Friday, July 10, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

At the fifth annual Summit of the Americas, held this past April in Trinidad and Tobago, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, and President Obama exchanged handshakes. Chavez, who is promoting socialism throughout Latin America, handed the president a book when they met as a gift. It is called, Open Veins of Latin America, by the journalist Eduardo Galeano.

The book apparently shot up to #2 on Amazon's best-seller list after this gift was given. I got it from inter-library loan, but it had been on hold and took a while to get here. I've started it and have read about 1/3. It is definitely an eye-opener, and one cannot help but be moved by the suffering of people in the Central and South Americas since the time of the Spanish Conquest. Economic conquerers have taken these lands by force, induced slave to near-slave labor and drained the lands of their value ever since.

Now, I do not believe that life was perfect for the indigenous people before the entrance of Europeans. There was much war, depletion of land and human sacrifice. But as a Christian, I am horrified by the way these people were treated by supposedly Christian lands (at the time) such as Spain, and alongside the development of the Catholic Church. The book is an endless litany of mal-treatment of populations for the sake of land to be used for sugar, rubber, coffee, etc. and minerals for military and other uses for the US and Europe. This includes the slave trade which brought many persons from Africa to also be exploited.Of course, individual barrons may not have had the faith, but they were ruled by sovereigns who should have known better.

I know when the Americas were first inhabited by Europeans 1492, it was a different time when slavery was more culturally accepted, but this 500-year history has been and still is pitiful. More recently, the Church as become active in Latin America with Liberation Theology as an attempt to help the people. Though the Pope may not approve of the theology behind this movement, there is a need to do something substantial for the poor.

Interestingly, the Pope has released a new encyclical which does address these types of issues. It's called Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), and there is a video at the National Catholic Register in which he introduces it with these words:
Today I wish to reflect on my encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. Some 40 years after Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, it too addresses social themes vital to the well-being of humanity and reminds us that authentic renewal of both individuals and society requires living by Christ’s truth in love which stands at the heart of the Church’s social teaching.
The encyclical does not aim to provide technical solutions to today’s social problems but instead focuses on the principles indispensable for human development. Most important among these is human life itself, the center of all true progress. Additionally, it speaks of the right to religious freedom as a part of human development, it warns against unbounded hope in technology alone, and it underlines the need for upright men and women attentive to the common good in both politics and the business world.
In regard to matters of particular urgency affecting the word today, the encyclical addresses a wide range of issues and calls for decisive action to promote food security and agricultural development, as well as respect for the environment and for the rule of law.
Stressed is the need for politicians, economists, producers and consumers alike to ensure that ethics shapes economics so that profit alone does not regulate the world of business.
Dear friends: Humanity is a single family where every development program if it is to be integral must consider the spiritual growth of human persons and the driving force of charity in truth.
Let us pray for all those who serve in politics and the management of economies, and, in particular, let us pray for the heads of state gathering in Italy for the G8 Summit. May their decisions promote true development, especially for the world’s poor. Thank you.

I hope to read the encyclical soon and comment on it. It can be found at the Vatican website here.

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