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July 15, 2009

Special report on the new encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI titled "Charity in Truth" ("Caritas in Veritate") applying church social teaching to the many dimensions of integral human development in the world of the third millennium



In this edition:
1. Introducing Pope Benedict's new encyclical.
2. Glancing quickly through the encyclical.
3. Charity and truth, faith and reason illuminate each other, encyclical says.
4. Pope Benedict recalls Pope Paul VI's encyclical "Populorum Progressio."
5. Pope Benedict examines the potential and risk in globalization.
6. Quotes from "Caritas in Veritate" to ponder: a) workers' associations; b) the environment; c) migrant workers; d) reforming the U.N.
7. Structuring the economy in ethical ways.
8. Technology's proper role in human development.

1. Introducing Pope Benedict's New Encyclical

"Charity is at the heart of the church's social doctrine," Pope Benedict XVI writes in the encyclical he released July 7 titled "Charity in Truth" ("Caritas in Veritate"). The promotion of integral human development in the globalized world of the third millennium requires the interplay of "charity" (love) and "truth" in such a way that each informs the other, the pope proposes.

"Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the 'economy' of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth," says Pope Benedict.

Charity, or "caritas," represents "an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace," the pope says. Furthermore, he states early in the encyclical, this force "has its origin in God."

Thus the pope anchors the encyclical from the outset in faith; he views social development throughout the text not only as a as a challenge to meet through the application of human intelligence to the world's problems, but as a gift to be sought from God.

Love "gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor," says Pope Benedict. And love, he explains, "is the principle not only of microrelationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macrorelationships (social, economic and political ones)."

The new encyclical appears not only in the midst of a worldwide financial downturn, but at a time when it has become abundantly clear that globalization is reshaping economies, and cultures, and the relationships of nations. "Caritas in Veritate" might be characterized as the social development encyclical of the globalization era.

In addition, the manner in which the encyclical embodies a consistent ethic of life seems noteworthy. The pope's concerns here range from hunger and poverty to abortion and assisted suicide, from respect for the human dignity of people in cultures far different from our own to respect for marriage and the family everywhere. "Openness to life is at the center of true development," Pope Benedict says.

A lack of respect for all human life will likely mean that people are not ready to express the kind of respect for others that is needed to build a more just world, the encyclical makes clear. "When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away," says Pope Benedict.

2. Glancing Quickly Through "Caritas in Veritate"

Before taking a closer look at some of the new encyclical's main points of discussion, allow me to pull together a few key quotations from the text that help to illustrate where Pope Benedict is headed in this 28,000-word missive. He writes:

-- "The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side. A new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family" (No. 53).

-- "I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity." Then, quoting Vatican Council II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the encyclical adds, "'Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life'" (No. 25).

-- "The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity, and precisely because it is human it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner" (No. 36).

-- "One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples" (No. 28).

-- "Openness to God makes us open toward our brothers and sisters, and toward an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity" (No. 78).

-- "Development needs Christians with their arms raised toward God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, 'caritas in veritate,' from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us" (No. 79).

3. Charity and Truth, Faith and Reason

Social development can progress when faith and human reason combine forces, Pope Benedict XVI believes. "Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: Love is rich in intelligence, and intelligence is full of love," he writes in "Caritas in Veritate."

Reason "always stands in need of being purified by faith," while "for its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face," the pope states. He immediately adds, "Any breach in this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human development." However, a "fruitful dialogue between faith and reason cannot but render the work of charity more effective within society."

The pope also points out that the dialogue between faith and reason "constitutes the most appropriate framework for promoting fraternal collaboration between believers and nonbelievers in their shared commitment to working for justice and the peace of the human family."

And the pope explains that "as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers." Why?

Because "reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity," which "originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is."

On the other hand, the pope believes that "without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality," and love "becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way." The pope says that "truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space." Thus, thought is essential if progress is to be made in social development, according to Pope Benedict. He recalls that his predecessor Pope Paul VI clearly saw "that among the causes of underdevelopment there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis." The pope continues:

"The excessive segmentation of knowledge, the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences, the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions."

The pope encourages a broadened concept of human reason and its application, which he views as "indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems."

Several days after releasing his encyclical, Pope Benedict reiterated these points during a meeting in Rome with European university students. He told them that knowledge is the key factor driving progress today, but if knowledge of God is excluded from people's education they do not have all the information they need to help society.

Pope Benedict said, "It is knowledge, enriched with the support of faith, that enables people to look to the future with hope, overcoming the temptations of a purely materialistic view of existence and of history."

4. Recalling Paul VI's 1967 Encyclical "Populorum Progressio"

Pope Benedict XVI wanted to situate his new encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," in a continuum with Pope Paul VI's 1967 encyclical "Populorum Progressio" ("The Progress of Peoples"). In doing so, Pope Benedict sought to apply the themes of that earlier encyclical to the problems and challenges of the world more than 40 years later - particularly the challenge of globalization.

When Pope Paul VI issued "Populorum Progressio," he "illuminated the great theme of the development of peoples with the splendor of truth and the gentle light of Christ's charity," says Pope Benedict. He adds that Pope Paul VI "taught that life in Christ is the first and principal factor of development, and he entrusted us with the task of traveling the path of development with all our heart and all our intelligence, that is to say with the ardor of charity and the wisdom of truth."

Pope Benedict says it was his intent in "Caritas in Veritate" to revisit the teachings of "Populorum Progressio" on "integral human development" and to "apply them to the present moment." He calls "Populorum Progressio" the "Rerum Novarum" of the present age, "shedding light upon humanity's journey toward unity." ("Rerum Novarum," the ground-breaking 1891 social encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, said development must include social progress as well as economic growth.)

Paul VI "had an articulated vision of development," Pope Benedict says. This vision -- in its economic, social and political dimensions -- was understood by Paul VI "to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy." Pope Benedict adds:

"From the economic point of view, this meant their active participation, on equal terms, in the international economic process; from the social point of view, it meant their evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity; from the political point of view, it meant the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace."

Applying the teachings of Paul VI's encyclical means many things, but particularly it means applying them to "the explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as 'globalization,'" Pope Benedict writes. He observes that Paul VI partially foresaw this development, "but the ferocious pace at which it has evolved could not have been anticipated."

Also, Pope Benedict indicates, applying Paul VI's vision means taking into clear consideration the dignity of the human person - "the unconditional value of the human person and the meaning of his growth" that the Christian vision asserts so strongly.

5. Globalization's Potential and Risk

"Globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad," Pope Benedict writes in "Caritas in Veritate." In fact, he says, globalization will be what people make of it. But he stresses that "we should not be [globalization's] victims, but rather its protagonists, acting in the light of reason, guided by charity and truth."

What does the term "globalization" mean? It certainly refers to "a socio-economic process," though "this is not its only dimension," Pope Benedict says. He observes that "underneath the more visible process, humanity itself is becoming increasingly interconnected."

Globalization leads to a "breaking down of borders" between peoples and nations, but this "is not simply a material fact; it is also a cultural event both in its causes and its effects," the pope observes. He says that as a human reality, globalization "is the product of diverse cultural tendencies, which need to be subjected to a process of discernment."

Globalization represents a transition in the world that is a matter of ethical concern, Pope Benedict believes. While globalization ought to lead toward "solidarity," there is a risk that "ethical and cultural considerations of an individualistic and utilitarian nature" could overwhelm that humanizing goal, the pope points out.

What is necessary is "to steer the globalization of humanity in relational terms" - toward "communion and the sharing of goods," Pope Benedict proposes.

Globalization has the potential, when "suitably understood and directed," to open up "the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a worldwide scale," Pope Benedict writes. But he cautions that "if badly directed," the processes of globalization "can lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even trigger a global crisis."

Thus, the pope advises, it is "necessary to correct the malfunctions [of globalization], some of them serious, that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples, and also to ensure that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty."

6. Quotes From "Caritas in Veritate" to Ponder

Workers Associations: "The repeated calls issued within the church's social doctrine, beginning with 'Rerum Novarum,' for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level" (No. 25).

Handing the Earth on to Future Generations: "On this earth there is room for everyone: Here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself - God's gift to his children - and through hard work and creativity. At the same time, we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it" (No. 50).

Migrant Workers: "There is no doubt that foreign workers, despite any difficulties concerning integration, make a significant contribution to the economic development of the host country through their labor, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the money they send home. Obviously, these laborers cannot be considered as a commodity or a mere work force. Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance" (No. 62).

Reforming the United Nations: "In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth" (No. 67).

7. Structuring the Economy in Ethical Ways

Because the fragile state of the global economy has taken such a toll recently on so many lives, it is hardly surprising that "Caritas in Veritate" speaks so strongly about the ethical dimensions of economic activity. Pope Benedict says in the encyclical:

"The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation rightly cause us concern, but we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future."

Pope Benedict states that "the market can be a negative force, not because it is so by nature but because a certain ideology can make it so." But he says the church always has taught that "economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of itself the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak."

Human dignity and the demands of justice require that economic choices "not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone," the pope writes.

"Every economic decision has a moral consequence," he insists, adding that the church's social doctrine holds that "justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity. Locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications."

What is needed is "not only to create 'ethical' sectors or segments of the economy or the world of finance, but to ensure that the whole economy - the whole of finance - is ethical, not merely by virtue of an external label, but by its respect for requirements intrinsic to its very nature," Pope Benedict says.

Here are just a few more points from the encyclical on ethics, business and the economy:

-- There is "a growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference."

-- "What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development."

-- "Profit is useful if it serves as a means toward an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty."

8. Technology's Proper Role in Social Development

Pope Benedict recalls that Pope Paul VI was "fully aware of the great danger of entrusting the entire process of development to technology alone, because in that way it would lack direction."

Technology, in and of itself, "is ambivalent," Pope Benedict says. And he makes clear in his examination of issues related to technology that it can be very good. Still, he cautions against "idealizing technical progress," viewing this as a way "of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility."

Actually, "the development of peoples goes awry if humanity thinks it can recreate itself through the 'wonders' of technology, just as economic development is exposed as a destructive sham if it relies on the 'wonders' of finance in order to sustain unnatural and consumerist growth," Pope Benedict writes.

On the plus side, technology "reveals man and his aspirations toward development, it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations," the pope says. In this sense, technology "is a response to God's command to till and to keep the land that he has entrusted to humanity."

There is, however, a "pressing need for formation in an ethically responsible use of technology," Pope Benedict asserts. He comments, "Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility."

The pope warns that "technological development can give rise to the idea that technology is self-sufficient when too much attention is given to the 'how' questions, and not enough to the many 'why' questions underlying human activity."

A confusion of "ends and means" can result when technology is "allowed to take over," Pope Benedict says. As a result of such confusion, it may be thought that "the sole criterion for action in business is the maximization of profit, in politics the consolidation of power and in science the findings of research."

The field of bioethics today is "a particularly crucial battleground" in the "cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility," Pope Benedict says. Here Pope Benedict mentions in vitro fertilization, embryo research and "the possibility of manufacturing clones and human hybrids." He writes:

"All this is now emerging and being promoted in today's highly disillusioned culture, which believes it has mastered every mystery because the origin of life is now within our grasp. Here we see the clearest expression of technology's supremacy. In this type of culture, the conscience is simply invited to take note of technological possibilities."

When this occurs, "the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question," Pope Benedict comments.