Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Charity in Truth

If this new encyclical is not an academic and theological hymn to human dignity and true freedom, than I do not know what can ever qualify as such. In this encyclical letter the Church enters into dialogue with all people and offers the real way forward in the present crisis. What follows is not a synopsis of it but what struck me most as I read it. I want to share it with you to try to encourage you to read the full text which you can find here. It is indeed a pearl of great price.This is indeed a programme I will sign up for, I hope that you will too.

The exploration of Caritas (Love) in Truth starts from God who in Jesus Christ has given us the principal driving force to engage in the field of justice and peace. Finally the anthropological argument for every theological debate has been laid to rest hopefully for good. The Holy Father explains that love and truth are innate to the human person and never abandon the human person completely. All this originates in God’s love.
Our response to this transcendental yet incarnate love can be perceived (here the Holy Father goes on his familiar Augustinian theology) both by the light of reason and that of faith. This love is Word (logos) that creates (dia-logos) communication and communion. Humanity is called to receive this love and become witness God’s love and weave networks of love. This Divine Love in truth is what drives the Church to work for justice and common good.

Chapter I
Reflecting on the encyclical Populorum Progressio the Holy Father establishes that this teaching is not new but organic to the whole life of the Church. The Church is engaged in promoting integral human development and claims the right for the freedom to do this. The Holy Father roots the engagement of the Church towards Christian progress in the doctrine of Imago Dei: “ to recognise the divine image in the other…” (n.11) The Holy Father shows how the Church has proclaimed human dignity in all its aspects, mentioning among others, Humane Vitae and Evangelium Vitae.
Reflecting on globalisation the Holy Father remarks that this does make us neighbours but it does not make us brothers. Here Reason and Faith are qualified. Reason makes us neighbours, Faith makes us brothers.

Chapter II
The Holy Father points out that once profit becomes the exclusive goal of development it creates poverty. The present crisis calls for a new humanistic synthesis. In fact, the crisis is an opportunity to shape a new vision for the future. Development needs to be true and integral as today the global market has led, on the part of rich countries, a search for production at low cost for greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. But has this created fraternity? It has created competition between states, downsizing of social security systems, difficulty for trade unions and thus less solidarity. The mobility of market has created unemployment and thus loss of creativity for so many and obviously insecurity and poverty. These processes do not consider that “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.
This has contributed to cultural relativism and levelling that reduces man to a cultural statistic and runs risks of enslavement and manipulation.
Hunger still exists and needs to be countered by financial plans inspired by solidarity.
This vision can only become true in a context that respects life in all its stages. Promotion of religious indifference and/or practical atheism coupled with the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences does not encourage the broadening of our concept of reason. This broadening is vital in the question of development. Without charity in truth, the global force can cause unprecedented damage to the human family and the civilization of love.

Chapter III
Charity in Truth places man before the experience of gift, which gifts freely given often go unrecognised because of the utilitarian or commercial view. Gift makes us present to our transcendent dimension. The opposite of this is when man thinks he is the sole author of life; this is a consequence of original sin. The effects of sin shields economy from a moral influence and tramples on personal and social freedom. The market needs to be subject to commutative justice, social justice and distributive justice, without these forms of solidarity and mutual trust the market cannot function as it should. This trust has ceased to exist, and this is a grave loss. Economic activity on its own cannot solve all social problems; we need the pursuit of the common good. Justice must be applied to every aspect of economic activity as every economic decision has a moral consequence. One of the problems for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors (see Financial Times of June 27/28 2009 (Life & Arts 3) for the treatment of this from an Anglican priest who is executive chairman of HSBC – what he says goes very well with what the Holy Father discusses here)
The Holy Father argues that business enterprise are based on labour and technical knowledge and that these are a universal good that must not be exploited but put in use for bringing about true development. International aid needs to be done in a context of true solidarity and on a solidarity-based plan.
We should not be the victims of globalisation but its protagonists and move it towards the humanising goal of solidarity.

Chapter IV
Many today claim they owe nothing to anyone but themselves. Many fight for their excessive (at times mere licence) while others have no water, food or basic instruction. An over emphasis of rights leads to disregard of duty and this endangers the development of peoples. It is a whole human that brings solidarity.
Economy needs a people-centred ethics (duties) in order to function correctly. The centrality of the human person is always to be held first. This leads to a proper relationship with our environment which makes us responsible stewards over nature.
This process will teach us that truth, and the love which it reveals cannot be produced, they are gift from God who is Truth and Love. This shows us what is good and what brings happiness and shows the road to true development.

Chapter V
This chapter starts by reminding us of a valuable fact: deep poverty starts in isolation, from not being loved and not being able to love. Man’s tragic tendency is to close on himself. Humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in human projects and ideologies. True development happens when the fact that the human race is a single family is recognised.
Part of the solution is thinking especially a deep critical evaluation of relation. Metaphysics can greatly contribute to see man’s worth when he is in relationship with God and others. True development looks at inclusive relationships of all as the community of the human family. The relationship of the Divine persons within the Trinity sheds light upon the relationships between humanity. The Christian religion can contribute significantly towards this as long as God has a place within the public realm. Reason and faith are now taken to a Thomistic level in so far as reason is purified by faith and religion purified by reason. Any breach in this dialogue comes to a great cost for the human family. Believers and non-believers alike almost all agree that all things should be ordered towards man as their summit. One manifestation of charity towards which believers and non-believers can work together is the principal of subsidiarity, assistance towards those in need to achieve their emancipation. If globalisation is led by subsidiarity in link with solidarity than authentic, human development can be achieved. Universal moral law will provided a firm basis for this principle. A holistic education available for all plays a vital role.

Chapter VI
The development of peoples is linked with the development of the individual when he does not simply trust on advancement of technology but looks inwards to find the fundamental norms of natural moral law which God has written in our hearts. Technology is the response to God’s command to “till and keep the land” and is never to be self-sufficient. True development is a mind capable of thinking technologically while grasping fully the meaning of human activities.
Linked to this technological development is the media whose meaning must be sought within an anthropological perspective rather than market forces.
Integral human development is radically called into question in the field of bioethics. How can we be surprised by the indifference shown towards situations of human degradation, when such indifference extends even to our attitude towards what is and is not human?
Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth. Man develops when he grows in the spirit, when he enters into dialogue with himself and his Creator. Man requires new eyes and a new heart to rise above a materialistic vision of human events. The driving force is charity in truth.

When we become aware of our calling as individuals and as community to be God’s, family we will be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism.
True development needs prayerful Christians who love in truth where mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, justice, peace and self-denial inform our commitment for genuine love and brotherly affection. Blessed Mary, Mirror of Justice and Queen of Peace will intercede for us as we bring about the development of the whole man and of all men.

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