Vatican to Main Street, U.S.A.: The (Tea) Party’s Over


Poor Bill Donahue. The Catholic League president has made it his mission to rebut any prominent evangelical pastor who identifies the pope with the Antichrist — a tough job, even in the best of times. Today’s pronouncement from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace should make him want to clone himself. It’ll take at least two of him to handle all the incoming business.

Titled “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority,” the document blames “liberalist,” or free-market, economic policies for the 2008 financial crisis and its disproportionately harsh effect on living conditions in developing countries. To amend those policies, it calls for a “global political authority” to be installed gradually, and conforming to the principle of subsidiarity.

Any authority thus constituted, the document predicts, should retain “democratic legitimacy,” and be immune to “bureaucratic isolation.” Nevertheless, the Vatican means for the body to serve as both cause and effect of what businesses like to call a paradigm shift. No more will societies operate according to utilitarian principles, which dignify the good of the individual as the key to the good of society. “In many cases,” the document states, “a spirit of solidarity is called for that transcends personal utility for the good of the community.”

Though none of these plans has been infallibly defined, the drafters took great care to present them as the culmination of a long chain of encyclicals, from John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris and Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio to Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate. It would be hard, given any hermeneutic of continuity, to use Benedict’s own phrase, to see this as an abrupt shift in direction. It looks very much in concert with the Bishops’ Conference’s decision to re-issue its 2007 Guide to Faithful Citizenship, which offers Catholics leeway to vote for economically liberal (in the American sense) candidates who are also pro-choice.

Nevertheless, as Michael Sean Winters notes in his National Catholic Reporter blog: “there is no denying that the document’s economic vision is somewhere to the left of the most vigorously leftie politicians in this country.” It won’t play in Peoria, is another way of putting it. The American middle class may be stricken, but when it vents its frustrations on the Washigton elites — or even on Wall Street — it’s comparing its current condition to the relatively exalted state it enjoyed 20 or 30 years ago. I’m not sure whether it would see any advantage in having its quality of life measured against that of the man in the street in Kinshasa.

But then, as far as the Church is concerned, Kinshasa’s where it’s at. Two-thirds of Catholics now reside in the global South; by the middle of next century, that figure should reach three-quarters. If the Vatican were in the habit of playing to its base, it couldn’t have made a smarter move at a better time.

  • Manny

    Well, if he blames free market economics for the banking crises, the Pope is wrong. It was the opposite of free markets to try to give mortgages out to people who couldn’t afford them. That was centralized planning, quite the opposite. The goal of such mortgages may have been noble and may have been moral, at least superficially, but they were a disaster and the root of the problem. The Pope would be best advised to stick with theology and not economics.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Well, if he blames free market economics for the banking crises, the Pope is wrong. It was the opposite of free markets to try to give mortgages out to people who couldn’t afford them. That was centralized planning, quite the opposite. The goal of such mortgages may have been noble and may have been moral, at least superficially, but they were a disaster and the root of the problem. The Pope would be best advised to stick with theology and not economics.

  • Caroline

    Couldn’t agree more, Manny.

    Don’t they see that no worldwide political Authority will ever be just and “respectful of persons” unless it’s based in Christ? They say the authority should be based on subsidarity – that is, basically, in love, in service, aka in Christ. But the catch 22 is that if people’s hearts were already based in Christ, no worldwide political authority would be necessary in the first place! If people already loved and served the least among us, anarchy would be utopia. But human nature is far from being there yet, and jumping the gun now is just Bolshevism: “Oh people will share everything and serve the common good, or else.”

    It’s incredibly scary to me that the Vatican – who are entrusted with the apostolic succession of the Lord who said, “The poor are always with us” should try to reach a utopia on earth, not by freedom but by an international Authority – that is, by control.

    Furthermore, the most valuable limit to any political authority is the ability of its citizens to leave the borders of its authority. Where would the refugees from the abuses of the World Authority go? Their only refuge would be suicide. It’s the same dream of utopia that has caused so much murder in the past. Have we forgotten already? I’m deeply disappointed in the Vatican for thoughtlessly renewing such a Babel. They should know better.

  • Caroline

    Couldn’t agree more, Manny.

    Don’t they see that no worldwide political Authority will ever be just and “respectful of persons” unless it’s based in Christ? They say the authority should be based on subsidarity – that is, basically, in love, in service, aka in Christ. But the catch 22 is that if people’s hearts were already based in Christ, no worldwide political authority would be necessary in the first place! If people already loved and served the least among us, anarchy would be utopia. But human nature is far from being there yet, and jumping the gun now is just Bolshevism: “Oh people will share everything and serve the common good, or else.”

    It’s incredibly scary to me that the Vatican – who are entrusted with the apostolic succession of the Lord who said, “The poor are always with us” should try to reach a utopia on earth, not by freedom but by an international Authority – that is, by control.

    Furthermore, the most valuable limit to any political authority is the ability of its citizens to leave the borders of its authority. Where would the refugees from the abuses of the World Authority go? Their only refuge would be suicide. It’s the same dream of utopia that has caused so much murder in the past. Have we forgotten already? I’m deeply disappointed in the Vatican for thoughtlessly renewing such a Babel. They should know better.

  • Andy

    Manny – it was the free market – the market freed from regulations and the market freed from responsibility that has caused the problems we face. Banks were not forced to give mortgage to people who could not afford them, banks chose to give mortgages beyond what the people could afford. No law caused that other than the greed of the banking industry. The disaster was reliance on the “the knowing others” of the banking industry as they found a way around common economic and monetary sense.

  • Andy

    Manny – it was the free market – the market freed from regulations and the market freed from responsibility that has caused the problems we face. Banks were not forced to give mortgage to people who could not afford them, banks chose to give mortgages beyond what the people could afford. No law caused that other than the greed of the banking industry. The disaster was reliance on the “the knowing others” of the banking industry as they found a way around common economic and monetary sense.

  • Robert

    When I first read the headline yesterday my first thought was “Oh boy, the evangelical Protestant eschatologists are going to have a field day with this one.”

  • Robert

    When I first read the headline yesterday my first thought was “Oh boy, the evangelical Protestant eschatologists are going to have a field day with this one.”

  • Manny

    Fannie May & Freddie Mac were government controlled mortgage houses. They were under laws pushed by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd. They were managed by a centralized government hand. I’m sorry but those are the facts.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Fannie May & Freddie Mac were government controlled mortgage houses. They were under laws pushed by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd. They were managed by a centralized government hand. I’m sorry but those are the facts.

  • Jamie Irons

    You wrote:

    “But then, as far as the Church is concerned, Kinshasa’s where it’s at. Two-thirds of Catholics now reside in the global South; by the middle of next century, that figure should reach three-quarters. If the Vatican were in the habit of playing to its base, it couldn’t have made a smarter move at a better time. ”

    You, sir, are a genius.

    Jamie Irons

  • Jamie Irons

    You wrote:

    “But then, as far as the Church is concerned, Kinshasa’s where it’s at. Two-thirds of Catholics now reside in the global South; by the middle of next century, that figure should reach three-quarters. If the Vatican were in the habit of playing to its base, it couldn’t have made a smarter move at a better time. ”

    You, sir, are a genius.

    Jamie Irons

  • Andy

    Manny – The real culprits were not Fannie and Freddie – that is the conservative shibboleth – the real culprits were lack of monetary controls, lack of regulatory control as in preventing “too big to fail” from happening, allowing the banks to redistribute their bad loans across multiple strange and exotic financial goods which had no value, and then yes Fannie and Freddie picked them, as these good went south, as they were required to do. The facts of Fannie and Freddie are true, but don’t forget eh conservative drive to remove regulations so the market could work its will. Maybe Fannie and Freddie should have let the banks fail.
    And lets not forget that the banks and lenders were not prevented from having borwwers provide proof of income, they, the banks and lenders elected not to, all so they could make a buck. You are underestimating or ignoring the greed of our current capitalistic system.

  • Andy

    Manny – The real culprits were not Fannie and Freddie – that is the conservative shibboleth – the real culprits were lack of monetary controls, lack of regulatory control as in preventing “too big to fail” from happening, allowing the banks to redistribute their bad loans across multiple strange and exotic financial goods which had no value, and then yes Fannie and Freddie picked them, as these good went south, as they were required to do. The facts of Fannie and Freddie are true, but don’t forget eh conservative drive to remove regulations so the market could work its will. Maybe Fannie and Freddie should have let the banks fail.
    And lets not forget that the banks and lenders were not prevented from having borwwers provide proof of income, they, the banks and lenders elected not to, all so they could make a buck. You are underestimating or ignoring the greed of our current capitalistic system.

  • Manny

    80% of the mortgages went through Fannie May and Freddie Mac. You are spewing the Liberal shibboleth.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    80% of the mortgages went through Fannie May and Freddie Mac. You are spewing the Liberal shibboleth.

  • Anonymous

    A political authority based on Christ might be just and respectful of persons to Christians, but it won’t be to those of us who aren’t. And, incase you forgot, we’re people too.

    You also seem to be claiming that love and service are exclusive to people who follow your religion. They aren’t.

    In fact, you seem to be claiming overall that people can only be good by believing in your god. That might be true if applied to your arbitrary definition of good, but it doesn’t hold water in reality.

  • Baby_Raptor

    A political authority based on Christ might be just and respectful of persons to Christians, but it won’t be to those of us who aren’t. And, incase you forgot, we’re people too.

    You also seem to be claiming that love and service are exclusive to people who follow your religion. They aren’t.

    In fact, you seem to be claiming overall that people can only be good by believing in your god. That might be true if applied to your arbitrary definition of good, but it doesn’t hold water in reality.

  • Easternshoresail

    Left? Well yes in that the Vatican wants better oversight. However, the report suggests going back to the gold standard is pure tea party.

  • Easternshoresail

    Left? Well yes in that the Vatican wants better oversight. However, the report suggests going back to the gold standard is pure tea party.


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