Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Telling Each Other What to Do

Gateway Pundit notes the Vatican has urged Catholics not to donate to Amnesty International over AI's endorsement of abortion. Opinio Juris says "Whether the Vatican is right to do this is a question for another day, but what I'm interested in is the ability of one NGO (the Vatican) to pressure another (Amnesty International)."


Although nongovernment organizations have existed for millenia, the modern NGO really burst onto the public scene in the last 30 years as it assumed a new role quite different than that implied by its name. Unlike old-time nongovernment organizations like orphanages, schools and research institutions, the modern "nongovernment organization" is really a "quasi-government organization" with some, but not all of the attributes of a sovereign state. Organizations like Amenesty International, Doctors without Borders, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, etc have more power and influence than many states. Greenpeace actually has a miniature fleet with its own small branch of naval aviation. Watch the video below of its helicopter operations for proof.

So when the Vatican, which is actually a state with some characteristics of an old-time NGO, takes on Amnesty International the dynamics, as Opinio Juris noted, are interesting. The first thing to observe is that quite unconsciously, NGOs like Amnesty International have become religions in the traditional sense of the word. They pronounce upon morality and ethics in ways previously reserved for religions. Greenpeace may have actually become a religious organization. The big NGOs are now quasi-sovereign organizations which issue yearly and well publicized reports, telling nations how to conduct their internal affairs, foreign policy, trade, etc.

It was therefore natural for Amnesty International, the quasi-religion, to get into a doctrinal dispute with the Catholic Church. It was also inevitable for Amnesty International, in its quasi-state character as the arbiter of human rights law to come under criticism from the Vatican, in its personality as an NGO. The roles have blurred and they rub at the edges.

One class of NGOs in particular is particularly interesting. Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are in a league of their own. Hezbollah for example, has successfully warred against the State of Israel and al-Qaeda is now actively in combat against the United States.

People today live in a world where the sole source of authority is no longer elected government. Pashtuns in Afghanistan are prohibited from shaving their beards by the Taliban. Hamas bombs Internet cafes in Gaza, if there are any left. Amnesty International instructs us in the licitness of abortion, or the lack thereof. And Greenpeace is nothing less than the custodian of the planet. They are widely obeyed. And yet the average man on the street can hardly name the men who run these powerful organizations. That doesn't make them less potent though.

21 Comments:

Blogger Ron said...

Just for the record... the Vatican (meaning the Catholic Church) was in existence way before even the concept of nation-states and still has the same "policies" that it has had for two thousand years; policies which include not killing people. On the other hand, Amnesty International has been around for forty years and is already way off-track. It has sounded its own death-knell.

As for the headline of this piece, the Church isn't telling Amnesty what to do, it is reminding Catholics that murder is wrong and that they should not be providing the material means for murder to occur.

This is similar to the Church withdrawing funding from UNICEF for the same reasons, i.e. UNICEF, which formerly tried to stop children being killed, became infected with the killing mentality and began to enable the murder of children in their mother's wombs.

6/13/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Surely multi-national corporations fit into your description even better than NGO's do. Many have (and others actually are) para-military forces which protect their interests outside of most state controls. These multi-nationals, especially the media based ones, influence people far more than NGO's do.

6/14/2007 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Multinational corporations have shareholders, unlike NGOs. Most of them are traded on the market, unlike NGOs. In consequence, their financial statements are closely watched and scrutinized. More closely scrutinized than say, George Galloway's RESPECT.

There are many corrupt corporations. Some of them, especially the quasi-state ones like ELF are laws unto themselves in the Third World. But everyone knows about the "evil corporation". Comparatively few are aware of the power of the NGOs.

Until recently NGOs could style themselves as pure, idealistic organizations. And some still are. But some are as corrupt and evil as the worst corporations.

6/14/2007 02:02:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

A lot of the discussion over NGOs is filed under the categories of "accountability" and "transparency". There are two general areas of concern. Transparency over NGO lobbying and transparency over it's sources of funds.

Of course in the Third World there are NGOs that have simply been set up as fronts to soak up official development assistance and reroute them to the pocketbooks of corrupt politicians. Still others are used to funnel money to armed groups (See everything after Norberto Gonzales in the citation). Here are search results from Sri Lanka showing that the problem of armed group funding via NGOs is hardly a trivial one.

The role of Muslim charities in funding al-Qaeda is particularly well documented, and a number of them are under indictment for conspiring to aid and fund terrorist groups. As I've already pointed out, groups like the Philippine New People's Army and the Tamil Tigers have tame NGOs through which they can solicit and move funds.

Does this mean that NGOs are bad? No. Many NGOs do a world of good. And my own rule of thumb is as follows: the more money an NGO devotes to publicity and public relations, the more worthless and suspect it is. The more money and NGO actually devotes to field works and concrete accomplishment, the more worthy it is. NGOs which are devoted to medical research, specific good works, concrete assistance, etc are particularly praiseworthy. NGOs which spend nearly all their money on advocacy are usually nothing but political platforms.

Try this. Suppose your wallet was stolen in the Philippines. You could certainly spend the night in a church and the parish priest would feed you. If you were in Australia you would probably be clothed by the Salvation Army and fed, no questions asked. But can you get a bed from Greenpeace?

6/14/2007 02:42:00 AM  
Blogger Nikolay said...

Vatican (meaning the Catholic Church) was in existence way before even the concept of nation-states and still has the same "policies" that it has had for two thousand years; policies which include not killing people.
Ha-ha-ha. That's really funny. Catholic Church had a policy of not killing people for two thousand years? Catholic Church spent last two thousand years promoting non-violence? That's incredibly hilarious thing to say.
For G-d's sake, up to about 18-th century Catholic Church was the cause of more human slaughter than any other organization in history.

6/14/2007 02:59:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Referring back to Hobbes thread.

Wafeira well said..


Wretchard;
"although one hesitates to call war "natural" as if it were just a case of getting teenage acne."

One might hestiate but so far not a single poster has even attempted to show me a part of history of fifty years duration where war has not been the key element in men's lives, forcing change and discovery, and altering for awhile the power structure.

It is as natural as getting teenage acne. If it is not I am ready to be convinced.

6/14/2007 03:58:00 AM  
Blogger gdude said...

Love the video, W. Almost dumped that puppy in the big blue wet thing! That guy on the aft part of the deck can't get flat enough, can he?!? I hope that's not a reflection of the quality of their science...

6/14/2007 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger gdude said...

nikolay said,

up to about 18-th century Catholic Church was the cause of more human slaughter than any other organization in history.

That's a pretty wild assertion, disrespectful of the many bloody civilizations that preceded it (Egypt, Persia, Greece, Carthage, Rome) or were distant contemporaries (Mongols, Mayans, Aztecs), to say nothing of ISLAM. You must also be lumping all the Protestant sects in with Roman Catholicism, if your timeline runs up to the 18th century. And, too, we might also separate out the acts of the various principalities from those of the Vatican itself (not that it didn't have it's own share of war making.) Just saying your brush is overbroad. Way. Dude.

6/14/2007 04:51:00 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

300' Green Peace Research Vessel w/ helipad - $500M
2 Passenger Helicopter - $200K
Video footage of the ecodorks nearly dumping the bird in the drink - PRICELESS!

6/14/2007 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

The inquiry is itself an absurdity.

The Catholic Church, if Ratzinger chooses to accept the challenge, can be the great engine that restores some sense of moral grounding to Western Civ. No other institution has the reach to do so. Pointing the finger at AI is exactly the kind of thing the Church should be doing.

6/14/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Elmondohummus said...

"For G-d's sake, up to about 18-th century Catholic Church was the cause of more human slaughter than any other organization in history."

Incorrect. They do not compare to the atrocities committed in the implementation of Communism in China or what became the Soviet Union. No, I do not defend the Inquisition or the Crusades, but to think those events caused "more human slaughter than any other organization in history" is to purposefully ignore history.

6/14/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

habu,

As you imply, war is as integral to the human condition as sex. Something so ubiquitous cannot be so readily disposed, as some would have it.

6/14/2007 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

"Incorrect. They do not compare to the atrocities committed in the implementation of Communism in China or what became the Soviet Union." elmondohummus

Fine, up until the implementation of Communism in China & the Soviet Union then. Sad that we have to look to examples where 10's of millions were killed to rival the record of the Catholic church.

Even then, it's arguable. Point is, the the Catholic Church has NOT had a policy including not killing people for the whole of the last 2000 years. That is what the quote was disputing.

6/14/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

The human condition is such, that if the human has no enemy to kill, no women to pillage, and no treasures to gain, it will languish and fail.

So, let us eat, drink and make Mary, before we go forth, take what we want and begin the slaughter.

Papa Ray

6/14/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Nikolay said...

Just saying your brush is overbroad. Way. Dude.
First, I was talking about organizations. Second, simply because of the population rise Romans, Persians etc. don't make a difference -- i.e. they had high relative numbers, but low absolute ones.
Most importantly, there's just no denying of the fact that Catholic Church in most of its history was the original Taliban -- what with Jew massacres, destroying old cultures, the incredible cruelty of forced conversions (I bet St. Olaf was on par with Zawahiri). The most ambitious (luckily, failed) terrorist plot in European history (gunpowder plot) was also the work of Catholics, just as St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.
Actually, Catholicism was only tempered by the secular humanism coming from Greeks and Romans and by the Protestant's idea that you could actually read the Bible. In itself it was a vicious and ruthless ideology.
Communism in China or what became the Soviet Union
Haven't heard much about Chinese Communism in 18th century.

6/14/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Pappy, take the prize for the dumbest comment of the day.

Et tu, Allen?

Onward Christian soldiers, Habu, you good Christian you!(remembering a post in which you claimed association)

6/14/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

nickolay

How old were you when you found out your mother farted? Did it ruin your life?

There is no organization on earth comprised of human beings with a spotless history, much less one with 2,000 years of history. Perhaps you would be so kind as to substantiate your allegation by pointing me to the supporting "wisdom documents" of the Catholic Church. Correlation is not the same as causation. Most adults know that.

6/14/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Nikolay said...

There is no organization on earth comprised of human beings with a spotless history, much less one with 2,000 years of history. Perhaps you would be so kind as to substantiate your allegation by pointing me to the supporting "wisdom documents" of the Catholic Church. Correlation is not the same as causation. Most adults know that.
Hey, I don't have many problems with Catholic church, and I don't require it to be infallible. It was the absurd argument that Catholic church was always perfect that sparked my comment.
As for causation, Inquisition, persecution of Jews (i.e. money-lenders), forced conversion, "killing the body to save the soul" etc. all were theologically sound practices. Gunpowder plot was against the religion's principles, but so was 9/11.

6/14/2007 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Pope Benedict XVI has written that it was a mistake for the Church to have exercised political authority during various times, and that the Church suffered adverse consequences because of it.

I asked you to identify the wisdom documents that connected your list of wrongs with the Catholic Church. After all, if there is something endemically foul about the Church we should know about. Your failure to do so is noted.

I suppose by bringing up 9/11 you are wandering off into the lala land of moral relativism but that too is a mistake. 9/11 and a very long list of other contemporary atrocities are well within the ideological confines of Islam. In fact, the commission of such atrocities against the infidel are demanded by it.

6/14/2007 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

bobalharb,

Do I understand you to say that Jesus had no reason for being?

6/14/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Why does Amnesty International need to have a position on abortion?

What does that have to do with the organization's purpose? How does being for legal abortion advance the cause of the illegally imprisoned and tortured?

Amnesty International does not need an opinion on abortion to be effective. It's just window- dressing to show that they fit in.

6/15/2007 04:57:00 AM  

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