Catholicism and Global Institutions: It’s Time for a Rethink
by Dr. Samuel Gregg
“Brexit” underscores that the Catholic Church’s present approach to international political organizations requires modification, if not a complete overhaul.
One of the less-noticed statistics to emerge from one of the most thorough post-Brexit surveys is that nearly sixty percent of self-identified British Christians voted for Brexit. The survey doesn’t distinguish between different Christian confessions. Nor does it ask if such people’s faith played any particular role in their decision or even their lives more generally. Nonetheless the fact that a majority of Christians voted for Britain to leave one of the world’s most prominent supranational entities will surprise some people. Christian statesmen, after all, played a major role in establishing today’s European Union. In the lead-up to the referendum, Britain’s most prominent Christian leaders—CardinalsCormac Murphy-O’Connor and Vincent Nichols, the Anglican Primate, Justin Welby, and the Church of Scotland’s Moderator, the Rev. Angus Morrison—affirmed that they personally favored “Remain.” Likewise the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, the Liverpool-born Archbishop Paul Gallagher, expressed a preference for Britain remaining in the EU.
Reading Murphy-O’Connor and Nichols’ respective statements, however, neither’s endorsement was especially enthusiastic. Nor did any of the figures mentioned above claim that Christians were somehow obliged to vote “Remain.” The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales pre-referendum statement on Brexit pointedly refrained from advocating either “Remain” or “Leave.” There’s even some suggestion that particular bishops were personally unconvinced by “Remain” arguments. While the bishops’ statement reminded Catholics that the EU project had been partly conceived to promote peace in a once war-torn continent, it also acknowledged “the justifiable concerns that many people have in relation to the European Union, its institutions and the implications of increasing integration.”
This last point may reflect some bishops’ awareness that many Catholics have increasingly negative views of supranational institutions and don’t believe that the Church should instinctively favor any growth in their powers. But even leaving aside the many policies promoted by, for instance, particular United Nations agencies which directly violate Catholic teaching on human life, there are many good reasons for the Church to be more circumspect about supranational bodies.
Why global institutions?
Back in 2011, a document produced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace urged the establishment of a global financial authority which would somehow take responsibility for regulating the world’s financial systems. The 2008 financial crisis, the text argued, pointed to “an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of ‘central world bank’ that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges, as do the national central banks.” The document premised this claim upon a range of papal statements dating back to Saint John XXIII. These maintain that an increasingly interconnected globe requires a world authority to assume some responsibility for truly global matters.
The basic Catholic argument for an international authority may be summarized as follows. A given community’s common good—understood as that set of conditions which facilitate human flourishing—necessitates an authority to make laws for that community. Thus a town needs a city council to issue rules that bind all members of the city. Likewise, a nation requires some type of national government. If, then, one can speak of an international community, some type of commensurate authority is necessary.
The roots of this reasoning lie in natural law theory and have been outlined by contemporary Catholic natural law thinkers who no-one would consider political or theological progressives. At the same time, they—like papal teaching—have been careful not to specify which powers should be assumed by any such authority, or even who these authorities might be. They have also maintained that any such authority should be limited by the principle of subsidiarity.
Read more here: www.catholicworldreport.com