Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Caritas in Veritate 2

I recently posted about Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth). He talks about love and care for others, but stresses that the only way toward a truly fair society is by following the True God. It is God who makes us fully human, and He who can provide what we need. All other attempts rely on human power, which is insufficient. He says, "God is the guarantor of man's true development" (section 29).

The Pope's encyclical is in part a slightly overdue 40th anniversary tribute to Pope Paul VI's 1967 encyclical, Popularium Progresso. This is in the tradition of giving tribute to the famous social encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum. You can read more about that if you are interested at Wikipedia here. Several encyclicals followed at intervals to commemorate its significance.

In Popularium Progresso Paul VI had also talked about the revelance of God's Truth for social development. Benedict XVI reiterates some of what was already said, but points out that the change in world economics through globalization calls for a fresh look and evaluation of the social situation.

In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII in 1891 addressed the wretched conditions of laborers in the industrial revolution. Paul VI expressed that the economy should serve everyone, not just a concentration of rich and powerful.
As I said before, socialist leader Hugo Chavez of Venezuela presented President Obama with Eduardo Galeano's book, Open Veins of Latin America (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1973). Galeano extensively described African and American slavery. One short passage in his book I found very interesting. In 1562, a Captain John Hawkins had smuggled some Africans out of Portuguese Guinea. Queen Elizabeth, sovereign of England at the time, called it a detestable act and believed he would be struck down by heaven itself. However, when he told her he had exchanged the slaves for sugar, pearls and other items from the New World, she "became his business partner (p.80)."

This is a good example for several reasons. First, it shows that people even in that time knew slavery was not right. People may have culturally accepted slavery more easily in times past, but our consciences can always speak to us clearly. Secondly, it highlights the problem we have even now, that material goods can all too easily turn us into oppressing agents.

Though most sovereigns no longer rule with great power, businesses, governments and financial institutions are still taking advantage of the land and workers. The Pope has gone to the Middle East to plea for peace, and talks with President Obama about life issues, but does he meet with those who monopolize businesses in Latin America and pay workers $1.00 a day? Perhaps he does, for he greets heads of states and talks with many persons. However, we do not see this in the media and the impact does not seem to be as great. Perhaps now that the Vatican is hooking up to the world by Internet, we will get more benefit from social teaching. I know the Pope has talked about materialism and so it is getting through on some level. Indeed, the encyclical says that new thinking and organization should go into ways to guarantee the human rights of food, water and life itself.

Economic oppression is what Pope Benedict has to address if he is going to criticize socialism and liberation theology. Latin America is already awash in both movements. States are taking over private businesses. I am not advocating the state confiscation of private businesses, but I am saying that because many people do not know how to curb their greed, they are facing some consequences. And if the Pope doesn't like the liberation theology agenda, he must supply the bishops and parishioners with one he does like, that effectively helps workers, business owners, financiers, etc. to somehow work together.

I totally agree that we need God to set things straight. Unfortunately, God is not on the minds of those bent on making money at all costs. The problem for the Church is how to best follow God when we face the evil of those who put Him, at best, in second place.

I have not finished the encyclical but will try to get it done this week and make final comments Friday.

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