Caritas in Veritate Summary: Capstone and New Direction (Part 1 of 5)
A Caritas in Veritate Summary
A summary of Caritas in Veritate (CIV) begins with understanding its importance and requires recognizing its complexity and ambition and also its simplicity.
In CIV, Pope Benedict XVI confirms the “details” of Catholic social teaching while taking it “beyond” these particulars: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that a main goal of Caritas in Veritate is to move Catholic social teaching in a different direction.
So, while there is much in Caritas that addresses specifics (mobility of labor, ethical tourism, water rights, energy distribution, migration, development aide, etc.) Pope Benedict XVI takes Catholic social teaching “beyond” these by focusing the Church’s social teaching on the need to consider man in all his aspects – especially his spiritual development and needs.
Let’s look at the context of Caritas in Veritate.
Continuity and Change
The first clue we have of this new direction is CIV was not given in 2011 – as previous, seminal social letters routinely followed Rerum Novarum’s 1891 anniversary dating (Quadragesimo Anno, 1931; Radio Message, 1941; Mater et Magistra, 1961; Octogesima Adveniens, 1971; Centesimus Annus, 1991).
Rather, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his conviction that “Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered ‘the Rerum Novarum of the present age,’ shedding light upon humanity’s journey toward unity.” (Caritas in Veritate, 8).
So, CIV develops the stream of thought begun by Pope St. Paul VI in 1967’s Populorum Progressio, continued by Pope St. John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei Socialis in 1987 and memorialized and extended by Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate.
Further recognizing Pope St. John Paul II’s contribution in creating this new ‘thread’ and tradition of Catholic social teaching, Pope Benedict XVI noted that “Until that time [the 1991 publication of Centesimus Annus], only Rerum Novarum had been commemorated in this way” (CIV, 8).
Charity is the Heart of Catholic Social Teaching
Pope Benedict XVI indissolubly roots Catholic social teaching with the Theological virtue of Charity: “Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine” (CIV, 2).
This is reflected by Pope Benedict even placing love as the central concept in the very title of the encyclical: Caritas in Veritate – Love in Truth.
And this is not some theoretical link – it has very practical implications: “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in our life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity“. (CIV, 1)
Pope Benedict XVI continues this point throughout CIV: “‘Caritas in Veritate’ is the principle around which the church’s social doctrine turns” (CIV, 6) and “Justice is the primary way of charity” while “on the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it.” (CIV, 60)
Pope Benedict XVI also observes that just as Catholic social teaching addresses the common good and structures of society, “charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations, including those of a public nature” (CIV, 3).
He goes even further stating, “Only in charity, illuminated by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.” (CIV, 9)
Implementing Catholic social teaching, which is the route to true human development, requires that we act, always, in charity.
“Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine” (CIV, 2)
A New Direction
This ‘different direction’ for Catholic social teaching is summarized by focusing on one’s interior motivation rather than actions.
Pope Benedict XVI recognizes, just as Pope St. Paul VI did, “the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order.” They are to be found, “first of all, in the will, which often neglects the duties of solidarity; second, in thinking, which does not always give proper direction to the will. (CIV, 19)
The Meaning of Caritas in Veritate
What does this mean for us? Caritas in Veritate grounds Catholic social teaching in Charity and emphasizes the new direction of focusing interiorly. Now, let’s investigate five major themes:
- Catholic social teaching is based on and in faith. Personal conversion is required to truly implement Catholic social teaching.
- Development must be integral – involving all aspects of humanity not just the material.
- Catholic social teaching is a “requirement” of lay spirituality – living out our lives in the world.
- The inclusion of family and life issues in CST, begun by Pope St. John Paul II in Centesimus Annus, is completed in CIV: “respect for life…cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples…Openness to life is at the center of true development. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. (CIV, 28)
- The Catholic social teaching principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity, occasionally presented as independent, or even ‘competing’, are united in CIV.
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)