The Catholic Thing
Does the Catholic Church Favor World Government? (with apologies to Aquinas) Print E-mail
By Kevin M. Doak   
Thursday, 10 September 2009

Question I: Does Benedict XVI advocate world government in Caritas in Veritate?

It seems he does.
1. Benedict writes: “in the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need . . . for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance” (CiV, 67).
2. Benedict continues: reform is “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” (67).
3. This authority need: “(i) to be regulated by law; (ii) to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights; (iii) to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums” (67).
Together, these points present strong evidence that Benedict advocates a new form of World Government, that has moral, legal and political legitimacy, but also authority to force compliance with its decisions on a global scale.
1. Benedict stipulates that true world political authority not only “would need to be regulated by law, [but also] to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity” (CiV 67). Subsidiarity “is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state” (57). “Any form” of the “all-encompassing welfare state” must include a single, global or World State.
2. Benedict locates “true world political authority” in the tradition of John XXIII”s Pacem in Terris and the Compendium of Social Doctrine, 441(57). We must find there evidence of what Benedict means by “true world political authority.”
First, from Pacem in Terris:
137. Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are world-wide in their dimensions. . . .Consequently the moral order itself demands the establishment of some such general form of public authority.
138. But this general authority equipped with world-wide power and adequate means for achieving the universal common good cannot be imposed by force.
140. [S]ubsidiarity. . .must also apply to the relations between the public authority of the world community and the public authorities of each political community.
141. But it is no part of the duty of universal authority to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of individual States, or to arrogate any of their functions to itself. (emphasis added)
Comment: John XXIII’s “general form of public authority” is not the same as a world state. He desires this general authority to have some kind of world-wide power, but not to be exercised by “force” or “imposition.” Such a “public authority” is not what we generally mean by a state or government, which exercises force legitimately.
Next, from The Compendium of Social Doctrine:
441. Concern for an ordered and peaceful coexistence within the human family prompts the Magisterium to insist on the need to establish “some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all”. . . .it is essential that such an authority arise from mutual agreement and that it not be imposed, nor must it be understood as a kind of “global super-State.”(emphasis added)
Political authority exercised at the level of the international community must be regulated by law, ordered to the common good and respectful of the principle of subsidiarity (emphasis in original).
Comment: The Compendium re-states John XXIII’s thoughts, while making explicit that this authority must not be understood “as a kind of ‘global super-State’.” There is no significant difference between the two or any innovation in the The Compendium, nor does Benedict XVI indicate any incompatibility between them or his own thoughts on the matter.
3. Benedict also rejects force as the mechanism of compliance, which is to come instead from “the construction of social order that at last conforms to the moral order.” Obedience to “true world political authority” will flow voluntarily from obedient subjects whose wills are conformed to God’s. This will probably not happen anytime soon.
There is apparent tension between Benedict’s view of the need for some new world public authority, the legitimate rights of national States, and the illegitimacy of a world authority that is imposed on the States.
To reconcile this apparent contradiction, we may start with “ubi societas, ibi ius” (Cicero), which can be reversed: “where there is law, there is society.” Hence, we may conclude that Natural Law as universally valid presumes there must be a world community, but the existence of a world community does not require the existence of a World State. Natural Law tradition rejects neo-Kantian positivism and its epistemological skepticism that regards positive laws as the only knowable laws and thus finds law originating in the state. In contrast, Natural Law is independent of and pre-exists the State, originating in human personhood.
Benedict XVI operates from Natural Law and not Neo-Kantian assumptions; for him, Natural Law and the World Community do not mean there must be a World State. The world authority or “governance” he describes refers mainly to the Natural Law and the need to bring various international organizations more fully into compliance with it. National politics have increasingly grown remote from the Natural Law. Therefore, we do need “a reform of the United Nations Organization . . . so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth” (67). But “the family of nations” exists within a global society, which as it moves towards societas perfecta, increasingly approximates the Natural Law. Once it has perfectly reflected the Natural Law, then obedience to the world authority will flow naturally, not by force, from the moral conscience of each member of this global society.
Thus, a careful reading of Caritas in Veritate demonstrates that Benedict is not calling for a World State to fulfill functions that must come ultimately from the human heart. Q.E.D.

Kevin Doak is a professor in the Catholic Studies Program and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Georgetown University.

© 2009 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org

The Catholic Thing
is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (10)Add Comment
In time or eternity?
written by elder reader, September 11, 2009
This world community governed by Natural Law: No person of good will could fail to agree with the Pope that a world governed by free obedience to Natural Law "written on the heart" would be a great good. The challenge to hope arises when one looks around - but then the power of the Holy Spirit is our hope.
written by Andrew, September 11, 2009
We already have a worldwide body that has the moral authority/legitimacy spoken of and have for the past 2000 years. It is the only body that will ever truly have this authority. It is the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
written by helenm, September 11, 2009
Sorry, Mr. Doak. I read your article with anticipation but was quite disappointed. It comes across as sales, as if you want so much to believe this and want us to believe it. And, don't get me wrong I love our Pope. I just can't yet figure out why he said what he said. This is searching for Utopia. Utopia is dream, very often a leftist, socialist dream. The Catholic Church has always taught about the evils of searching for Utopia. So, overall, I'm unconvinced and somewhat concerned.
Wonderful piece
written by Dave, September 11, 2009
This is simply superb. Benedict is Augustinian not Thomist by inclination, and so , too, is Thomas. Here, Prof. Doak shows the perennial validity of reading Augustine through Thomas, as the Church as done since the Angelic Doctor showed us how. Apart from the technical tour-de-force, Prof. Doak performs an important service by distinguishing authority from State and by showing that orthodoxy is not co-terminous with the Leftist spirit of the age. Thank you very much, sir.
Where is God
written by Fr.Tim, September 11, 2009
Who interprets Natural Law? Is it the United Nations or the Church? Where is God's law or the social Kingship of Christ in this? If our spiritual struggle is between the city of God or the city of man, which one establishes the framework or is it a compromise?
Sorry for all the questions but really, if the Alta Vendita has not been fulfilled, then I must be blind.....
written by Rudy G, September 11, 2009
I highly respect our pope and I think he is a great theologian. But his confidence that a new World Government would be ruled by natural law and Christian and in particular a Catholic understanding of subsidiarity is naive. As the European Union experiment and the United Nations today demonstrate, the trend is for a World Government hostile to Christianity in general and particularly to the Catholic Church. The pope is too optimistic on the good will of the ruling elites of today.
I get it!
written by Joel Smith, September 11, 2009
As Andrew aluded to, the World authority that the Pope speaks of is nothing less than the Catholic Church!...the Catholic Church should replace the United Nations. That's the message I got.
The Interpreter
written by Tapestry, September 11, 2009
I sometimes wonder if that is Benedict speaking or the translator for Benedict.
Wasn't it he that sent back the Catholic Catechism a few times because the English translation was not right?
Let's not be so critical of what he "said" unless he told you in English directly what he meant.
written by Joe, September 12, 2009
I think you hit the nail on the head. People always look for something to mean political authority while there is so much more than that...
written by JF, September 14, 2009
I have to agree with Rudy G. and Fr.Tim (among the others) - if we are really naive about it all, then we can believe in the salvific powers of a worldwide authority (apart from the Church Herself). Christ is our King, and He told us we would be at odds with the world.

Any argument for a benign world authority is completely unconvincing, as seen in contrast to the fallen nature and the perpetual spiritual battle that surrounds us.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author