Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

Pope Benedict XVI's third encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate — Charity in Truth, was released today. Click here to go to the text of the letter on the Vatican website.

First and foremost, the Latin word caritas, here translated as ‘charity’, really means love. In its highest form, according to Thomas Dubay S.M.: "Love, for the Gospel, is a self-sacrificing, willed concern for and giving to another, even if attraction and feeling are absent, and even if little or nothing is received in return."

Love in truth is important, according to the encyclical, because
“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.”
‘Fideism’ is the erroneous but popular doctrine of ‘faith alone’ which is not informed by reason.
“Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things... In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development.”
(Yesterday, Andrew Cusack published an article about Christians in China, where some recognize that the Christian concept of charity is both consonant with Chinese culture and is a firm, even essential, foundation for the reform of its politics.)

Moral action, revolving around charity and truth, seeks justice and the common good. Justice is the virtue whereby you give to someone that which belongs to them.
“On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion.”
The common good
“ the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have.”
This new letter refers to the encyclical Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI.

Globalism has the bad consequence that actions of diverse peoples around the world have concrete effects on others, while at the same time not being morally bound to each other. This is seen with outsourced jobs which may be akin to slavery, and to mass illegal immigration. Love, however, potentially opens up “the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.”

The Church is not in the business of providing technical solutions.
“She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings — with which to judge and direct it... Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church's social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.”
The social doctrine of the Church develops according to the changes in conditions found in society, but must always be interpreted from the view of the “Tradition of the apostolic faith”.

An important observation of Pope Paul VI,
authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity.”
The “danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions... place its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy.”
“Paul VI had already warned against the technocratic ideology so prevalent today... Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent. If on the one hand, some today would be inclined to entrust the entire process of development to technology, on the other hand we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny in toto the very value of development, viewing it as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation. This leads to a rejection, not only of the distorted and unjust way in which progress is sometimes directed, but also of scientific discoveries themselves, which, if well used, could serve as an opportunity of growth for all. The idea of a world without development indicates a lack of trust in man and in God... Idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity's original natural state, are two contrasting ways of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility.”
The encyclical Humanae Vitae should read in relationship with the social doctrine of the Church.
“The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that
“a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”
Development is a vocation which “presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility.”
“The “types of messianism which give promises but create illusions” always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal. This false security becomes a weakness, because it involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means for development, while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy, because it sets them free. Paul VI was in no doubt that obstacles and forms of conditioning hold up development, but he was also certain that “each one remains, whatever be these influences affecting him, the principal agent of his own success or failure.”
Development demands a respect for the truth, in particular, the truth of the question “what is man?”
“Amid the various competing anthropological visions put forward in today's society, even more so than in Paul VI's time, the Christian vision has the particular characteristic of asserting and justifying the unconditional value of the human person and the meaning of his growth... The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development. ”
Underdevelopment is primarily a spiritual, and not a material problem, “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples”. “As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers.”

In the 40+ years since Paul VI's encyclical, there has been real, positive development in the world. But new problems have occurred — and the consideration of these new problems delayed the issue of this new encyclical:
“The technical forces in play, the global interrelations, the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing, large-scale migration of peoples, often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention, the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources...”
Pope Benedict XVI proposes “a new humanistic synthesis,” as we “liberate ourselves from ideologies”. Two ideologies, in my opinion, which are the most virulent are those of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, which propose unrestricted business and government. Specifically, the Holy Father mentions that current hinderances to development include a denial of workers' rights by multinational corporations, “unduly rigid” intellectual property laws in health care, and the social norms prevalent in poor countries.

Globalization has limited the sovereignty of nations in favor of trade, finance, and the mobility of persons and means of production. As mentioned earlier, this greatly decreases the moral interdependence of persons.
“The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods... Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres... These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems...

The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage...

Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. 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...”
Cultures now interact frequently.
“First, one may observe a cultural eclecticism that is often assumed uncritically: cultures are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable. This easily yields to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue...

Secondly, the opposite danger exists, that of cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles. In this way one loses sight of the profound significance of the culture of different nations, of the traditions of the various peoples, by which the individual defines himself in relation to life's fundamental questions...

When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.”
Hunger remains a problem, and again, this is primarily a spiritual and not material problem, mainly due to immoral institutions. “Openness to life is at the centre of true development.” We see aggressive population control programs which include forced sterilization and abortion.
“When a society moves towards 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 towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help.”
Pope Benedict decries religious violence:
“Yet it should be added that, as well as religious fanaticism that in some contexts impedes the exercise of the right to religious freedom, so too the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries obstructs the requirements for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources. God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women...

When the State promotes, teaches, or actually imposes forms of practical atheism, it deprives its citizens of the moral and spiritual strength that is indispensable for attaining integral human development...”
Cultural exportation from the wealthy countries may lead to material wealth but also spiritual poverty.

Social action is aimless without knowledge, and knowledge is transformed into wisdom via love.
“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. ”
Unfortunately, the word ‘metaphysics’ has been largely taken over by the New Age movement and so seems rather suspect in rational public discourse. Rather, it is a field of study about being itself, that seeks to find answers to the questions such as “What is truth?” “What is man?” “What is beauty?” “What is justice?” “What is happiness?”, or in other words, all of the big questions at an ultimate level. Contemporary thought pretends not to want to answer these questions, and so its solutions are often tyrannical, evil, and ugly.

“[W]e continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” Unemployment harms democracy and the economy and degrades “the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules, all of which are indispensable for any form of civil coexistence.” “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

Denial of the inherent sinfulness of man, coupled with Globalism, may cause misery on an unprecedented scale.
“The Church's wisdom has always pointed to the presence of original sin in social conditions and in the structure of society: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals”. In the list of areas where the pernicious effects of sin are evident, the economy has been included for some time now. We have a clear proof of this at the present time. The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”
Markets implement commutative justice as long as mutual trust is in force; but this trust has now been lost. Markets also do not implement social justice.
“The poor are not to be considered a “burden”, but a resource, even from the purely economic point of view. It is nevertheless erroneous to hold that the market economy has an inbuilt need for a quota of poverty and underdevelopment in order to function at its best.”
I recall that illegal immigration into the United States gained impetus when having servants — particularly maids, nannies, and yardworkers — became fashionable again. Arguably, the threat of deportation keeps their wages low.

More later.....

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