Does Pope Benedict support Occupy Wall Street?

Vincenzo Pinto AFP/Getty Images Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Oct. 23, … Continued

Vincenzo Pinto

AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Oct. 23, 2011.

Does the Vatican’s new document calling for a “central world bank” and a “supranational authority” to advance the common economic good mean that Pope Benedict supports the complaints behind the Occupy Wall Street movement?

“ ‘The basic sentiment’ behind the protests is in line with Catholic social teaching and the new document on global finance issued Oct. 24 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,” council President Cardinal Peter Turkson, said to the National Catholic Reporter.

But a debate over the authority of the document, and the requirement (or not) of Catholics to support it, is now being waged by some of America’s most prominent Catholic writers, scholars and activists.

You can read the full text of the document, Note on financial reform from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in the embed below. Among the findings are calls for:

Many conservative Catholics writers, who often defend the Vatican against critique, have suggested that the council either lacks the authority to compel Catholics to support it, or that the media is misrepresenting the full vision of the document. Meanwhile, liberal Catholics who tend to emphasize the church’s teachings on social justice are heralding the document as proof of the church’s solidarity with global economic protests and those who are suffering during this time of economic downturn.

Here’s the view from the blogosphere:

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue notes that the document was not penned by Pope Benedict and lacks the authority of an encyclical.

George Weigel, writing in the National Review, shared Donohue’s sentiment: “The document is a ‘Note’ from a rather small office in the Roman Curia. The document’s specific recommendations do not necessarily reflect the settled views of the senior authorities of the Holy See.” Further, Weigel suggests that Catholics do not need to agree with the recommendations, writing, “Catholics (and others) are entirely free to disagree — as many already have, and vociferously — with the specific suggestions of the Justice and Peace document.”

At CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters writes, “Liberal Catholic routinely (and in this case) try to read the church’s social teaching as dogmatic while choosing to view the church’s moral and religious teaching as optional. In fact, the church herself is always careful to make clear that her moral and religious teaching is dogmatic and binding while her social teaching — and particularly her economic teaching — is exhortative and prudential.”

At the National Review, Samuel Gregg says Catholics should feel free to question the economic recommendations of the council: “Many of its authors’ ideas reflect an uncritical assimilation of the views of many of the very same individuals and institutions that helped generate the world’s most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression.. . . We can surely do better.”

Nicholas Hahn at Real Clear Religion called the document “incompetent babble on financial reform.”

Surveying the scene for Religion News Service, Catholic journalist David Gibson suggested that the ‘cafeteria’ label doesn’t just apply to liberal Catholics, with so many conservatives rejecting the council’s recommendations. Among the responses on the left:

At the National Catholic Reporter, Sean Michael Winters notes: “It didn’t take long for certain conservative critics to denounce the document released yesterday by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace regarding the world financial crisis. This is the same crowd which, on other issues, points to similar Vatican documents and invests them with enormous authority. But not now. . . What is curiously absent from all these (conservative) interventions and analysis is any attempt to wrestle with the issues the document does raise.”

“When it comes to economic justice, Pope Benedict XVI is to the left of President Obama. Heck, he is even to the left of Nancy Pelosi,” Thomas Reese, S.J., wrote in support of the document.

“The Vatican’s timely call for global economic justice should also inspire U.S. Catholic bishops, scheduled to gather for a national meeting next month, to start offering a bolder critique of economic libertarianism and anti-government ideology now ascendant in our nation’s politics,” wrote the Bold Faith Type blog of the religious advocacy group Faith in Public Life.

Were you surprised, disappointed or encouraged by the council’s analysis and findings?

Elizabeth Tenety
Written by

  • jburnetti

    On the other hand — parishioners in many old ethnic Churches around the country are ready to occupy the parishes they, their parents, and their grandparents built – as the Church closes them down because they need the money to defend lawsuits, and because they can’t recruit priests because they ignore half the flock (the women), most of the men (married). In the Diocese of Scranton, for instance, the Church has been selling these treasured facilities for pennies on the dollar – and then asking retired parishioners on Social Security to rehab the remaining consolidated churches (often selling the better kept, prime properties out from under the flock). It may be time for grandma and grandpa to occupy their old churches!

  • DaveHarris

    Since doing anything good for people is considered “socialism” by the increasingly insane Republican party, this is going to put the Pope at odds with them. If he has any hope of banning birth control in the U.S. (and making the cops look the other way on priest child-molestation cases), the Republicans are his only hope. He should re-think this. Evil is as evil does.

  • hlouisnini

    I am embarrassed, as a long time “fallen away” it still astounds me how tin eared the Vatican can be in light of the hash they make with their own corrupt banking system some years back and the current mess the American Hierarchy is making of the abuse scandal – it seems to me that a little bit of humility and a return to the God Shepherd mode would serve well here.

  • hlouisnini

    Please excuse the typo it should read “Good Shepherd”

  • hlouisnini

    Then on the other hand maybe “God’s Shepherd” is more appropriate.

  • alvinmoop

    Sigh. I just wish the Holy Father knew half as much about economics as he does about theology.

  • dataflunky

    Try occupying the Vatican and see how far you get.

  • paultaylor1

    There seems to be a difference of opinion on what is the “common good.” And, in an institution founded for the purpose of overseeing global economics, we will no doubt see that difference magnified on a global scale.

    Wall Street financial interests, business and industry believe they are the answers to that question. If you pamper them sufficiently, they will produce and, they claim, bestow. Never mind, of course, that they have a history of occupying the nations for their own good, exclusively.

    The people, on another hand, believe they represent the common good. They have the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, and sometimes, and arguably, the Pope, to back them up. That’s part of the reason they are ignored so thoroughly on Wall Street. Wall Street has its own god. And that’s also why it is timely, in this near-depression, that the people Occupy Wall Street!

  • Bluefish2012

    No, the Vatican is not infallible on matters of finance and economics. Any good Catholic knows that.

    But matters of faith and morals do have an impact on the real world just the same–“if “X” is true then it follows that “Y” is at least a reasonable outcome. For xample, if it’s true that global warming is a fact, it’s reasonable to think that man-made causes are bringing it about. Conservatives attack that kind of thinking, and they are doing the same with the Vatican’s reasoning–going back to Pope St. Leo XIII–on economic justice.

  • RichZubaty2

    All this nitpcking and posturing misses the point. Right now we have a completely out of control banking system and something has to be done about it. Even the Pope recognizes that. Whether we need a World Bank (I thought we already have one?) or a World Banking regulatory system, something has to be done. Worldwide there are $60 trillion in UNregulated — i.e. unknown — derivatives, and the entire annual US economy is only $13 trillion. This is insane. The Pope is right about that.

  • jamesejennings

    I am delighted that the Roman Church is continuing to speak on social justice. It is in the tradition of Rerum Novarum of Leo XII, Quadirgessimo Anno and of Mater et Magister . That last one evoked the anger of Buckley who said Mater – yes, Magister – no. This is teaching that our conservative Catholics don’t want to hear.

  • schymtz

    Spiritual leadership is missing. It is difficult to read the prophets seriously and not take the objective of social justice very seriously. Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the inevitable exile brought a spiritual or theological dimension to that concern. Ignoring a collective social moral responsibility for social justice leads to sacred wrath and collective judgement over generations. At present, it seems demonstratively true that the “radical right” is quite literally an “abomination.” Capitalism” is a poor substitute for religious doctrine that all too easily risks idolatry. At the same time, the “anemic left” without the kind of spiritual and moral power that drove earlier civil rights and organized labor movements. All that being said, the logical balance of power to trans-national corporate power would seem to be global regulation and/or global labor movements. Else representative government becomes obsolete and a trans-national corporate oligarchy becomes absolute. “New World Order.”

  • juneannette

    The RCC / Vatican are an altogether morally and spiritual bankrupt institution They have ZERO credibility. Their holier than thou image has been marred and tarnished beyond repair by the unholy conduct of her sanctimonious priests and bishops and it ts THEY who now must endure the universal contempt and censure of the world community for the abuse of children they have perpetrated across the globe and have sought relentlessly to cover up!
    The pope and his operatives, the so-called “princes of the church”
    need to get their priorities straight. They need to get their own house in order!

    THEY are in no position to preach to the world! on “matters of finance and economics. More to the point . . that is not
    their purvue!

    Christ gave His disciples . . His church . . the mandate to
    “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
    not a mandate to establish a “central world bank” and / or a “world political authority”

  • juneannette

    The RCC aka the/ Vatican are an altogether morally and spiritual bankrupt institution They have ZERO credibility. Their holier than thou image has been marred and tarnished beyond repair by the unholy conduct of her sanctimonious priests and bishops and it ts THEY who now must endure the universal contempt and censure of the world community for the abuse of children they have perpetrated across the globe and have sought relentlessly to cover up!
    The pope and his operatives, the so-called …See More”princes of the church”
    need to get their priorities straight. They need to get their own house in order!

    THEY are in no position to preach to the world! on “matters of finance and economics. More to the point . . that is not
    their purvue!

    Christ gave His disciples . . His church . . the mandate to
    “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
    not a mandate to establish a “central world bank” and / or a “world political authority”

  • ccnl1

    Considering the problem with the Vatican Bank and the following synopsis of Christian economics, the Pope should tend to matters of god and not financial markets.

    Christian Economics/Greed 101:

    The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the “dunking”. The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added “healing” as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree. But still no greed there.

    Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters and a prophecy of the imminent second coming for a fee for salvation and “Gentilized” the good word to the “big buck” world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!! And he and the other Apostles forgot to pay their Roman taxes and the legendary actions by the Romans made them martyrs for future greed. Paul was guilty of minor greed?

    Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them “free”. Major greed on his part!!

    The Holy Roman “Empirers”/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelicals et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today’s richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

    “Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God’s hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus’ failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial sec