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Italian cardinal advocates ‘planetary’ government


Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a progressive frequently mentioned as a candidate to be the next pope, has advocated the creation of a “democratic and planetary” system of government that would transcend the powers of presently existing nation-states.

Martini’s proposal came in a July issue of the Roman daily newspaper La Repubblica. In an essay on human rights, Martini wrote that nations have the right to manage their own affairs, but in view of the universal nature of human rights, an absolute notion of sovereignty that prevents the international community from policing abuses is “anachronistic and unhistorical.”

Martini, 73, is the archbishop of Milan.

The cardinal supported “humanitarian intervention” in defense of suffering populations such as refugees, including the use of troops when other means have failed. Though “humanitarian intervention” was most recently invoked by NATO in defense of its bombing campaign against Serbia, Martini did not expressly approve or condemn that action.

Instead, quoting from Pope John Paul II, Martini said such interventions must be precise in their objectives, must be authorized at a supra-national level, and must never depend on “the mere logic of force.”

Martini wrote that effective protection of human rights “obviously demands a true reconsideration of the present international order.” In his most controversial statement, he said that international tribunals of human rights should have enforcement powers within nation-states.

Ultimately, Martini argued, it will be necessary to rethink the concept of the nation “to ensure a more just and true cohabitation” among peoples. This will mean, he said, distinguishing between a “state” and a “nation,” so that national identity does not necessarily rest upon the existence of a political entity.

“Before national interests, there are individual persons with their inalienable dignity,” Martini wrote, “and before the particular interests of individual groups is the universal human community and its obligation to work for justice, solidarity and peace.”

To that end, Martini wrote, it will be necessary to build a planetary system of government, for which the present European Union is one possible model. Martini called transcending national sovereignty “the roadmap to a more just and stable order.”

This order, Martini writes, must be based on an “exchange of gifts” in which the well-being of all groups, especially the weak, is protected.

“For this it will be necessary to overcome not only waging actual wars, but also cold wars, and not merely to ensure the equality of rights of all people, but also their access to assets for the construction of a better future,” Martini wrote in the July 13 La Repubblica.

The concept of a planetary political order that would supercede the power of nation-states is anathema to many U.S. political conservatives.

“There are people who genuinely believe that our interests are best served if we become weaker and weaker,” Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett said in 1998, “and the U.N. becomes stronger and stronger, so they ultimately have a bigger army than we do so they can keep the world peace. These people are called globalists, new-world-order, one-world-government people.”

National Catholic Reporter, August 11, 2000