nature of interest will disclose why the incorporation of such an injustice at the foundation of an economy will, always and lawfully, result in the destruction of productive wealth via its ever-increasing transfer into the pockets of the usurers.

    Allow the system a couple of centuries to metastasize, and entire nations will be reduced to debt slavery, once the usurers develop their doctrine to include fiat currencies created out of thin air and lent out at usury leveraged hundreds of times over.

    To aver that this process were just is to contradict justice, and the magisterium of the Church.

    ” One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made.”– Pope Benedict XIV “Vix Pervenit”

    Very soon now (already across wide stretches of the collapsing global usury scam) we shall have occasion to reflect at length on the consequences of surrendering to the best thinking of men, what God has infallibly taught through His Church.

  • John Zmirak

    Crisis will be posting two articles on the subject of usury in November, exploring the content and authority of the Church’s teaching on that subject, and its development over the centuries–which has been almost as dramatic as the development on the issue of religious liberty. Look for it around Nov. 15.

  • Rick DeLano

    Thanks for the heads up, Professor.

    I am amazed to hear about this development in doctrine, since nothing has been published by the magisterium on the question of usury since 1745.

    I look forward to the articles.

  • mj anderson

    Thank you Sean–excellent analysis.

    Towards Reforming is a very bad dream for Catholics, though it is a dream come true for globalists.

    I’ve covered the United Nations since 1995 and need not hesitate to point out that this global institution is inept and corrupt. Recall, for example, the 2005 Oil-for-Food scandal in which the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s own son was implicated in scams and kickbacks. That Saddam Hussein received over 12 billion in skimmed dollars courtesy of UN’s Oil-for-Food program ought to chill even then idealists of the PCPJ.

    The naivete of the PCPJ is alarming–at best. The suggestion that any authority is somehow more honest, more caring, more competent simply because it is global in scope is to misunderstand history and human nature. The opposite is true: Opportunity for corruption and malfeasance increases in direct proportion to the size and complexity of the institution.

    What the PCPJ appears to have ignored is that 1) there is no global consensus on what constitutes the Common Good, 2) the Church has no reason to expect that such international structures will be populated by persons with minimal moral values. Why hand an instrument that could easily facilitate global tyranny to those institutions that do not respect families, have no regard for the teachings of Christianity, and that promote abortion?

    Sean wrote,”On a few things, the Note is correct, such as when it decries the exponentially widening gulf between the rich and the poor. While worldwide income rose steadily in the twentieth century, ‘At the same time, the distribution of wealth did not become fairer but in many cases worsened’.”

    One explanation for this truth is that the widening gulf is in fact the result of the international financial structures (World Bank, IMF) that have meddled in and controlled natural market conditions, seduced developing nations with credit, and taught two generations of emerging nation’s politicians the finer points of international back-scratching.

    Finally, almost as disturbing as the contents of Towards Reforming is how such a document is to be viewed by the faithful. Even for laity who understand that the document is not “magisterial,” are we to accept the document as only from the PCPJ, or from “the Vatican” or even from or with the approval of the Pope?

  • http://distributistparty.bravehost.com/ Chris Campbell

    Thanks Sean and well said! More Christless solutions and a Sign of the Times

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