Posted by Paweł A. Makowski

The Pope, when speaking to the United Nations, did not conceal his adamancy against the philosophical theory of utilitarianism. He offered several reasons to explain why this position warrants of utilitarianism. This is a doctrine which “defines morality not in terms of what is good but of what is advantageous”.

Utilitarianism undermines “the freedom of individuals and nations”. It inspires an aggressive nationalism., “justifying the subjugation of a smaller or weaker nation”. And it prompts “more powerful countries to manipulate and exploit weaker ones”. Such utilitarianism probably facilitates the inequalities of the North-South rift, so familiar to political economist.

Pope John Paul II assessment of utilitarianism implied a related issue which is apropos to diplomacy. Doubtless, the Pope desired that United Nations representatives attend to his words for something beyond their general interest value. He would logically expect that they reflect upon his critique aside from the session in which it was delivered. And the duty of diplomats then becomes to either uphold his stance or to modify his position or to disregard it entirely. It would be woefully inadequate for the Pope’s audience to have heard his words, while failing to have listened to them. Regardless of how diplomats opt to respond to his view, they are certainly obligated to attempt to discern the quality of the counsel by which he cautions. However, the Pope seems never to demand that diplomats automatically conform to his appraisal of utilitarian theory or any other, but that their intellectual integrity be such that they are willing to objectively scrutinize content. This is an area where a rush-to-judgment may be amount to a conclusion that diplomatic praxis manages to thrive upon disregard for theoretical debate and challenge. If that outlook is potentially valid, there is conspicuous need for its defendants to step forward to plead its cause.

Diplomats must judiciously apply their reason and discernment, not only to papal perspective on political and economic philosophy, but to recommendations and interpretations of fact which the Pope presents with as staunch a resolve. A few of many examples from his New Year addresses come to mind. In 1996, Pope John Paul II described Liberia and Somalia as “still governed by the law of violence and of special interests”. That is despite international assistance. Meanwhile, normalization in Angola is thwarted because of “political antagonisms and social disintegration”. As for Africa, its political leaders are warned about their failure to commit themselves to “national democratic dialogue”. Continuing, the Pope pointed to the necessity of their “strict” administration of “public funds and external credits”. African governments should not imagine that they are entitled to help when their political credibility is dubious. If Africa refuses to heed, the continent “will ever remain on the margin of the community of nations”. Diplomats are left to ponder. Are Liberia and Somalia really so ruled? Does the Pope reliably portray Angolan governance? Is Africa’s overall political leadership as precarious and decrepit as the Pope depicts? And is Africa’s future so bleak if it embarks upon a path at variance with Pope John Paul II warning? Should diplomats deduce that the Pope’s political characterization is accurate, then their overt and concrete support for his position should follow directly from their realization of intellectual congruity.

This content comes from: B.J. O’Connor, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and Culture of Peace, South Bend, Indiana 2005.

General information about Papal Diplomacy in post: Diplomacy according to John Paul II”.