Today Pope Benedict XVI delivered his encyclical “Caritas in veritate,” drawing heavily on Pope Paul VI's vision of real human development, which insists upon progress in the moral and spiritual realms, in addition to the material. Paul VI's teaching on development, Benedict XVI wrote, is the “new Rerum Novarum of the present age.”
“Charity in truth,” Pope Benedict said as he began his encyclical, “is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.” It is precisely this gift of charity in truth that Jesus Christ bore witness to “by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection,” he noted.
Moreover, Benedict explained, “Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine.”
In today's world, the Pope said that he sees charity being “misconstrued and emptied of meaning” and that this puts it at risk of being “misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued.”
Areas where this distortion of charity often takes place are: “the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility.”
The remedy to this distortion of charity is to infuse it with truth, the Pope said. “In this way, he added, “not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living.”
Truth, he observed, also “frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism,” enables men and women “to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions” and “opens and unites our minds in the lógos of love.”
Returning to a theme that he preached on just before his election as Pope, the Holy Father pointed out that in the current 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.”
“A Christianity of charity without truth,” the Pontiff warned, “would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world.”
Even worse, “without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present,” Benedict XVI wrote.
The Church sees her fidelity to the truth as being faithful to man, the Pope noted, saying that fidelity to the truth is the only “guarantee of freedom” and of “the possibility of integral human development.”
“For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. 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.”
Pope Benedict also touched on the common good, writing that seeking it is a “requirement of justice and charity.” Taking a stand for the common good involves both caring for and participating in the “complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or 'city,'” he said.
The Holy Father then turned to the history of the Church's body of teaching on social life by noting that it has been over forty years since “the great Pope Paul VI” first penned “Populorum Progressio,” which unfolded the meaning of “integral human development.”
On the 20th anniversary of “Populorum Progressio's” publication, Pope John Paul II marked the commemorated the teaching by issuing the encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,” he recalled. Until that time, only Pope Leo XIII's work, “Rerum Novarum,” had been commemorated in that way.
“Now that a further twenty years have passed,” Benedict XVI wrote, “I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered 'the Rerum Novarum of the present age,' shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.”
Summing up society's current situation, Benedict described offering love in truth as a “great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized.”
“The risk for our time,” he alerted, “is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development.”
When Pope Paul VI promulgated his message on integral social development, he was conveying two important truths: “the Church in all her being and acting...is engaged in promoting integral human development” and that “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.”
In other words, Pope Benedict explained, “Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space.”
As he proposed the notion of development in “human and Christian terms,” Pope Paul VI unflinchingly put forth Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development, the Pope recalled. “Motivated by the wish to make Christ's love fully visible to contemporary men and women, Paul VI addressed important ethical questions robustly, without yielding to the cultural weaknesses of his time.”
Even in the 1960s, the German Pontiff noted that Paul VI was already warning against the “technocratic ideology so prevalent today.” Entrusting the “entire process of development to technology alone” was identified as a “great danger” because “it would lack direction,” he had said.
“Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent,” the Benedict wrote, saying that while “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 Holy Father brought his section on Paul VI's teachings to a close by reflecting on what a world without development means.
“The idea of a world without development indicates a lack of trust in man and in God. It is therefore a serious mistake to undervalue human capacity to exercise control over the deviations of development or to overlook the fact that man is constitutionally oriented towards 'being more.' 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.”
To read Pope Benedict XVI's full encyclical, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=944