Charity in truth
Pope Benedict XVI's new 30,000-word encyclical, Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), on social justice will interest specialists of every stripe -- politicians, financiers, bankers, economists, labor unions, business owners, nongovernmental organizations and international bodies, among the most obvious (see In Focus, Pages 9-12).
Less obvious but no less important is the pope's message -- a sort of examination of conscience, really -- for Catholics. Until you get the chance to read the encyclical yourself:
- We must promote the Christian understanding of all humans as sons and daughters of God. "As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors, but does not make us brothers," the pope noted. "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."
- Foster generosity and self-gift. The pope said that for economic, social and political development to be authentically human, it must "make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity."
- Human development is not just some add-on activity for the Church. "The whole Church, in all her being and acting -- when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity -- is engaged in promoting integral human development."
- Solidarity is a duty, not just a benefit. "Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people's integral development." Do we?
- Work for a culture of life. In societies that accept evils like abortion and euthanasia, we shouldn't be surprised at the indifference shown other situations of human degradation, the pope said. "While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human."
- Work to instill Christian values in our communities' institutions -- what the pope calls the "political path" of charity. "The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practice this charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields."
- Practice living simply, because the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself. "This invites contemporary society to a serious review of its lifestyle, which, in many parts of the world, is prone to hedonism and consumerism, regardless of their harmful consequences."
- Finally, "development needs Christians with their arms raised toward God in prayer" in recognition that "truth-filled love" is not produced by us but received from God. "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."