Caritas in Veritate Summary: Capstone and New Direction (Part 5 of 5)
Issues of Life
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING AND HUMAN LIFE
We complete our summary of Caritas in Veritate by calling out another new contribution. Pope Benedict XVI “completes” Pope St. John Paul II’s introduction of life issues to social teaching (in Centesimus Annus).
Issues of life had been somewhat quarantined from Catholic social teaching and were considered a separate branch of moral theology.
The implications for their integration into CST in Centesimus Annus were potentially huge but were not entirely sorted. This has now been ‘corrected’.
YOU CANNOT SEPARATE LIFE FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE
In Caritas in Veritate the Church makes clear that there can be no separation of issues of life and social justice:
“[R]espect 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 social question has become a radical anthropological question.” (CIV, 75)
This is one of Pope Benedict XVI’s unique contributions to Catholic social teaching – pointing out that a primary task of working for social justice includes promoting a culture of life.
Pope Benedict XVI also united Solidarity and Subsidiarity. See more here: The Practical Value of Solidarity and Subsidiarity
WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Pope Benedict XVI is trying to inspire and ignite lay Catholics to develop their consciences on the tenets of Catholic social teaching, embrace the concept of integral development and realize that our efforts in this area are a binding and forceful requirement of our lay vocation:
“Development needs Christians with their arms raised toward God in prayer“. (CIV, 79)
CARITAS IN VERITATE SUMMARY
In Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI confirms the details of Catholic social teaching while ‘moving’ it to a different level.
He continues a ‘new stream’ of the Church’s social teaching; one began by Pope St. Paul VI with Populorum Progressio, followed 20 years later by Pope St. John Paul’s Sollicitudo rei Socialis and commemorated again by his CIV.
He states, “I intend to pay tribute and to honor 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.” (CIV, 8)
“Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered ‘the Rerum Novarum of the present age’, shedding light upon humanity’s journey toward unity.” (CIV, 8)
CARITAS IN VERITATE THEMES
Some of the themes of Caritas in Veritate we have identified include:
- CIV “roots social teaching in the virtue of charity”. Love is at the heart of Catholic social teaching.
- Human development must be integral – involving all aspects of our humanity, not just economic and political:
- “Through this close link with truth, 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)
- “[A]uthentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension”. (CIV, 9)
- Catholic social teaching/social action requires belief, acceptance and the integration of God in all facets of life and development: it requires personal conversion.
- “Adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development”. (CIV, 4)
- “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)
- Pope Benedict XVI makes Catholic social teaching more binding on the individual faithful. He makes personal conversion a requirement of true social action. He sees CST as a way to “give flesh to our faith”:
- “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 anchors issues of life to the Church’s social teaching.
Three Key Principles
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)
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