Monday, October 31, 2011


Note: the Mad Hermit does not usually take on a Vatican document and it is unlikely he will do so again. Somewhere in Catholic land “liberals” are chortling and cheering over the latest Vatican document, which calls for the creation of a world banking authority; in other places, “conservatives” and “orthodox” writers are twisting in agony and biting their nails as they struggle to endorse the proposal and square it with right thinking. Well, you get neither from the Mad Hermit for, after all, he is mad. Very mad.

A shocking, horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests teach as they wish; yet my people will have it so; what will you do when the end comes? --Jeremiah 5: 30-31.

The document in question, “Note on financial reform from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,” has created a stir by calling for a central world banking authority of some sort. Such an entity would have the absolute authority to set everything right in terms of money. As usual these days (i.e., post Vatican II), the major appeals of the writers are to Pacem in Terris and Populorum Progressio, as well as to statements by Blessed John Paul II and the present Holy Father’s Caritas in Veritate. As one could have easily predicted, the document does not concern itself with the saving of souls nor does it refer to any Papal Encyclical such as Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis that does so.

On a promise to some friends, I have actually read this latest document, just as I read the encyclicals above. When I was an undergraduate we read all the major encyclicals of the 19th and 20th century, many of which had real and practical social implications, such as the endorsing of the labor movement and the right of people to organize themselves into unions for the sake of justice. While recognizing the palpable reality of the political movements of the times, the Vatican called out specific injustices (such as the Nazis and Communists) and pointed to the need for resistance to them. If I am not mistaken, prior to Vatican II, the Popes and the Vatican did not take on the remaking of human society under a single secular global authority. True, St. Thomas Aquinas seemed to want such a thing in the 13th century, but then his globe was much smaller than ours.

I will, however, leave to others the task of chasing the documents and confine myself to my reaction to this one. As I write, I see that the Obama administration has sent soldiers to yet another African country, proceeding unilaterally and unconstitutionally toward that very world authority our president seems to ardently desire as long as we are in charge of it and as long as the leftist newspapers will like it.

Meanwhile, Wall Street and the streets of cities from Nashville to Nome are crowded with thousands of (mostly young) people holding signs calling for the ending of greed and selfishness and pollution and capitalism. If a thousand of these people are questioned about their aims and goals, they will give a thousand answers ranging from “I am hurting” to “somebody’s got to do something about this.” Like Bill Clinton, I feel their pain; I hurt too, hobbling along on low income; and even if I could join them (no car, no money), I am not sure I could add much rationality to their grief and rage, other than to point out that their major cheerleader—opportunista Obama—is largely responsible for the particular nadir we find ourselves in. His chief solution, absurd on the face of it to any Swiftian or Orwellian or Twainist, has been to fire money like shotgun pellets in all directions, money we do not have, money which he is, like the archons of the Weimar Republic in Germany, printing with mad abandon. One might observe that these same left-wing archons passed the eugenics and euthanasia laws which allowed the succeeding Nazi government to murder the weak, the Jews, and the Christians, for the surest way to eliminate social problems in a society is, well, to eliminate them.

Ay, there’s the rub, which is the central point of my response to the Vatican document. In addition to sounding like a commencement address that urges the graduates of today to go forth and serve justice and peace and nice stuff, it ignores the fact that no matter how often you overturn the tables of the moneychangers—something, indeed, that does need to be done on a regular basis—the money changers will not as a class be deterred until the Roman Legions come in and destroy the temple where they do their business. That, indeed, was a world central authority straightening things out. Most of the graduates listening to the commencement address will stampede out of the auditorium bent on the usual economic rape and pillage. Who, besides a totalitarian government, will stop them? Is that what the Vatican wants?

The document refers frequently to the United Nations and its importance in pointing the economic directions the Vatican itself espouses—a central world authority with the power to end abuses. Pardon, but are the writers of such documents insane or only wilfully ignorant? The one non-religious central authority the planet has at present is dedicated more than anything else to, among many other evil things, universal abortion and euthanasia. The various appeals by the Holy Father and the limp protests of the American Catholic Bishops have had no effect upon this tendency other than to strengthen it. From the time of H.G. Wells, the utopians of our culture have been able to see no solution to human problems other than the elimination of most humans.

The Nazis call for the elimination of useless life on the basis of economics.

The “world political authority” called for by Pope John Paul XXIII is, for the writers of this document “the road that must be taken,” regardless of whether it will lead to a sane society. It will be “a new model of more cohesion, polyarchic international society that respects each people’s identity with the multifaceted riches of a single humanity.” (Good grief, who can write such abominable prose?) The writers go on: “It is the task of today’s generation to recognize and consciously to accept these new world dynamics for the achievement of a universal common good.”

Jesus drives the money changers from the Temple (Giorda)

And what is that common good? The whole principle of the Gospel is that there are common goods in God’s universal laws. Nowhere in the Gospel, as Dostoevsky saw clearly, is there any room for misty-eyed statism that delivers justice with a fist or a Comintern. Whether justice is delivered by a fist or a massive mind control, as in Brave New World or 1984 or We, it is still a false justice based on a central socialist authority that knows what’s good for us. Dostoevsky, by the way, predicted the marriage between the Roman Catholic Church and international socialism.

The “institutions with universal competence,” which the Vatican writers imagine to be the guardians of the new world bank against corruption—where are they? All the evidence is that the world is racing madly toward an anti-life totalitarianism, a “brave new world” of eugenics, abortion, infanticide, mind control, and a political correctness that outlaws all dissent as well as all common sense and individual expression. The solution to this apocalyptic nightmare is not a new world government, calling for which is like sending gasoline trucks to put out a fire, but the one offered in A Canticle for Leibowitz—building small Benedictine communities as the centers for sanity and holiness and continuing in the virtue of hope while resisting anti-life evils.

St. Thomas Aquinas, despite his fantasy about world government, said that a society with few but necessary laws would be the best; for this reason, he agreed—much to the shock of modern day Jansenists and Puritans-with Ron Paul that laws against prostitution and drugs will only make matters worse and take our eyes off our need for conversion and individual charity.

Of course capitalism stinks; global capitalism stinks even more—the gift the Protestants gave the world (R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) does, in fact, rage over the surface of the earth like a genetically re-engineered plague virus. Tamed occasionally by individual state governments, it does not respond dutifully to law (remember Prohibition?). But a bigger zoo and a more powerful zoo keeper will give us, precisely, that: a bigger zoo and a more powerful zoo keeper.

The writers’ appeals to subsidiarity—a basic ethical and social doctrine of the Catholic Church—are fatuous and, on the face of it, absurdly contradictory. Genuine subsidiarity calls for authority to be exercised at the lowest possible social level, only moving to the next level when that is impractical or ineffective. Calling for a world economic authority seems more an act of despair. Like some of the most vicious critics of the Catholic Church today, I would call for the Church to follow its own doctrines, to mend its seminaries and parishes and families, before holding itself up to scorn with documents of this kind which, as a Catholic, I know that I am permitted to ignore.

When I was in high school our parish priest (R.I.P.), a good man and a good priest in most respects, preached that the parish needed more money to build a new gymnasium and a new convent for the nuns. To effect this fund-raising, he announced that each year his office would print and distribute a record of what each family gave by week and year. I was scandalized and angered, for each year thereafter, my father’s donations (those cursed little numbered envelopes) never exceeded a dollar a week, the amount he earned for an hour at union wages. Meanwhile the big wigs of the parish outshone all the working families who cursed the meat and went without the bread. The gymnasium now stands empty, the nuns are gone, the school closed, and the bell tower—which really does need to be fixed—leans dangerously, a good symbol of what wrongheaded solutions can bring.

I’d say—but no one asks—empty the Vatican of committees and idle priests. Send them out to preach the Gospel and live on the charity of those in the pews. I think there is something about this in the New Testament.


  1. I don't think the committee read their own final document because like you say it's contradictory. For example: "According to the logic of subsidiarity, the higher Authority offers its subsidium, that is, its aid, only when individual, social or financial actors are intrinsically deficient in capacity, or cannot manage by themselves to do what is required of them."

    All well and good, but which of the problems they point out at the start are improved by a World Bank that is running the entire show? Especially one that has nothing stopping it from printing money and inflating us into poverty (as they correctly condemn in the introduction)?

    "What is valid on the national level is also valid on the global level. A person is not made to serve authority unconditionally. Rather, it is the task of authority to be at the service of the person, consistent with the pre-eminent value of human dignity. Likewise, governments should not serve the world Authority unconditionally."

    The UN and every other country in the world today does this how? The statement itself is quite true and very good...but the PCJP just assumes that magically we'll wake up tomorrow in the Age of Aquarius or something, I guess.

    The document could have been a very good thing, but surprise surprise it's so wishy-washy and non-offensive that it says nothing.

  2. Mr. Craven, have you read John Medaille?
    You are right of course, they are not calling for Chesterton's distributism. Also useful to you may be James Burnham's work:
    Not sure if Orwell understood him as being in favor of this.
    Keep up the great work!