The line from conservative Catholics about yesterday’s Vatican statement calling for global government is that this is no big deal: it’s only the mutterings of a semi-obscure lefty committee within the Vatican, and certainly doesn’t represent the Pope’s views.

Lee Penn begs to differ. He says that it is wholly consistent with the vision Pope Benedict XVI called for in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which, as a papal encyclical, is binding on the faithful in a way that the position paper from the Vatican’s Peace and Justice office is not.

Before I go to Lee’s commentary, let me explain that the pope’s encyclical is a long, dense, hugely complex and profound meditation on the Church’s social teaching in light of contemporary economic, social, and technological realities. There is much wisdom in it. For example:

The Church’s social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or “after” it. The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner. … Every economic decision has a moral consequence. [Emphasis in the original.]

In other words, the Market is not God, but a mechanism through which human flourishing takes place, and must be governed to a certain degree by rules that lead to that end. I don’t see how any conservative, aside from libertarians, can disagree with that. There’s a lot of that in the encyclical.

But here’s what troubles Lee Penn. It comes in a paragraph from near the end of the encyclical. Read below the jump for the whole thing.

67. 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. [Italics in the original; boldface is my own emphasis -- RD].

In an analysis of the 2009 encyclical that he forwarded to me this morning, Lee Penn writes:

The Vatican, once an opponent of all forms of globalist utopianism, is now seeking its own variant of a world government.

In his latest encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI called for creating a “true world political authority” with “real teeth” that would have the power to redistribute wealth and energy, direct economic development, regulate migration and technology, and set environmental regulations. This regime would be “universally recognized” and would have “the effective power” to carry out its vast mandate. Benedict believes that the United Nations can be reformed to be the basis for this new global entity.

Benedict believes that the new global regime can uphold natural law, subsidiarity, protection of human life from conception through natural death, traditional families, and Catholic social teachings. He calls for the Church to be politically active in order to pursue these goals. Notwithstanding the example provided by Christ and the saints, Benedict says that “the political path” of charity is “no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity that encounters the neighbor directly.” Benedict thus hopes to create a new “social order that at last conforms to the moral order,” but he does not specify how those who hold these orthodox Catholic beliefs will be able to assume and maintain control of the new global government.

Benedict supports a “world political authority,” even though the United Nations and the European Union (the most powerful trans-national institutions in existence thus far), have proven themselves to be bureaucratic, corrupt, friendly to Third World dictators, supportive of “population control” and “reproductive rights,” and anti-Christian.

More from Lee:

Caritas in Veritate is a definitive Papal teaching, not an impulsive release of a botched document. Its stand in favor of a New World Order is consistent with Benedict’s statements since he became Pope in 2005 – including a call for a “new world order” in his first Christmas message to the world in December 2005. Benedict has repeated this same message since Caritas in Veritate was published in the summer of 2009. The encyclical is binding Church teaching, and – thus far – most Catholics have greeted it with assent or with silence, a far cry from the loud dissent that followed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical against artificial birth control.

… Caritas in Veritate should be seen as what it is: a theological and political earthquake. The Roman Catholic Church, which was once a guardian of tradition worldwide, now wishes to use radical means (a “true world political authority”) for its own socio-political ends. Ordinary prudence should have warned the Vatican against such folly.

I have only read Caritas in Veritate for the first time this morning. Plainly, to really understand it would require serious study. Nevertheless, a cursory reading of the encyclical suggests to me that yesterday’s statement from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, while not formally a binding Church teaching in the way a papal encyclical is, nevertheless is undeniably grounded in Benedict’s clear and authoritative teaching. I hope I’m wrong about this, but it seems pretty clear to me that Lee Penn’s analysis is more sound than those conservative admirers of Benedict’s who wish to dismiss the Justice and Peace council’s teaching as a one-off from the Church Left.

If I’m wrong, and if Lee is wrong, please show us. I’m an admirer of Benedict, and would prefer not to believe that he has put the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church behind one-world government, however benignly he conceives it. I think many of us would prefer not to believe that the Holy Father has done this. But words mean things. And, as conservative Catholic admirers of Benedict love to say, “The cafeteria is closed.”