Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 13, 2009
Outlook of eternal life is pope's key to true development
No one more Catholic than this pope in a approaching social issues
CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORROMANO VIA REUTERS
Pope Benedict signs a copy of his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate at the Vatican July 6. The Pope's social encyclical, released July 7, addresses the global economic crises.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
VATICAN CITY - Along with addressing his encyclical Caritas in Veritate to bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and the laity, Pope Benedict also hopes that it will be read by "all people of good will."
While the pope is no doubt sincere in addressing his letter to the wider world, the vision of "integral human development" he presents is so thoroughly Catholic that one must wonder at the likelihood at it being well received there.
In his conclusion, Pope Benedict states, "The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God."
Openness to God, he says, is what makes us open to being in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.
On the contrary, one of the greatest barriers to human development is "ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference."
FASHIONS OF THE MOMENT
"Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life . . . without exposing us to the risk of being ensnared by the fashions of the moment."
Pope Benedict goes on to say, "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."
This is surely not the approach to development being nurtured in most MBA programs, at the World Bank or within grassroots NGOs.
THE WHOLE PERSON
But for Pope Benedict, it is the only approach to development worth pursuing. Development that is not rooted in truth - that is, in "God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth" - is development that will fail to meet the needs of the whole person.
In everything the Church does - proclaiming the Word, celebrating the sacraments and performing works of charity - it is engaged in integral human development. This development "concerns the whole of the human person in every single dimension."
If you don't get the point of that, the pope goes on to say, "Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing space.
"Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods."
SAPPED OF MOTIVATION
What happens to development if Christianity and other religions are excluded from participating by either secularist or fundamentalist leaders?
"Public life is sapped of its motivation and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive character. Human rights risk being ignored either because they are robbed of their transcendent foundation or because personal freedom is not acknowledged."
Pope Benedict's view is clear: Everything the Church does leads to authentic development. But if the Church is excluded, there is no development worthy of the name.