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HOLY SEE/ The "Note on Financial Reform"

Rick Garnett comments on the Vatican’s Note on Financial Reform, and how it should be viewed in the light of the financial crisis and the protest movements sweeping the globe.

(photo ANSA) (photo ANSA)

Others have called attention to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace's "Note on Financial Reform."  (The Note is available here.)  The responses to and readings of the Note have been, I think, what one would have predicted:  Some are crowing that "the Vatican" has endorsed the demands and aims of the "Occupy Wall Street" participants, others are insisting that the Note is misguided Euro-talk and, in any event, carries little authority.  And so it goes.

There can be no doubt, I think, that it is entirely appropriate for the Church (or, in this case, for particular offices in Vatican City) to call attention to economic and social problems, to remind persons of good will of the content and foundations of Christian humanism, to challenge governments and persons alike to act in ways that are consistent with morality and the truth about the human person, and to share well-considered judgments or suggestions regarding sound policy.  It also seems clear -- with respect to this business about "supranational authorities" -- that the post-Westphalian set-up is not an article of faith (even if a commitment to the rule of law and the requirement that secular democratic authority have legitimacy should be).

That said, and at the risk of being accused by some friends in the left-of-center sectors of the Catholic blogosphere of "ranting" or being a "neo-con", I'll confess that I think (a) many are (perhaps strategically and tactically) mis- and over-reading the Note in order to overstate the consonance between its vision and the current policies of the Democratic Party in the United States and its special-interest constituencies; (b) many are making the mistake that was widely made with respect to the Pope's Caritas, i.e., imagining that the Church proposes a list of "economic policy proposals" that can be conveniently lifted, to the extent they strike the lifter as attractive, without any attached moral anthropology (which might, in turn, come with some unwelcome implications for, say, religious liberty, the family, education, etc.); and (c) it is a mistake to think that the Note, with its focus on world-wide financial markets, somehow baptizes our and other governments' current overspending, or the self-interested (dare we say "greedy"?) and damaging positions being staked out by, e.g., public-employee unions.