00 7/10/2009 12:03 AM

Because of its subject matter, Caritas in veritate (CV as some news agencies have abbreviated it) is not easy to synthesize, as indeed most encylicals are. Much more so in this case, where the Pope had to interweave theology, philosophy and a spiritual approach to pragmatic day-to-day considerations that have to do with the arcane complex workings of finance and economics in today's global society.

Of all the initial reports I have seen so far, I think this one by dpa is an excellent first reading that avoides the usual platitudes and goes directly to what I think is the center of the entire discourse: people as the primary object of development.

Pope Benedict critiques
the global economy
in new encyclical

Vatican City, July 7 (dpa) - In an encyclical published Tuesday on the eve of a Group of Eight summit, Pope Benedict XVI has urged governments to place the needs of people first as they grapple with the current economic crisis.

"The primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his and her integrity," the pontiff wrote in the document, published as a 144-page booklet.

He also calls for a reform of the United Nations and of economic institutions and international finance "so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth."

Poorer nations in particular, "must be given an effective voice in shared decision making," according to the German-born pontiff.

Benedict notes how, under the guise of intellectual property rights, rich nations often display an excessive zeal to "protect knowledge," with the effect that the poor are deprived of access to costly medicines and other forms of advanced health care products and treatments.

Entitled Caritas in veritate, in English, Charity in Truth, the text - compiled with the input of several experts - was given final approval when the Pope signed it last week.

Traditionally, encyclicals are the most authoritative documents a pope can issue. The Vatican has said Benedict had been working on the encyclical since 2007, but held back on issuing it so that he could update it to reflect the global economic crisis.

And in the text of Charity in Truth, the 82-year-old pontiff deals with some of the finer points of global trade, financial speculation on the investment markets, food security and intellectual property rights.

Stressing what he sees as the injustices of globalized, transnational capitalism, Benedict pinpoints the practice of "outsourcing," whereby companies obtain product components or services from suppliers located in areas with lower labour costs.

Such business arrangements "can weaken the company's sense of responsibility," towards "the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment."

Instead, those who benefit are company shareholders "who are not tied to a specific geographical area," the pontiff writes, stressing that businesses have to show "greater social responsibility."

While recognizing that development based on economic growth has brought benefits, this process continues to be "weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems."

Among the chief evils of the global economy, the pontiff includes "badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing," the forces that propel "large scale migration of people," and the "unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources."

Benedict notes that, in rich countries, parts of society are succumbing to poverty, while in poor nations some elites enjoy the benefits of "super-development of a wasteful and consumerist kind."

Whilst the current global crisis has had a devastating impact on millions of people, it also offers an opportunity "to replan our journey, set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment," according to Benedict.

Benedict has written three encyclicals in his four years as Pope including Deus caritas est (God is Love) in 2006 and Spe salvi (Saved by Hope) in 2007.

Leaders from the Group of Eight - the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia - on Wednesday are scheduled to begin three days of talks in the central Italian city of L'Aquila in Rome.

First thoughts:

What the initial 'summaries' have failed to emphasize enough is that Benedict VXI devotes two of the encyclical's five chapters to a discussion of Paul VI's Populorum progressio and how his predecessor "illuminated the great theme of development of peoples with the splendor of truth and the gentle light of Christ's charity".

In the Introduction, Benedict XVI is very explicit about honoring Paul VI in this respect:

At a distance of over forty years from the Encyclical's publication, I intend to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment.

This continual application to contemporary circumstances began with the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, with which the Servant of God Pope John Paul II chose to mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Populorum Progressio.

Until that time, only Rerum Novarum (Pope Leo XIII's had been commemorated in this way. Now that a further twenty years have passed, I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.

I found this a memorable synthesis of the encyclical itself:

Caritas in veritate is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns, a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that govern moral action.... in particular, justice and the common good. (No. 6)

...Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.

The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf Rom 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.
(No. 9)

There will be no lack of commentators, expert or otherwise, who will critique the Pope's analysis of globalization and the current structures of finance and economy, but if they are secular, they will most likely ignore the Pope's conclusion that reiterates the basic message of his Pontificate to mankind - the primacy of God in everything and to all men, and the universal reciprocal practice of love as its best expression:

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.

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.

All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh” (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth “divine” and thus more worthy of humanity.

All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: “the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor 3:22-23)...

At the conclusion of the Pauline Year, I gladly express this hope in the Apostle's own words, taken from the Letter to the Romans: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom 12:9-10).

May the Virgin Mary — proclaimed Mater Ecclesiae by Paul VI and honoured by Christians as Speculum Iustitiae and Regina Pacis — protect us and obtain for us, through her heavenly intercession, the strength, hope and joy necessary to continue to dedicate ourselves with generosity to the task of bringing about the “development of the whole man and of all men”[159]. No, 79)