Monday, August 31, 2009

Caritas In Veritate Revisited

I read Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate' last night. To describe it as challenging is a transcendental understatement.
In the most polite and diplomatic Vaticanese, His Holiness goes through global capitalism, global capitalists, and their opponents like a dose of salts. Nothing and nobody is spared critique. Any economist stewing in their own orthodoxies' hypercorrectness and tempted to take him on should be aware that Joseph Ratzinger knows his economics so well that they will only make themselves look stupid if they try.
He does not appear to endorse any model, which may disappoint advocates of distributism, but declares instead the necessity of finding not a new model, but the right model; one which places the development of the whole person at its core.
Yet just when the conservatives have been whooping, cheering and high-fiving their way through the previous 79 pages, he says something which makes us stop short - indeed, should make us stop short, and seriously reflect on whether political conservatism is compatible wth orthodox Roman Catholicism. It left me reeling.
In Chapter Five, Paragraph 67, he writes,
"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; for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority."
This places him in direct opposition to both Chinese Communist chauvinism and American neconservative exceptionalism. It pits him against both the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party. And it pits him against Pat Buchanan as surely as it does against Fidel Castro.
This is an incredibly brave and bold thing for him to say; and one will have to reflect on one's own positions. After all, causa finita est.

3 Comments:

Blogger Martin Meenagh said...

Martin, I don't want to be a sort of permanent echo chamber for you, but I find myself in agreement yet again! I've been reading the encyclical, and want to turn it over in my mind again. I have to say, the global governance point jumped out at me. I think it is possible to discern a vision in Josef Ratzinger that he wouldn't want to put down in full. It would involve some sort of modus vivendi within the church to end the schism of east and west; a turning from the liberalism and nationalism of the French revolution; and a rediscovery of free speech and civility to others of like mind that somehow mixed St Thomas and the pre-enlightenment moderns. If you think that last suggestion silly, look at the dialogue with Habermas.

Social Justice; tolerance and respect for others; global reason and order; a God who so loved opinions he created millions of them; a social market; a rule of peace; a united Church free of a thousand year schism.

Isn't that a vision that is breathtaking? Whether it is my own presumption or not, of course, is a different matter.

31 August, 2009 10:37  
Blogger James Higham said...

"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; for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority."

There is - G-d. On the other hand, the ones he was going on about are clearly not the ones he's referring to here.

31 August, 2009 14:01  
Blogger PJMULVEY said...

Martin, we all know that something is very amiss in this world and the disparity between the rich and the poor is a glaring example. St. Thomas More, Plato and others have tried to explain an ideal society but have fallen short given the enormity of the task. However, centralized decision making has been demonstrated as wanting (imagine the impossibility of managing the thousands of variables needed to attempt optimization of anything)and is in direct conflict with the concept of individual liberty. The Adam Smith school assumes that human beings working in their best interests arrive at ideal equilibrium for all. We all know this is hogwash except for the true believers in their think tanks and a truly free market in anything is difficult if not impossible to find. The problem is the accumulation of excess wealth at the expense of others less fortunate. With extreme wealth comes Power. The obvious solution is a significant tax on assets rather than income distribution. Income can be massaged through the tax system but it is much more difficult to hide assets such as homes, yachts, stock, money accounts, etc.

Unfortunately a global tax on assets (above a certain threshold, say $5 million) is something you will never hear in Washington because the truly rich would never allow it.

After many years of thinking through the issues at stake, real conservatism implies a preservation of western civilization's traditions, values and economic systems that are compatible with the human person's liberties and dignity rather than a State, intellectual theories - political, economic, etc. - or a great Man. This system, in the rough, was evolving steadily until it was ruptured by the Reformation which was soon led by the Machiavellian's and the wealthy. This new 'reformed' amoral system was created enormous wealth and prosperity but also at tremendous cost to human dignity, decency and social western traditions. The glue that held old Christendom together was a supranational entity - the Papacy. The good Pope and the Church, which think in centuries rather than decades, see a return to a Christ based society as the only hope for mankind. I agree.

31 August, 2009 17:54  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home