Some of the furor over Caritas in veritate may have died down, but I am only now really digging into it. So for the next week or two I will be posting various passages and insights that I found interesting.
The single phrase upon which the media most fixated was "world political authority," something Benedict called for and which any freedom-loving conspiracy theorist can see is a manifesto for One World Government.
That line comes up in section 67 - to which we shall return - but I found it interesting that two key passages near the beginning of the document were apparently overlooked by the same media sensationalists:
In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity's right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development.
Caritas in veritate, 11; emphasis added.
Thus, even if Benedict is calling for some sort of super United Nations, he has already given us several qualifiers. Institutions alone cannot solve our problems and we must not look to them for our salvation. Moreover, only if it is animated by an understanding of man's relationship to God can an institution truly aid mankind. Frankly, I have not seen a lot of transcendence at the UN lately, though there has been plenty of anti-Christian policy. So if the UN is to be the "true world political authority" Benedict is talking about, some serious changes will be in order.
Benedict writes further:
The “types of messianism which give promises but create illusions” always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal. This false security becomes a weakness, because it involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means for development, while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy, because it sets them free.
Caritas in veritate 17; internal quotation from Populorum progressio, 11.
He denounces false messiahs and illusions and condemns a system which turns man into a cog in the system, a "humanitarianism" which tramples the very people it seeks to help. This is a critique that can be applied to the great totalitarian regimes of history - in particular Communism, which, in the name of helping the downtrodden worker, trod him down further - and many schemes regarding world government of one form or another.
But with those qualifications in mind, let us turn to section 67, home of the infamous line itself. Benedict begins, "In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth." Notice he says "reform" of the UN, not "empowerment." The thing that should get empowered, should "acquire real teeth" is "the concept of the family of nations." Insofar as the UN or other international organizations genuinely foster such familial relations: great, we should support them. In the mean time, reform is the day's task.
One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. 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, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.
All of the issues here listed are international issues; by their very nature sovereign nation states alone cannot address them. In theory a large number of bilateral or regional agreements could address such questions, and I do not think Benedict is condemning those approaches. But some issues may require a larger framework.
He goes on to say:
Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations.
Again, the vision is not of a vast bureaucracy responsible to no one, nor is it of a cabal of the powerful. It must be governed by law, it must include subsidiarity - the notion that problems are best solved by those closest to them, it must serve the common good, ensure justice and respect rights. This sounds a lot like the Preamble of the Constitution... There is, of course, the somewhat sinister line about having "the authority to ensure compliance," but notice that he says "authority," not "power". Power may be a component of that authority, but without legitimacy that comes from the consent of the governed, such power is tyranny.
The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.
Just as he told the members of the General Assembly last year, the UN must return to high ideals upon which it was founded.
Is the Holy Father calling for one world government? I think it would be disingenuous to say he is not. Is he calling for One World Government, the New World Order? Probably not in the way those terms are usually used. How is he proposing we get from here to there? That, it seems to me, is a crucial question. While he indicated the United Nations by name, policy details are few. His frequent calls for UN reform seem to acknowledge that, however much a world authority may be needed today, the situation is not fully ripe. The means of executing Benedict's vision of global solidarity and fraternity have been left to the prudential judgment of the lay faithful, in their various areas of expertise and in the various situations they find themselves.