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Friday, July 3, 2009

The Pope's "World Political Authority"

Forerunner, "WorldWatch," July-August 2009

On July 7, 2009, the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), his third, in which he writes of his desire that the world radically rethink the global economy in light of growing disparity between rich and poor, and establish a "true world political authority" to work for the "common good." Under current economic conditions, few question the need for a thorough review and alteration of the way the world handles its wealth, but his insistence on an international authoritative political body taking up this responsibility caught many pundits off-guard.

Among the churches of God—and among Protestant prophecy watchers, too—there were raised eyebrows and wondering commentaries regarding the imminent fulfillment of Revelation 13:11-18. Of course, whether this Pope is the "beast from the earth," better known as the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10), remains to be seen. Benedict's age and relatively low-key international profile tend to argue against it. In fact, whether this or any Pope will be the False Prophet is still an unanswered question; he could just as easily be a non-Christian advocate of a one-world religion.

Be that as it may, after reading or hearing the Pope's seeming proposal of one-world government, many people have questioned whether he was actually doing that. Perhaps to allow us to judge for ourselves, we should see his words in context:

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. . . ."

On its face, this paragraph appears to advocate a planetary government with the "real teeth" to implement sweeping and effective changes to the global economy, as well as to disarm bellicose states, distribute food evenly, keep the peace, protect the environment, and control migration. If so, it is an alarming prospect indeed, considering human corruption and fallibility over the course of history!

However, in "Is Benedict in Favor of World Government?" (First Things, August 20, 2009), Douglas A. Sylva, Senior Fellow at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, argues that Benedict's call for "world political authority" presupposes the failure of the present attempt at world governance—the United Nations—and advocates a new one based on Christian principles. He quotes the end of the above paragraph from the encyclical:

The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater international ordering, marked by subsidiarity [giving subordinate governments the authority to oversee functions that they perform more effectively], for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order. . . ."

As Sylva puts it, "[His proposal] is in reality a profound challenge to the UN, and the other international organizations, to make themselves worthy of authority, of the authority that they already possess, and worthy of the expansion of authority that appears to be necessary in light of the accelerated pace of globalization." What would make such an international organization worthy of such heavy responsibility is, according to Benedict, "a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth." In other words, as the Pope makes clear in the remainder of the encyclical, a world government up to the task would have to respect the right to life of every individual and promote virtuous, morally sound actions.

The current "world order" fails on both counts. The UN, despite granting every sort of humanistic "right," leads the way in promoting abortion, population control, liberal bioethics, and euthanasia. It advances a culture of death, not one of life. In addition, in its missions and administration it has shown itself to be utterly corrupt from top to bottom. It is not worthy of the world's trust, which any government needs to function effectively.

In his own way, Benedict is calling for a moral, social, and political order that can only be fulfilled by the Kingdom of God, the only world government that has the moral authority and power to make the necessary changes that will bring about peace, prosperity, and life. As Sylva explains, "Now, in his teaching role as pope, Benedict is not simply protesting but offering the Christian alternative. . . ." The Catholic Church and the churches of God certainly have differing views on how it will come about, but at least in theory we agree that the only acceptable and workable world government is a truly moral and righteous one.

We can all be thankful that that government is coming soon (Revelation 22:20). This world certainly needs it.