Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 13, 2009
Encyclical seeks new way of organizing economy
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Pope Benedict has called for "a profoundly new way" of understanding and organizing the global economy, one that puts love at the centre and looks to the long-term good of society.
In his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Pope Benedict examines an economy that he says "is marked by grave deviations and failures" through profoundly religious eyes.
"Development needs 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," the pope wrote.
"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."
But if the pope said that human development cannot be fully accomplished without being rooted in Christian love, he also pointed to several directions for concrete social and political change.
"There is urgent need of a true world political authority," he said, maintaining that the notion of a global family of nations needs "real teeth."
This authority, he says, should manage the global economy, resist greater imbalances in the world, bring about timely disarmament, protect the environment, ensure food security and peace, and regulate migration.
The Vatican released the encyclical, dated June 29, on July 7, the day before the G-8 leaders met in Italy to discuss the global economic crisis.
Pope Benedict said the human consequences of "a short-term economy, sometimes very short-term," need to be carefully evaluated.
Plans for development need to be considered in light of "solidarity and inter-generational justice," he said.
Reducing protection for workers' rights or abandoning methods of redistributing wealth in order to increase a country's international competitiveness only undermines full human development, he said.
While giving qualified support to a market-based economy, the pope said, "the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak."
"Once profit becomes the exclusive goal . . . it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty."
A narrow approach to economic growth "has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems," he said.
Those problems include speculative financial dealing, large-scale migration of peoples and the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources, he said.
The pope's "profoundly new way" of economic life includes practices such as contracts, just laws and redistribution. "What is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift."
The notion of "gratuitousness" as essential to justice runs through Caritas in Veritate. Gratuitousness is already widely present in the economy, but often goes unnoticed because of society's utilitarian and consumerist focus, he said.
He contrasted gratuitousness with giving in order to get something else.
"The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift."
Likewise, the notion of charity, which is fundamental to the Church's social doctrine, continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, he said.
Charity must be linked with truth for without such a link, there can be no social conscience or responsibility, he said.
But when charity is properly understood, it becomes "an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace."