Here’s the best of what I’ve read from others on the topic.
If the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is trying to make the Catholic Church sound as if she’s living in a fantasy world or trying to portray Catholic social teaching as completely irrelevant to real world problems, I’d say, “Mission accomplished.” If, on the other hand, the council wants people seriously to think about the problems of globalization, it’s going to have to demonstrate a much better grasp of political and economic practicalities, as well as the limits and dangers of international solutions.
When people reach the conclusion that the Vatican is talking nonsense, they do not ordinarily distinguish between the sound fundamental principles of Church teaching and the questionable economic analysis that follows. Nor do they make fine distinctions on the different levels of Church teaching authority. They conclude simply that the Vatican talks nonsense. So by reaching beyond their field of expertise, Vatican officials undermine their own teaching authority.
Focusing on how much papal muscle the note can flex, however, risks ignoring what is at least an equally revealing question: Whatever you make of it, does the note seem to reflect important currents in Catholic social and political thought anywhere in the world?
The answer is yes, and it happens to be where two-thirds of the Catholics on the planet today live: the southern hemisphere, also known as the developing world.
I have some Italian friends who are very well-informed about the topics addressed in the “white paper”. One of them, a sometime contributor here and a mainstay of the Catholic Online Form, the great Fabrizio, offered some observations on Prof. Becchetti [who was present at the PCJP press conference]:
… “[He's] A socialist economist, a left-wing “Catholic” who’s extremely active with the Democrat Party (formerly known as Partito Comunista Italiano [...]
Among other things this guy formed a lobby to request the EU to levy crazy taxes on financial transactions which will destroy whatever is left of available capitals, especially for small businesses and small investors, with a trickle-down effect that will further damage an economy brought to collapse by socialist greed for power, money and control.
So basically a Vatican dicastery helped a socialist ideologue to advance his agenda with the imprimatur of the Holy See (obviously he is the ghost writer of the part on financial transactions).
I think (a) many are (perhaps strategically and tactically) mis- and over-reading the Note in order to overstate the consonance between its vision and the current policies of the Democratic Party in the United States and its special-interest constituencies; (b) many are making the mistake that was widely made with respect to the Pope’s Caritas, i.e., imagining that the Church proposes a list of “economic policy proposals” that can be conveniently lifted, to the extent they strike the lifter as attractive, without any attached moral anthropology (which might, in turn, come with some unwelcome implications for, say, religious liberty, the family, education, etc.); and (c) it is a mistake to think that the Note, with its focus on world-wide financial markets, somehow baptizes our and other governments’ current overspending, or the self-interested (dare we say “greedy”?) and damaging positions being staked out by, e.g., public-employee unions.
I raised my eyebrows at the claim that a “major” document would be released by the PCJP. As a Council, it occupies a place (and not the first place) on the fourth tier of dicasteries, and it’s not the kind of department that is used to issue “major” documents in terms of the overall sweep of things at the Vatican. A given document may be major compared to documents the Justice and Peace council normally issues, but under ordinary circumstances they won’t be major compared to documents issued, say, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—or the pope himself.
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?
Unfortunately, by choosing the discredited United Nations as the vehicle to implement its call for a more just world economy, the Vatican statement demonstrated a distressing lack of connection with what has really gone on at the United Nations.
Gone would be the constitutional protections of freedom, life, and property that Americans now enjoy. In their place would be rules set by a new world governing body run by countries like Iran, Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia.
If the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is any indication, implementing the Vatican statement would achieve exactly the opposite of the desired result.
What do you think?
And, as a bonus, for those of you who read this far, a CNN segment asking the question “would Jesus occupy wallstreet?”. Notice, in particular, the claims that are made about the Vatican and the pope:
Ph/t: Creative Minority Report.