A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Globalization and Political Authority

In order to establish and maintain the common good in the context of globalization, Pope Benedict XVI has renewed the call for the establishment of a “world political authority” (Cf. Caritas in Veritate, 67).  Does the existence of a globalized society necessitate a global political authority?  Does such a concept have roots in the traditional social teaching of the Church?  We will consider this question first from the perspective of the natural law (social philosophy or natural ethics) and secondly from the teaching of the Popes in modern times.  Before exploring these questions, however, we will inquire into the nature of the phenomenon of globalization to better understand the precise meaning of the term.

What is Globalization?

Pope Benedicts XVI defines globalization as the “explosion of worldwide interdependence” (Caritas in Veritatis, 33) and that “globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad.  It will be what people make of it” (Caritas in Veritatis, 42).  We can say that individual nations begin to lose their status as a “perfect society” insofar as they begin to lose their self-sufficiency and begin relying on interdependencies within a body or community of nations.  This process has largely been the result of economic expansion enabled by advances in technology.  In practical terms we can say that individual nations have become less autonomous and the vastness of the world has become effectively “smaller”.  Jacques Maritain makes the following observations on the phenomenon of globalization:

“The basic fact is the henceforth unquestionable interdependence of nations, a fact which is not a token of peace, as people for a moment believed in their wishful thinking, but a token of war: why? Because that interdependence of nations is essentially an economic interdependence, not a politically agreed-upon, willed, and built up interdependence, in other words, because it has come to exist by virtue of a merely technical or material process, not by virtue of a simultaneous genuinely political or rational process…Quoting a statement of Mr. Emery Reves, Mortimer Adler, in his chapter on The Economic Community, points out that ‘the technical developments which render the world smaller, and its parts more interdependent, can have two consequences: 1) a political and economic rapprochement, or 2) fights and quarrels more devastating than ever, precisely because of the proximity of men to each other.  Which one of these two possibilities will occur depends on matters essentially nontechnical.’  And he rightly adds: ‘Both will occur within the next great historic epoch, but the second before the first.’” (Cf. Maritain, Man and the State, CUA Press, p. 189)

Globalization by Chance or by Design?

Pope Benedict XVI warns us not to consider the process of globalization in “fatalistic” terms or from a “deterministic” standpoint that can only perceive the “material” dimension.  We must consider above all the human, cultural and theological dimensions where the "earthly city" becomes to a certain extent "an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God." (Caritas in Veritate, 7) In this light, the “truth of globalization as a process and its fundamental ethical criterion are given by the unity of the human family and its development towards what is good” (Caritas in Veritate, 42).  Pope Pius XII indicates that this development is not simply by chance, but one willed by God and part of the Divine plan:

“The Christian therefore cannot remain indifferent to the evolution of the world.  If he sees now in rough outline a development, under the pressure of event, of a constantly narrowing international community, he knows that this unification, willed by the Creator, ought to culminate in a union of minds and hearts which is held together by a common faith and a common love.  Not only can he, but he must, work for the achievement of this community still in the process of formation.  The example and the plan of the Divine Master are, for him, a beacon and an incomparable source of strength.  All men are his brothers, not only in virtue of their common origin and their participation in the same nature but also, in a more pressing way, in virtue of their common calling to the supernatural life.  Sustained by this certitude, the Christian is in a position to gauge to what extent God wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (Pius XII, Address to the Eleventh Plenary Assembly of the International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals, April 25, 1957)

Therefore, globalization has effectively placed Catholics side-by-side with non-Catholic neighbors as noted by Journet: “Since the days of the medieval Church, a field in which wheat alone was sown, but enclosed in the narrow limits of the West, Providence has prepared a new era in which tares are to be mixed with the wheat but the field is to cover all the earth” (Cf. Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate pp. 283-284).  The reason for God’s designs remains a mystery, however, we can be assured that the ultimate purpose is for the good of mankind.  For example, globalization in this sense positions Catholics to act as a leaven in practically every corner of the world in order that all men, in union with Christ, come to call upon God as “Our Father!” (Cf. Caritas in Veritatis, 79)  For their part, Catholics can benefit from the practice of moral and social virtues that would remain more or less dormant by living solely among like-minded fellow Catholics.  Such a scenario necessarily puts Christians in a position of having to collaborate with people of various cultures and religious traditions.  Often it involves the cooperation in “secular” organizations, such as the United Nations, that have no explicit reference to God or religion.  Is this permissible for Catholics?  At a first glance, it may seem tempting to reject such a notion as participation in "naturalism" or "secular humanism" that seems necessarily opposed to supernatural truth and the Kingship of Christ.  Yet Pope Pius XII denounces this tendency as the error of a “one-sided supernaturalism.”  (Cf. Pius XII, Christmas Message, December 24, 1954)  Pope Pius XII continues:

“Does this mean that one cannot collaborate in the service of the world community with those institutions where God is not expressly recognized as the author and legislator of the universe?  It is important to distinguish here the different levels of cooperation.  Without forgetting that his ultimate goal is to contribute to the eternal salvation of his brothers, the Christian will be mindful that the coming of the Kingdom of God in hearts and institutions most often requires a minimum of human enlightenment, a simple appeal to reason with which every man normally concurs, even if he has not the grace of faith.” (Pius XII, Address to the Eleventh Plenary Assembly of the International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals, April 25, 1957)

By this we understand that the social Kingship of Christ over social institutions and nations in the temporal order – while sustained and perfected by the order of grace – finds its center of gravity in the order of reason and the natural law.

Foundations in Natural Law 

Fr. Thomas J. Higgins, S. J. provides the following arguments in support of international social organization from the basis of natural law (Cf. Higgins, Man as Man: The Science and Art of Ethics, TAN Publishers, 1958, 1992, p. 559-561):

THESIS LXXX.  The States are now obliged to erect a positive international authority possessing the institutions necessary to regulate by law the international acts of the nations and attain the end of international society.

Every kind of social obligation does not apply at all times in history…For countless generations the State has been the ultimate unit of social organization…But now the uninhabited parts of the earth have been occupied, and the old isolating barriers have disappeared, because modern transportation and communication have made all nations neighbors.  As a result, the international contacts and interdependencies of all States have increased a thousandfold…

PROOF.  States are obliged to do that which the welfare of their people imperatively demands.  The welfare of all peoples demands positive international authority capable of regulating the international acts of all nations.  In the present system of unlimited national sovereignties the welfare neither of particular people nor of the whole human race is sufficiently provided for.

a)      The welfare of individual nations is at stake.  It is an anachronism to say that today each nation is adequately self-sufficient.  First, when international war arises what single nation can isolate the war or maintain a strict neutrality or when attacked adequately protect its people?  Second, economically and financially no nation can get along without the cooperation of the rest of the world.

b)      The welfare of the human race is at stake.  The important social acts of man require regulation and supervision by positive law; otherwise social life is impossible.  Ample regulation on local, regional, and national levels is provided by State law.  On the international level there is little law.  So long as international relations did not deeply affect the daily lives of men, lack of positive international authority was of small consequence.  But now the economic life of the world is one.  Unfortunately, however, international commerce and finance are conducted as undercover war.  When the tension becomes too great, world-wide war results…the only hope of eliminating or at least lessening the frequency of international war is international authority in law.   

Institutionalized Global Tyranny?

The mere existence of various layers of organization (from the local to the international) does not necessarily imply or lead to authoritarianism or tyranny.  The danger of tyranny can only hope to be avoided by adhering to sound principles of government lead by virtuous men.  In the first place is the principle of the “rule of law” where the various offices are “balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds.  This is the principle…in which the law is sovereign and not the arbitrary will of men” (CCC, #1904).  The second fundamental principle to be observed is the “principle of subsidiarity”:  

“Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. It is able to take account both of the manifold articulation of plans — and therefore of the plurality of subjects — as well as the coordination of those plans. Hence the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development.  In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. This authority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way, if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice.” (Caritas in Veritate, 57)

Rupture or Continuity?  A Survey of Papal Statements on International Order

Pope Leo XIII

There is lacking in the international consortium of nations a system of legal and moral means to determine and guarantee the rights of each.  Only an immediate recourse to force remains.  Rivalry among nations and the development of their military power are the results of these policies…In view of such an unfortunate state of things, the institution of mediation and arbitration appears to the most opportune remedy; it corresponds in all respect to the aspirations of the Holy See.  Perhaps – and this will be better brought out in the discussions of the conference – perhaps We can hope that arbitration, obligatory by its very nature, can become in all circumstances the object of unanimous acceptance and assent.  An institution of mediation, invested with authority and clothed with all the necessary moral prestige, if fortified with the indispensable guarantees of competence and impartiality and in no way restricting the liberty of the litigating powers, would be less exposed to meet obstacles…At the same time, the Holy See expresses a most ardent wish that in the councils of these power the principle of mediation and arbitration may find favorable welcome and be applied as widely as possible.  We give Our keenest sympathy to such a proposal and declare that We are always disposed to cooperate most willingly in order that such a proposal may have a favorable outcome.  For We are convinced that, if an effective international accord could be realized, the latter would have a most happy effect in the interest of civilization.  (Second Diplomatic Note of Cardinal Rampolla, Secretary of State, to Count Mouraviev, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Russia, February 10, 1899)

Pope Benedict XV

Things being thus restored, the order required by justice and charity re-established and the nations reconciled, it is much to be desired, Venerable Brethren, that all States, putting aside mutual suspicion, should unite in one league, or rather a type of family of peoples, calculated both to maintain their own independence and safeguard the order of human society.  What especially, among other reasons, calls for such an association of nations, is the generally recognized need of making every effort to abolish or reduce the enormous burden of the military expenditure which the State can no longer afford, in order to forestall these disastrous wars or at least to remove the danger of them as far as possible.  So would each nation be assured not only of its independence but also of the integrity of its territory within its just boundaries.  (Benedict XV, Pacem Dei Munus, 1920)

Pope Pius XI

Never perhaps in the past have we seen, as we see in these our own times, the minds of men so occupied by the desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together, and which is a consequence of our common origin and nature. For since the nations do not yet fully enjoy the fruits of peace -- indeed rather do old and new disagreements in various places break forth into sedition and civic strife -- and since on the other hand many disputes which concern the tranquillity and prosperity of nations cannot be settled without the active concurrence and help of those who rule the States and promote their interests, it is easily understood, and the more so because none now dispute the unity of the human race, why many desire that the various nations, inspired by this universal kinship, should daily be more closely united one to another.  (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928)

Pope Pius XII

The decisions already published by international commissions permit one to conclude that an essential point in any future international arrangement would be the formation of an organ for the maintenance of peace, of an organ invested by common consent with supreme power to whose office it would also pertain to smother in its germinal state any threat of isolated or collective aggression.  No one could hail this development with greater joy than he who has long upheld the principle that the idea of war as an apt and proportionate means of solving international conflicts is now out of date.  No one could wish success to this common effort, to be undertaken with a seriousness of purpose never before known, with greater enthusiasm, than he who has conscientiously striven to make the Christian and religious mentality reject modern war with its monstrous means of conducting hostilities.  (Pius XII, Christmas Message, 1944)

The Catholic doctrine on the State and civil society has always been based on the principle that, in keeping with the will of God, the nations form together a community with a common aim and common duties.  Even when the proclamation of this principle and its practical consequences gave rise to violent reactions, the Church denied her assent to the erroneous concept of an absolutely autonomous sovereignty divested of all social obligations. (Pius XII, Christmas Massage, 1948)

Your movement, gentlemen, dedicates itself to realizing an effective political organization of the world.  Nothing is more in conformity with the traditional doctrine of the Church, with her teaching concerning legitimate or illegitimate war, above all in the present emergency.  It is necessary, therefore, to arrive at such an organization, if for no other reason than to put an end ot the armaments race in which for many tears peoples have been ruining and exhausting themselves through sheer waste.  (Pius XII, Address to delegates of the fourth annual Congress of the World Movement for Federal Government, April 6, 1951)

No one expects or demands the impossible, not even from the United Nations; but one should have a right to expect that their authority should have had its weight, at least through observers, in the places in which the essential values of man are in extreme danger.  Although the United Nations’ condemnation of the grave violations of the rights of men and of entire nations is worthy of recognition, one can nevertheless wish that, in similar cases, the exercise of their rights, as members of this Organization, be denied to States which refuse even the admission of observers – thus showing that their concept of State sovereignty threatens the very foundations of the United Nations.  This organization ought also to have the right and the power of forestalling all military intervention of one State in another, whatever be the pretext under which it is effected, and also the right and power of assuming, by means of a sufficient police force, the safeguarding of order in the State which is threatened.  If We allude to these defects, it is because We desire to see strengthened the authority of the U.N. especially for effecting general disarmament which We have so much at heart, and on which We have already spoken in other discourses.  In fact only in the ambit of an institution like the United Nations can the promise of individual nations to reduce armament, especially to abandon production and use of certain arms, be mutually exchanged under the strict obligation of international law.  Likewise only the United Nations is at present in a position to exact the observance of this obligation by assuming effective control of the armaments of all nations without exception...The acceptance of the control is the point crucial for victory, where every nation will show sincere desire for peace.   (Pius XII, Christmas Message, 1956)

Pope Benedict XVI

“In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.”  (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 67)

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Anonymous mike hurcum said...

thank you opuscula for your well written article.

July 17, 2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


A well-written and thought-provoking analysis. You certainly did a good job of anticipating my primary objection to global authority (an objection shared by many Traditionalists): the specter of an institutionalized global tyranny, viz., the global reign of anti-Christ.

Seen from the perspective of Fatima, globalization presents a remarkable opportunity. Is it possible that Our Lady had the phenomenon of globalization in mind when she requested the spread of devotion to the Immaculate Heart throughout the world?


July 24, 2009 7:58 AM  

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