Monday, October 24, 2011

A "Catholic" Bank?

This report disappoints, but does not surprise me. 

It seems the Vatican is calling for the institution of a "central world bank" or "global pubic authority" in order to help avoid "the idolatry of the market" and ensure an "ethic of solidarity" among all nations, rich and poor.

If you know anything of the intellectual history of the West, this impulse is a logical, and enduring, product of both the idea of "empire", following the Roman experience, as well as the "catholic", or universal nature of the Roman Catholic Church.  The "idea" of "Europe", and later "Christendom" or the "West", as well the old "Holy Roman Empire" itself, all find their roots in it.  For that matter, so also does the current idea of a "European Union" (how's that working out?), not to mention the "League of Nations" and the "United Nations".

That's a lot of quotes, I know, but they all from the same idea, an idea we, most of us anyway, share. That is, that we're all children of the same God; we're all, essentially, the same.  Therefore, a single political union of some kind ought ideally to govern us all.  A universal, a catholic bank of some kind is a very practical first step toward the establishment of a catholic or universal political union, a  union that cements the ties that bind us in our common humanity under the same law, under the same God.

The problems here are at least least twofold.

First, we're still sinners and it's the abiding sin nature that divides us.  As long as sin is given a fighting chance, preliminary measures may be the best, the most prudent we can take in this fallen world.  To this point anyway, it would seem that the modern nation-state, formally conceived with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, is the best we can do.  History has demonstrated that serious attempts to extend political union beyond the nation-state is almost always replete with sinful hubris and leads to more violence, more injustice, not less.

Second, and related, free-market capitalism, while admittedly not free from sinful motivations, appears to be the very best system for the creation of wealth.  Wealth that the church, the very presence of the body of Christ on earth, can then admonish us to understand as a good which should always be shared and never idolized.       

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