A man holds a placard during an Oct. 22 protest in Berlin denouncing current global banking and financial industry practice.

CNS PHOTO | THOMAS PETER, REUTERS

A man holds a placard during an Oct. 22 protest in Berlin denouncing current global banking and financial industry practice.

October 31, 2011
JOHN THAVIS
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

A Vatican document has called for the gradual creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the “inequalities and distortions of capitalist development.”

The document said the current global financial crisis has revealed “selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale.”

A supranational authority, it said, is needed to place the common good at the centre of international economic activity.

The 41-page text was titled, Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority. Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it was released Oct. 24.

The document cited the teachings of popes over the last 40 years on the need for a universal public authority that would transcend national interests.

The current economic crisis, which has seen growing inequality between the rich and poor of the world, underlines the necessity to take concrete steps toward creating such an authority, it said.

One major step, it said, should be reform of the international monetary system in a way that involves developing countries. The document foresaw creation of a “central world bank” that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges; it said the International Monetary Fund has lost the ability to control the amount of credit risk taken on by the system.

The document also proposed:

  • Taxation measures on financial transactions. Revenues could contribute to a “world reserve fund” to support the economies of countries hit by crisis.
  • Forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds that make support conditional on “virtuous” behaviour aimed at developing the real economy.
  • More effective management of financial shadow markets that are largely uncontrolled today.

Such moves would be designed to make the global economy more responsive to the needs of the person, and less “subordinated to the interests of countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage,” it said.

SURREAL NATIONALISM

In making the case for a global authority, the document said the continued model of nationalistic self-interest seemed “anachronistic and surreal” in the age of globalization.

“We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest,” it said.

The “new world dynamics,” it said, call for a “gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world authority and to regional authorities.”

“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,” it said.

Helping to usher in this new society is a duty for everyone, especially for Christians, it said.

GLOBAL AUTHORITY

While the Vatican document focused on financial issues, it envisioned a much wider potential role for the global political authority.

People are reflected on an electronic board displaying exchange rates in a business distric in Tokyo Oct.24

CNS PHOTO | TORU HANAI, REUTERS

People are reflected on an electronic board displaying exchange rates in a business distric in Tokyo Oct.24

The agenda also includes peace and security, disarmament and arms control, protection of human rights, and management of migration flows and food security, it said.

Establishing the authority will be a delicate project and will no doubt come at a cost of “anguish and suffering” as countries give up particular powers.

The authority should be set up gradually, on the basis of wide consultation and international agreements, and never imposed by force or coercion, it said.

The authority should intervene “only when individual, social or financial actors are intrinsically deficient in capacity, or cannot manage by themselves to do what is required of them,” it said.

Countries’ specific identities would be fully respected, it said.

The authority should transcend special interests, and its decisions “should not be the result of the more developed countries’ excessive power over the weaker countries.”

“A long road still needs to be travelled before arriving at the creation of a public authority with universal jurisdiction. It would seem logical for the reform process to proceed with the United Nations as its reference.”

‘AUTHORITATIVE NOTE’

At a news conference Oct. 24, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, emphasized the document was “not an expression of papal magisterium,” but instead was an “authoritative note of a Vatican agency,” the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The document did quote from the teachings of several popes, however, including those of Pope Benedict. In his 2009 encyclical Charity in Truth, the pope said there was “an urgent need of a true world political authority” that could give poorer nations a bigger voice in financial decision-making.

The document also cited Blessed John Paul II’s 1991 warning of the risk of an “idolatry of the market” in the wake of the failure of European communism. Today his warning “needs to be heeded without delay,” it said.

In fact, it said, the primary cause of the current global crisis has been “an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls” and that relies solely on the laws of the market.