In his sweeping new encyclical published on Tuesday, Pope Benedict asserts that confronting the global challenges of today requires a “new humanistic synthesis” that makes man's well-being “the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.”
The Holy Father spends the first part of his encyclical, “Caritas in veritate” or Charity in truth, connecting his teachings to his predecessor Pope Paul VI, who taught that true development involves spiritual and material progress.
In Chapter Two of Pope Benedict's latest work, he begins by acknowledging that beneficial economic development has taken place since Paul VI's time. However, he also points out that “this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis.”
Responding to the Global Crisis
Pope Benedict cites several factors as contributing to the current economic meltdown: “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...”
“The different aspects of the crisis, its solutions, and any new development that the future may bring, are increasingly interconnected, they imply one another, they require new efforts of holistic understanding and a new humanistic synthesis,” the Holy Father writes.
With this new synthesis in mind, the Pope says that the current crisis “obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones.”
Benedict XVI sets out on his re-evaluation by looking at the “scandal of glaring inequalities” between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor people. “Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries, both old and new, as well as in poor ones,” he notes.
“Today, as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, which sees the State's public authorities directly involved in correcting errors and malfunctions, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today's world.”
The Holy Father observes that because of the global market, the poor and dependent are losing benefits that were present in Paul VI's day. “These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State,” he explains, pointing to Leo XIII's social encyclical “Rerum Novarum.”
A Truly Human Answer
“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: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life,” Pope Benedict teaches.
At the global level, Benedict notes that today “the possibilities of interaction between cultures have increased significantly” which gives rise to “new openings for intercultural dialogue.” However, if that dialogue is to be effective, it must set out from a deep-seated knowledge of the specific identity of the various dialogue partners.”
This knowledge “easily yields to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue; on the social plane, cultural relativism has the effect that cultural groups coexist side by side, but remain separate, with no authentic dialogue and therefore with no true integration.” The opposite danger also exists, he warns, which is of a “cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles. “
Another area in need of development is improving food security, which the Pontiff says, “needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries.
“It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination,” he stresses.
The humanistic synthesis must also include religious freedom, Benedict insists. One particular affront against religious freedom that must be addressed is violence.
“Violence,” the Pope writes, “puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism, which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.”
In the realm of human knowledge, Benedict XVI notes that it is “insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development.” At the same time, he explains that there is “always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth.” “Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”
Forty Years After “Populorm Progressio”
More than forty years after “Populorum Progressio,” the Pope reflects, “its basic theme, namely progress, remains an open question, made all the more acute and urgent by the current economic and financial crisis.”
According to the Holy Father, the principal new feature in today's world is “the explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as globalization.”
This new reality demands new solutions, the Pope states, as he launches into the application of a humanistic synthesis onto our modern view of humanity.
“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,” he states.
Reflecting on this idea of a single family, Benedict says, “One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. If we look closely at other kinds of poverty, including material forms, we see that they are born from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love.”
However, this does not mean that Christians should adopt the view that all religions are equal, the Pope cautions.
“[W]hile it may be true that development needs the religions and cultures of different peoples, it is equally true that adequate discernment is needed. Religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply that all religions are equal. ... 'The whole man and all men' is the criterion for evaluating cultures and religions. Christianity, the religion of the 'God who has a human face,' contains this very criterion within itself.”
On the question of how to dispense aid, the Holy Father stresses that “the principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.”
A humanistic synthesis must also be sought in addressing the phenomenon of migration, he states. The issue “requires bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation if it is to be handled effectively,” policies that involve both the migrants' countries of origin and their countries of destination.
The financial system, after being revamped and corrected, “now needs to go back to being an instrument directed towards improved wealth creation and development,” Benedict XVI writes.
“Both the regulation of the financial sector, so as to safeguard weaker parties and discourage scandalous speculation, and experimentation with new forms of finance, designed to support development projects, are positive experiences that should be further explored and encouraged, highlighting the responsibility of the investor.”
The Pope also notes that “global interconnectedness has led to the emergence of a new political power, that of consumers and their associations. This is a phenomenon that needs to be further explored, as it contains positive elements to be encouraged as well as excesses to be avoided.”
Bringing Chapter Five to a close, the Holy Father makes a case for the “strongly felt need” to reform the United Nations and likewise of “economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.” Such a reform, he says, must “find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making.”
Measuring Real Progress
Moving on to how technology affects the genuine development of peoples, Pope Benedict devotes his sixth chapter to how real development has to begin at the individual level and cannot be accomplished by the “'wonders' of technology.”
“The development of peoples,” he explains, “is intimately linked to the development of individuals” and it “goes awry if humanity thinks it can re-create 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.”
The problem with modern techonolgies is that they only lead to one-dimensional development, the Pope writes.
“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.”
Real development that reaches all the dimensions of the individual cannot be “fully guaranteed through automatic or impersonal forces, whether they derive from the market or from international politics,” Benedict cautions. Rather, he says, “development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good.”
One form of technology that can help promote true development is the media, because, as the Holy Father explains, it can make an important contribution towards the growth in communion of the human family and the ethos of society when it is used to “promote universal participation in the common search for what is just.”
In his conclusion, Pope Benedict states that, “Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is.” In fact, he says that the greatest service to development is “a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God.”
On the other hand, he warns that the “ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.”
For Benedict XVI, the key to fostering the real development envisioned by Pope Paul VI is “Christians with their arms raised towards 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. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God's love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace.”
To read Pope Benedict XVI's full encyclical, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=944