Thomas Peters says that the Pope didn’t call for a central world bank in that controversial Vatican document on the economy released today. I wish I could share that view, and I wish I could share the view of other Catholic friends of mine, who are downplaying the significance of this document as the mere opinion of a Peace and Justice commission, with no binding force on Catholics.

On that point, they’re right: this is not like a papal encyclical. It has no binding force at all. It is nothing more than a bunch of suggestions. The Catholic Left will run with this as far as they’ll be able to take it, which, given the ignorance of most people (Catholics and non-Catholics, especially in the media) about how the Catholic Church’s teaching authority works, will be pretty far. That said, and agreeing that most of what’s in this document is quite good, or at least uncontroversial to all but free-market ideologues, I don’t think it’s possible to say, as some Catholic conservatives are doing now, that there’s really nothing much to see here. I’m prepared to be wrong, and I really would like to be convinced that I’m wrong.

It’s true that this isn’t something completely new in the Catholic Church. As the document points out, Pope John XXIII, in 1963, “expressed the hope that one day “a true world political authority.” The new document says (emphases mine):

In the same spirit of Pacem in Terris, Benedict XVI himself expressed the need to create a world political authority. This seems obvious if we consider the fact that the agenda of questions to be dealt with globally is becoming ever longer. Think, for example, of peace and security; disarmament and arms control; promotion and protection of fundamental human rights; management of the economy and development policies; management of the migratory flows and food security, and protection of the environment.

It really does say that the problems facing the globe are so great that only a supranational political authority can properly handle them. There follows several long paragraphs describing how this world political authority should work. It should represent everybody. It should be freely entered into. The powerful shouldn’t dominate. It should work for the common good, respecting diversity, etc. All fine-sounding stuff, but utopian. If we ever get to this kind of global government, you may be sure that the Second Coming has occurred.

The document’s authors try to anticipate the possibilities of abuse of power under a central global Authority (the capitalization is in the original), but it seems a dangerous fantasy to think this can actually be achieved on a worldwide scale. The document has phrases like “the creation of a public Authority with universal jurisdiction … [o]n the way to creating a world political Authority… [t]he establishment of a global political Authority … global Government” that make one want to reach for one’s rifle. The document also says that “one can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of “central world bank” that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks.” So all governments would have to surrender sovereignty over its monetary policy to the global Authority.

Finally, the document says:

So conditions exist for definitively going beyond a ‘Westphalian’ international order in which the States feel the need for cooperation but do not seize the opportunity to integrate their respective sovereignties for the common good of peoples.It is the task of today’s generation to recognize and consciously to accept these new world dynamics for the achievement of a universal common good. Of course, this transformation will be made at the cost of a gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world Authority and to regional Authorities, but this is necessary at a time when the dynamism of human society and the economy and the progress of technology are transcending borders, which are in fact already very eroded in a globalized world.

Got that? This Vatican document is calling on all nations to give up sovereignty (because you can only “integrate” your sovereignty by giving it up) for the “universal common good.” This is “necessary,” we are told — and further, “for every Christian there is a special call of the Spirit to become committed decisively and generously” to this One World Government project. The final sentences:

The spirit of Babel is the antithesis of the Spirit of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12), of God’s design for the whole of humanity: that is, unity in truth. Only a spirit of concord that rises above divisions and conflicts will allow humanity to be authentically one family and to conceive of a new world with the creation of a world public Authority at the service of the common good.

This is sinister utopianism, full stop.

Fortunately, this advisory document does not reflect official Vatican policy, or even the opinion of the Pope. But neither is it the minutes of the meeting of the faculty Peace & Justice Committee at St. Kumbaya College. It is the product of the thinking of a Curial committee at the summit of governance of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s not nothing. If the Vatican is going to put something like this out counseling world leaders to move us all toward the creation of a one-world political and fiscal authority, it had better be prepared to explain itself more clearly, and not simply assume that the wider public understands the finer points of curial authority and the categories of Vatican statements.