Hope and realism
by Giovanni Maria Vian
the 7/8/09 issue of
Realism and hope, notwithstanding the world economic crisis.
That is Benedict XVI's third encyclical in the briefest synthesis, or better, as a summary approximation to a text that is as important and rich as the time it took to elaborate it.
Continuing a tradition of papal documents begun in 1891 by the famous Rerum novarum
of Leo XIII and developed vigorously in 1931 by the two encyclicals of Pius XI following the great economic and financial depression which took place two years earlier: Quadragesimo anno
, and the almost unknown Nova impendet
on the gravity of the crisis and on the folly of the arms race, which at the time, showed acute perception of a problem that is still present.
And finally, to the social teachings of John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.
Caritas in veritate
takes its place in this series, underscoring, even in this, the continuity between tradition before adn after Vatican II.
Referring to the preceding encyclicals, particularly the last two Montini encyclicals that Paul VI himself recalled, some 40 days before he died, as specially expressive of his pontificate: Populorum progressio
, a continuous reference, almost the subtext, for this Benedictian document; and Humanae vitae
, from which Caritas in veritate
specifically picks up its social significance - as it happened 40 years ago in the Third World in the face of a storm of criticism, even from within the Church, ithat arose in the rich societies against the Pauline encyclical.
Supporting the entire structure of Caritas in veritate
- addressed unusually not only to Catholics but also 'to all men of good will' - is the relationship between the two terms of the title. They are linked so powerfully that they give rise to the possibility of the integral development of the human being and of mankind - which is indeed assured only by 'charity in truth', that is, by the love of Christ. As the Introduction clearly shows.
Within this theological framework, the encyclical designs an attentive and up-to-date summa socialis
which belies, if proof were still needed, the image of a Pope who is nothing but a theologian isolated in his rooms, and instead confirms how attentive Benedict XVI is, as a theologian and as pastor, to contemporary reality in all its aspects.
What stands out from the text at first glance is its attention to the phenomena of globalization and technocracy - which in themselves are neutral, but subject to degeneration, on account of, 'in the terms of faith', as the Pope says, original sin.
A closer look however makes clear the trust expressed by the Pope in the possibility pf a truly human development, that which Paul VI already described as inherent in the design of divine providence, which is, in some ways, a sign of the progressive journey of the city of man towards the city of God.
Benedict XVI's attitude cannot be described as pessimistic a priori [But who has said that????]
as some would have it, but neither is it one of ingenuous and irresponsible optimism, because it is based on typically Catholic confidence in reason that is open to the presence of the divine.
Thus the economic and technological spheres are part of human activity that should not be demonized, but not left to themselves either, because they should be linked to the common good, and thus, governed from an ethical point of view.
To give just one example, the sheer phenomenon of globalization does not by itself make all men brothers, and it is evident that rules are necessary for its proper orientation.
If therefore the economic dimension can be - or rather, must be - human, if the historical moment is propitious for abandoning ideologies which in the past century, for instance, left only ruin behind, then truly, the time has come to profit from the opportunity offered by the world crisis to emerge from it together - believers along with all men and women of good will.
As the Pope has written this encyclical for everyone that we might live as one family under the Creator's loving regard.
Personally, I found this editorial in Il Foglio - the insight sounds like it was written by editor Giuliano Ferrara himself, although the newspaper's editorials are generally unsigned - unusually perceptive regarding the design and ultimate thrust of the encyclical.
Technology, the ultimate ideology -
and the defense of the human being
in Benedict XVI's new encyclical
July 8, 2009
- The self-referential absolutism of a technology that is no longer the instrument of progress but has become a new ideology - the last one - of globalization.
- Bio-ethics as "the primary and crucial field for the cultural battle between the absolutism of technology and human responsiblity".
- The social question which has now become radically coincident with "the anthropogical question in the sense that it implies not only the very manner of conception itself, but also of manipulating life, which is more and more left to human hands by the new biotechnologies".
- The 'technological mindset' which identifies the true as that which coincides with the possible, and in so doing, betrays the noble and appropriate uses of technology itself.
In the sixth and final chapter of the encyclical Carita in veritate
, Benedict XVI concetrates and lays out the themes of the defense of the human being, endangered by the 'present culture of total disenchantmment which believes it has revealed every mystery because it has now reached to the very roots of life".
This papal appeal that immediately precedes thr conclusion of the encyclical, in relation to which it almost serves as a summation, is very important and revelatory
No one can be surprised about the indifference towards the poor of the earth and towards the 'human situations of degradation', the Pope says, if he understands that the same indifference characterizes the attitude of 'a conscience that has become incapable of recognizing the human'.
The eugenetic planning of births, the affirmation of a mens eutanisica
, research using human embryos as laboratory specimens, 'the possiblity of human cloning and hybridization' - these are all immense injustices among other more 'common' uinjustices. And they represent a negation of freedom.
Because "human freedom is properly so only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions which are the fruit of moral responsibility".
Benedict XVI's social encyclical is a great call to secular rationality, a secularism that is denied by the new religion of technoscience.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2009 4:03 PM]