New Vatican Document Good News for Poor, Bad News for Tea Party

Medical alert: Right-wing Catholics—and that includes everyone from Paul Ryan and John Boehner to the majority of the US Supreme Court—it is urgent that you stay on your meds because Pope Benedict’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has just issued a stroke-precipitating document that will break your conservative hearts with the unwieldy title: Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority.

What Right Wing Catholics piously desire is a Pelvic Zone Papacy, one that will rail against contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage, and, would you believe it, even masturbation, will leave the greedy to their grasping ways. They studiously ignore a whole tradition of left-wing Catholic social doctrine, espoused by popes and general councils of the church which is well-grounded in the Bible. They run from all that just as they ran from “Blessed” Pope John Paul II when he presciently sent a cardinal to tell George W. Bush that an invasion of Iraq would be a “defeat for humanity.”

With the release of this document, the right wingers are now running for cover, claiming it is not official. “The pope didn’t say it,” just some little old Vatican group off on a left-wing bender—as if one word of this document (which is pregnant with papal quotations) could slip out of the Vatican by night without the pope’s full blessing.

The popes are not without fault, of course, they have squandered their moral authority by binging on issues where they have no privileged expertise, i.e. sexual and reproductive issues for which a life of real or purported celibacy is not the best preparation. They have had their say there. Now is the time to declare a solemn moratorium on papal sex talk. Leave masturbation to the masturbators. Leave pregnancy decisions to pregnant women—women have a better track record on life issues. And leave those whom God has made gay free to bond in love.

Back you go—as this document does—to “carry forward the work of Jesus,” which he himself defined as “good news for the poor” (Luke 4:18 ); when the Neocons in Nazareth heard that they wanted to throw him off a cliff. This document is true to that Jesus mission. Nowhere did Jesus say, “by this shall people know you are my disciples, that you do not contracept!” No he said, if you love justice and peace as I do, if you are good news to the poor as I am, “then all will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). This document is good news for the poor and bad news for the Tea Party.

It says we need globalized solutions for globalized problems; it favors a market economy but not this one; it calls for “supranational authority,” a healthy, non-tyrannical “world political authority” to tame the greed games that strip the poor and gorge the rich; it calls names, deriding “neoliberalism,” the Neocons’ Credo, as devoid of “moral perspective” and a writ for “collective greed.” It seeks to tax financial transactions to create a “world reserve fund.” Yes! Tax!

It moves beyond the tribal, selfish assumptions of “Westphalian” nation states and calls for a world community where differences would be respected and honored for the common good. The alternative to this is chaos and the gross inequalities that people are finally cluing into around the world and taking to the streets in response to.

There is nothing weird or radical about all this. What is radical is the status quo where the blood sweat and tears of the poor are on our clothes made in slave shops, and on our iPhones where thousands of Chinese in Shenzhen assemble them working eleven hour days for 83 cents an hour under brutal conditions. The wages are even lower in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere.

This Vatican document is a gem of moral reasoning. It is hard-nosed justice theory applied to real life.

A final suggestion: along with the moratorium on sex talk, the Vatican should consider closing its bank, which has some issues of its own.

maguired@juno.com'

Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author or editor of 13 books and some 200 articles and president of The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, an international collegium of 80 scholars from all the world religions. His most recent book is Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism (New Press, 2008)