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Vatican Roves Far Afield with Central World Bank Idea

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Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, is quoted extensively in a story about the Vatican’s note on economic centralization written by Edward Pentin, a reporter for the National Catholic Register. If you wonder why the Acton Institute is around — why we feel the need to connect your good intentions with sound economics — well, Kishore explains:

Kishore Jayabalan… welcomed the Vatican’s attempt to deal with the economic crisis, but he said their conclusions were based on “political and economic ignorance rather than experience.”

But the note, written by the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, lacks more than sound economics; it lacks theological depth. It speaks throughout of the common good, but without a moral framework, that common good can have little ethical consequence. The kind of economic reform the note calls for could only be motivated by a conception of the common good rooted in a full, Christian understanding of human nature. Jayabalan again: “[the note] doesn’t speak of God or the natural law and so neglects this substantial notion of the common good,”

There is comparatively little talk even of greed and idolatry in the note — those vices seem get more attention at Occupy Wall Street drum circles than at the PCPJ. We’ll talk about them though:

Jayabalan, a former official at the Pontifical Council, said greed and idolatry are permanently recurring temptations that require “constructive ways” to combat them. And yet “quite surprisingly for an office of the Roman Curia and from a Catholic perspective, the note does not tell us much about the spiritual battle that must take place.”

Rather than draft this note, Jayabalan said the Vatican should have drawn on the “economic wisdom of the division of labor” which would have told them “to stick to what it knows and does best.”

Kenneth Spence


  • TLR

    Hr. Jayalaban sollte Texte erst lesen, bevor er den Autoren Ratschläge erteilt. Er hat es sicher gut gemeint, aber gut gemeint ist nicht gleich gut gemacht!

    Und bevor er Autoren ihre Zuständigkeiten zuweist, sollte er sich mit den  Aufgaben vertraut machen, die diese Autoren haben.

    Der vorgelegte Text der Rates für Gerechtigkeit und Frieden besteht im wesentlichen aus einem Kompendium wesentlicher Äusserungen von Päpsten und kirchlichen Stellen zu den Anforderungne christlichen Wirtschaftens und erhebt ausdrücklich nicht den #Anspuch ein wirtschaftlicher Fachtext zu sein.

    (Abgesehen davon sei darauf hingewiesen, dass es die wirtschaftliche Fachwelt war, die uns in den Schlamassel getrieben hat und das es die wissenschaftlichen Experten waren, die nicht in der Lage waren, die Entwicklungen vorherzusehen oder auch nur adäquat zu begleiten!)

    Darüber hinaus ist es gerade nicht Aufgabe des Rates für gerechtigkeit und Frieden, tiefschürfend Theologie zu betreiben, sonder wesentlich Beiträge zur Umsetzung christlichen Glaubens in tätige Förderung der menschlichen Entwicklung zu liefern.

    Ich danke dem Rat für sein Papier. Statt daran herum zu kritteln wäre es angebracht, sich die eine oder andere Aussage des Papiers zu Herzen zu nehmen.

  • Rather than draft this note, Jayabalan said the Vatican should have drawn on the “economic wisdom of the division of labor” which would have told them “to stick to what it knows and does best.”
    I have very mixed feeling about this proposal but that last  line is a tad unfortunate and really unneeded.
    I am struck by John Allen’s column about how this might be Less about the “Vatican”  and about the emergence of the Global South. And yes I did read yalls post on the experience in Ghana. However that is still a viewpoint and yes when certain parts of the financial sector hiccups it can have an devastating effect elsewhere.

    I think this can be a healthy important conversation and maybe its good the Council pushed it.

  • Jeff Y.

    First, I resent the way Western Catholics use the word “Catholic” as though it only applies to the Roman Church. The Orthodox are Catholic, but not Roman Catholic. The Church includes all of the catholic faithful both Orthodox and Roman. But this is not my main point. It’s merely a trifle against Roman arrogance.

    Anyway. Has the Roman Church learned nothing since Galileo? He wrote, “the Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” The Church can teach us how to love our neighbor, but not what to produce for him and what to charge him for it.

    Hayek showed that no one can do that – not even a Vatican appointed central bank.

    • rightactions

      “The Orthodox are Catholic”?  I doubt that.  The Orthodox are neither Western (Roman) nor Eastern Catholics.

      The Catholic Church has learned much since Galileo, whose remark that you quoted is largely cribbed from St. Augustine.  What’s more, it’s Catholics – Western scholastics delving into the implications of natural law – who first discovered the basic principles of what Adam Smith would later name “the system of natural liberty” and Karl Marx would call capitalism.  Catholics also developed science and the scientific method long before Galileo.

      Perhaps, Jeff, you’re venting your frustration that Catholics here on Earth aren’t all perfect and that human frailty exists even among the Church hierarchy.  Oh well, the Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum of alabaster saints.

    • Slightly off topic, I realize, but the issue with Galileo was that he demanded the Church change its understanding of scripture to fit his. It was on this issue, primarily, that the Church reacted as it did. Many Jesuits had already accepted the heliocentric idea. Galileo’s real problems only developed after he agreed to back off these demands, essentially entering into a binding agreement from the order, and then subsequently started up again. This was the reason he spend a few days under house arrest in one of the apartments of an official of the Inquisition and the rest of his time house arrest. The issue wasn’t with Science, the issue was with Galileo stepping into theology instead of sticking with science and then the defiance of an order he agreed to.

  • Jeff Y.

    I agree with you, human frailty exists everywhere, even in the Church – then how can we trust the world central bank advocated by Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice? A world central bank would wield more power than any institution in human history. It’s frailties will be magnified by that power.

    You’re right, Galileo cribbed that quote from Augustine. The Church Father chastised Christians for arguing in subjects of which they were ignorant. He pointed them back to the evangelical mission of the Church – saving sinners – rather than embarrassing rhetoric in the sciences and philosophy. This injunctions seems well fitted to the publication of Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.

    Aren’t the arguments against central planning persuasive as set forth by Madison in Federalist #10 and Hayek The Use of Knowledge in Society?

    If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them. We cannot expect that this problem will be solved by first communicating all this knowledge to a central board which, after integrating all knowledge, issues its orders. We must solve it by some form of decentralization.

    Brother, please read Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church. Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority, especially the footnote at the end. There are catholic believers outside the Roman Catholic communion.

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