Whither global governance?

The finer points of recent papal documents which feature Catholic Social Teaching on international governance are often lost in translation, writes Philip Booth, Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics at St Mary’s University.

When a papal encyclical is issued, it is combed for political statements by the media and commentators. Wild headlines are then often produced. The publication of Fratelli tutti (2020) was no exception, nor that of Caritas in veritate (2009). In both cases, pronouncements on the seemingly mundane subject of international governance were the subject of press attention. As with some other papal documents, clumsy translation and editing, either of the document itself or of derivative publications, perhaps clouded rather than clarified issues.

In fact, Catholic teaching on global governance is rather guarded, and this article argues that nuance was especially apparent in Fratelli tutti. It could also be argued that the encyclical expressed views that were somewhat compatible with those often expressed by academic supporters of free markets and political liberalism who came in for some criticism elsewhere in the document. Within this school of economics, there is some welcome for the principle of international institutions combined with caution about some of their practical manifestations.

In the next section of this article, questions surrounding translation and presentation are explored. We then look at the justification and provenance of global governance in Catholic Social Teaching. Finally, some arguments from political economy are related to the analysis in Fratelli tutti before concluding.
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