Charity in Truth: World Needs Moral Overhaul


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(07 July 09 - RV) "Charity in Truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love - caritas - is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in ...justice and peace".

That is how Pope Benedict's third encyclical begins: a call to truth in love as a force for human development. The long awaited papal document signed on June 29th, feast of Sts Peter and Paul, is 144 pages long, subdivided into six chapters dedicated to the current economic crisis and its effects on human development, the environment, the development of peoples and technology, and the meaning of cooperation and solidarity between peoples and nations.

But it all starts with a re-visitation of the encyclical Populorum Progressio written by the Pope Paul VI in 1967. Pope Benedict says that in this document his predecessor set out two important truths: that the "Church has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities", but she must be given the freedom to do so and the second; that "without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world, is denied breathing space".

In chapter 2 Benedict XVI discusses human development in our time, 40 years on from Populorum Progressio's warning that economic, technological and social development must have common good as its ultimate goal and not profit. Pope Benedict acknowledges that billions have been lifted out of poverty since then, but other zones of the world are still living in deprivation. And he also writes that "this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems".

In chapter 2 the Pope gets to the heart of the current global economic crisis. He denounces "speculative financial dealings", "bad management" and its effects on the real economy. The Pope also criticises the "unregulated exploitation of the earths resources". He says the crisis reveals the need for a "profound cultural renewal" and he calls for "new rules" and a "re-planning" of the direction humanity is taking.

Pope Benedict also addresses issues such as sustainable development, forced migration, the uncertain labour market and the impact of deregulation on humanity's life plans. He traces the link between declining rates in marriage and births and the increasing socio-economic instability, warning that if the trend is not reversed this situation will lead to "situations of human decline". And he reminds governments that the "primary capital to safeguard is man". He also delves into the depths of the phenomenon of globalisation in Chapter three. Noting that global "investment always has a moral as well as economic significance" he calls for a "civilising of the economy" saying that current crisis can only be overcome if we "appropriate the underlying anthropological and ethical spirit that drives globalisation towards solidarity" .

In a chapter entirely dedicated to the rights and duties of man to safe guard the environment, Pope Benedict writes that in order to protect nature it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; he points out that once again the decisive issue is "the overall moral tenor of society". The Pope asks the question, , how can we expect society to respect the environment if society does not respect human life?. "If there is no respect for the right to life and natural death the conscience of society ends up loosing the concept of human ecology and with it that of environmental ecology". The book of nature, is one and indivisible. "A humanism which excludes God, he concludes, is an inhuman humanism". "Development must not just include material growth but also spiritual growth".