Commentary on PCJP Note

With an almost seamless slide they take papal documents farther than what was ever intended by the Popes. For example, they cite selectively a passage in Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, in which Benedict does speak of the need for development of world political authority as a means “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration.”

But what exactly does the Pope mean by a world political authority? In another passage of the encyclical he writes:

“In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity is the Catholic principle that the exercise of responsible authority must, in all justice, be managed by the least centralized, by the smallest, “lowest”, and most personalist competent authority—a principle that is in direct contradiction to those who advocate one world government. Moreover, in the encyclical the Pope emphasized that no form of government can be truly just unless it has as a fundamental principle the absolute value of human life from conception to natural death. He exhorted the human community to become more co-responsible, to safeguard the ethical and moral rights of individuals and peoples. In this and other writings, he has consistently urged mankind to adopt a global solidarity, a universal brotherhood that cuts across all economic and political lines, yet does not violate the sovereignty of nations.

In paragraph 41 of Caritas in Veritate, for example, he writes that “We must promote a dispersed political authority. … The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the current crisis, the State’s role seems destined to grow, as it regains many of its competences. In some nations, moreover, the construction or reconstruction of the State remains a key factor in their development.”

Why, then, does the Note from the PCJP not present these crucial qualifiers but instead asserts that, “In the same spirit of Pacem in Terris, Benedict XVI himself expressed the need to create a world political authority.”?  

Benedict’s encyclical intends no more, and no less, than encouragement of increased international cooperation, a mutual compact of nations that would create governing agencies to administer the shared interests of those nations for the common good of mankind. He certainly did not urge the establishment of a global super-State, for in his other writings and talks he has strongly critiqued this very form of government, which the Note asserts he does promote. In fact, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have repeatedly warned about the grave dangers inherent in such a project.

Citing the Book of Genesis and the story of the Tower of Babel, the PCJP note warns of two alternative dangers: on one hand, aberrations arising from excessive “diversity” and, on the other hand, a false “unity.” The author(s) of the note, in their enthusiasm, primarily motivated by their concern for the underdeveloped nations and their suffering populations, apparently see diversity as the greater danger. They have made a quantum leap from the Church’s wise approach to international relations in the emerging globalization to an urgent plea for one world government. This, to say the least, is horribly naive, and it also flies in the face of the warnings Pope Benedict has been giving in many forums.

While arguments can be made for a world financial authority that regulates economy (again, with crucial qualifiers, especially the need to found policy on the absolute value of all human beings), this in no way demands the establishment of a planetary “Authority” that would rule us all. Such a governance would run the risk of inflating ultra-nationalism to a planetary scale. And on that scale there would be no place to live out humane alternatives if the Authority should ever go bad—which, considering human nature and the history of mankind, is not unlikely. The author(s) of the Note are aware of the dangers, yet minimalize them. The points they make, drawing upon Genesis, the first book of Scriptures, seem to have been made without sober reflection on the final book of Scriptures.

Michael D. O’Brien