A proposal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a new world economic order based on ethics and the “achievement of a universal common good.” It follows Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 economic encyclical that denounced a profit-at-all-cost mentality as responsible for the global financial meltdown.
The proposal acknowledges, however, that a “long road still needs to be traveled before arriving at the creation of a public authority with universal jurisdiction” and suggests the reform process begin with the United Nations as a point of reference.
Vatican pronouncements on the economy are meant to guide world leaders as well as the global church. United States Roman Catholic bishops, for example, have released a voter guide for the 2012 election that highlights social concerns such as ending poverty.
“It is an exercise of responsibility not only toward the current but above all toward future generations, so that hope for a better future and confidence in human dignity and capacity for good may never be extinguished,” the document said.
It highlights that reforms must assure that financial and monetary policies will not damage the weakest economies while also achieving fair distribution of the world’s wealth.
The proposal also called for a “minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market,” lamenting the “overall abrogation of controls” on capital movements.
While past Vatican pronouncements have condemned unfettered capitalism, the latest criticized “an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls.”
It also attacked “utilitarian thinking,” saying what is useful to the individual does not always favor the common good.
) By demanding that the worst excesses of global capitalism be reined in, the Holy See echoed the message of protesters encamped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the indignados of Spain and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US.
In a forthright statement, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace called for an end to rampant speculation, the redistribution of wealth, greater ethics and the establishment of a “central world bank” to which national banks would have to cede power.
Such an authority would have “universal jurisdiction” over governments’ economic strategies.
Existing financial situations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were outdated and no longer able to deal with the scale of the global financial crisis, which had exposed “selfishness, greed and the hoarding of goods on a grand scale”.
The global financial system was riddled with injustice and failure to address that would lead to “growing hostility and even violence”, which would undermine democracy.
The Vatican hardly has an exemplary record on financial transparency and propriety.
Last year the Vatican Bank, known officially as the Institute for Religious Works, had €23m (£20m) of its assets frozen by Italian authorities as part of an investigation into suspected money-laundering.
After years of resisting calls for greater openness, the scandal forced the bank to adopt international norms on transparency.
The Holy See’s murky financial past has included, most notoriously, its involvement in the bankruptcy of Italy’s biggest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, in the early 1980s.
Its president, Roberto Calvi, who was nicknamed “God’s Banker”, was found hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge, with investigators unable to rule whether he had committed suicide or had been murdered.
Thomas J Reese, a Vatican analyst at Georgetown University in the US, said the “radical” proposals put forward on Monday aligned the Holy See with the Occupy Wall Street movement and meant that the Vatican’s views on the economic crisis were “to the Left of every politician in the United States”.
He said the proposals reflected many of the encyclicals and addresses issued by Benedict XVI on the global economy during the last six years of his papacy.