October 27, 2011
A Supranational Authority—a Catholic perspective
Since the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued its Note on Financial Reform, Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Policy (the Note), commentators, including members of the Mirror of Justice have expressed views or commented on others’ views about this text.
As the Note relies on the work of Blessed John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, it might be instructive to consider side by side the treatment which Pope John and the Note give to supranational authority.
Both documents begin with the recognition that the common good has a key role in the welfare of the peoples of the nations and the world. Moreover, both texts acknowledge that it is the responsibility of any public authority to advance and sustain the common good of everyone. Moreover, both texts emphasize the importance that the public authority being advanced must be developed without compulsion but accepted by reasoned agreement. Imposition by force would suggest that the authority is promoted by the stronger over the weaker nations; thus, the skepticism that the authority would serve the interests of the stronger but not the weaker is understandable. However, there are several distinctions between the two texts that need to be acknowledged.
The first distinction is that Blessed John XXIII saw the public authority as one geared to advancing the common good that is clearly linked with the moral order. The Note does not mention this in the same fashion. Of course the Note could assume this by its reference to Pacem in Terris, but it would have been better to state this clearly so that there would be no ambiguity.
Second, it is clear that Blessed John XXIII spoke about a general kind of public authority having power, organization, and means that would be co-extensive with the problems—presumably any problem—threatening the universal common good. The public authority identified by the Note is more specialized in that it is geared to addressing those situations where free and stable markets promote the existence of efficient and effective monetary and financial systems.
Third, John XXIII was clear about the universality of the agreement that undergirds the establishment of the supranational authority. In short, no authority can exist without the consent of all nations. The Note is less clear on this point because it suggests that universality may not be required in that the consent need to establish the organization “should involve an ever greater number of countries that adhere with conviction, through a sincere dialogue that values the minority opinions rather than marginalizing them.” Monitoring the pulse of countries is important, but it seems that the supranational authority may come into existence without universal endorsement.
Others may have a different take on the existence or significance of these differences. In any case, it is important that both documents be carefully reviewed. A final common denominator they share is that, when promulgated, they caught the attention of many people of good will.
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