By Mary E. McClusky
July 10, 2009
What is the answer to the socio-economic problems facing humanity today? According to the Holy Father in his third encyclical, “Charity in Truth” (Caritas in Veritate), it is charity exercised in the light of truth. Released on July 7, the new encyclical focuses on the intricate link between the sharing of goods and resources and economic vitality and growth, while reaffirming that the proper “development of peoples” in an increasingly globalized society demands a commitment to justice and the common good. It thoroughly examines modern dangers to the proper development of humans in society, but also provides the faithful and all people of good will a moral vision for moving forward. “Charity in Truth” also contains a wealth of insight on issues like abortion, contraception, bioethics, and marriage and the family, showing how these are connected to the major themes of the document. Here are some highlights: (italics are from the document.)
“If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.” (51)
“Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” (28)
“To the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion we may well have to add in the future — indeed it is already surreptitiously present — the systematic eugenic programming of births. At the other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads as an equally damaging assertion of control over life that under certain circumstances is deemed no longer worth living. . . . 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?” (75)
“By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.”(28)
“Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people.”(44)
The Holy Father goes on to describe the negative economic effects of declining birth rates in many developed countries, and calls for policies which promote families founded upon marriage between one man and one woman. He concludes by reminding us “Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth.” (76) Truth-filled love is given to us by God, and we are urged to turn to Him in prayer and accept that gift, that we might share it joyfully with others and work together towards respect for each human life and its authentic development.
To read “Caritas in Veritate,” visit www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html
For more from the USCCB on “Charity in Truth”, visit www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-154.shtml
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.