Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turn Left at the Vatican

The economy must be in pretty tough shape if it is getting appeals for divine intervention. But that must be the case because the pope has issued an encyclical on the global economy.

Pope Benedict XVI today called for reforming the United Nations and establishing a “true world political authority” with “real teeth” to manage the global economy with God-centered ethics.

In his third encyclical, a major teaching, released as the G-8 summit begins in Italy, the pope says such an authority is urgently needed to end the current worldwide financial crisis. It should “revive” damaged economies, reach toward “disarmament, food security and peace,” protect the environment and “regulate migration.”

Benedict writes, “The market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak.”

Spread the wealth? New world order? Disarmament? Food security? Peace? Sounds suspiciously like a lefty to me. I can imagine that the tea-baggers are already lining up to get their passports so they can head off to Rome to demonstrate in St. Peter’s Square, funny hats and offensive t-shirts and all.

Other highlights include strengthening labor unions, environmental protection, ethics in financial markets, elimination of world hunger, and — of course — uterus control for women. (After all, he’s still the pope.) This is all built around a “God-centered” global economy.

The “true world political authority” that Benedict calls for should keep solutions as simple and local as possible but still create solidarity for the common good.

So I guess that makes God a community organizer.

The pope is unable to offer “technical solutions” to the world economy, but he’s heavy on the idea of religion being a guiding force:

[H]e asserts that religion has a role in the public square. His very specific suggestions on the economy, ecology and justice are addressed not just to Catholics, but to everyone, from heads of state to household shoppers.

I don’t have a problem with the Catholic Church offering economic suggestions — although the Church never really “suggests;” it commands, and everyone, Catholic or otherwise, basically takes them as they see fit — but one of the problems with this or any religious group offering real-world advice is that they’re often at odds with reality. If we’re to have a “God-centered economy,” we need to either all be gods, or we have to agree on whose god we’re going to center it on. Knowing human frailty as it is, the god we usually listen to is the one inside us that says, “What’s in it for me.” And the Vatican, with its own economic troubles thanks to its own greed and all too human failings, is hardly in a position to do little more than issue encyclicals.