Caritas in Veritate


The new papal encyclical had already been the subject of debate and speculation before its official publication. Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) is a social letter. It reflects on globalisation and it seems to be a response to the current economic crisis. Some Catholic capitalists felt the need to reply on the defensive to this missive that focuses on the true meaning of Christian charity:

In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development. A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world. Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis. (par. 4)

The text restates (recalls?) the commitment to social justice that must be at the heart of Christianity. Pope Benedict XVI’s stress on the common good goes against the capitalist ideal of self-interest. He writes, “The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way.” (par. 34). Solidarity, the recognition of a common ground, the process of mutual support, must go hand in hand with progress: “The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development.” (par. 18). Benedict emphasises the need to protect the rights of workers, the necessity for greater public contributions, and urges that our interest should be the protection of basic human needs.

As Davey Henreckson summarises, “every economic decision is ultimately a moral decision”. Henreckson later adds that

Benedict draws out both our responsibility to consider the natural (ecological) world, and the deeper human relationships across national and economic boundaries. We do not live in a zero-sum world. And the way to restore these charitable relationships with nature and our fellow men begins with a realization of the public nature of faith. Christians as citizens are uniquely motivated to work toward justice, since they have a transcendent allegiance to the world. Public life is a life of faith.

Ultimately, Caritas in Veritate argues against the conception of markets and technology as independent, as having a remote life of their own, away from human value. That such things are idolised, it is a sign of how some of us have replaced freedom, the freedom of being and its responsibilities, with a false autonomy.

While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human. God reveals man to himself; reason and faith work hand in hand to demonstrate to us what is good, provided we want to see it [...]. (par. 75)