A fresh look at Benedict’s valuable gift

Caritas in Veritate remains a crucial document

Catholic social teaching is unfortunately the Church’s best kept secret. But because it directly addresses the world’s most pressing social justice and peace issues, Catholic social teaching instead needs to come out of hiding and be discovered, read, preached, proclaimed and lived in our parishes, schools, universities, media, homes and society.

Five years ago, a very valuable contribution to Catholic social teaching was given to the Church and world by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

His encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) was given a respectful but short hearing, and then put on the shelf to gather dust.

Foundational to all just solutions to the world’s ills is unconditional love. And as the emeritus Holy Father wrote: “Love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.”

Good society

Benedict insists that authentic charity or love needs the assistance of truth. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way,” he wrote.

He taught that the truth contained in the values of Christianity, are “essential for building a good society and for true integral human development”.

He emphasised “the truth of Christ’s love in society”. And added: “Development, social wellbeing, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth…

“Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict’s insights are right on the mark. Because the quest for love, a love influenced by truth, is not on the agenda of so many individuals – especially so many individuals who hold political and corporate power – social action is indeed largely serving private interests and the logic of power

Just consider how income and wealth over the last 30 years have dramatically increased for a tiny percentage of the population, while the working-class’ share of the economic pie has stagnated, and various programmes to assist the poor have significantly been cut.     

Social conscience

While some claim that the Great Recession is over, that claim is of no consolation to countless human beings who are struggling with poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. And all of this painful injustice continues while corporate profits are at or near
all-time highs, and CEO’s are racking in astronomical salaries.

 A greedy, unjust toxic economic atmosphere is suffocating countless brothers and sisters. Social conscience and responsibility are not in the air. 

Although the atmosphere is foul, as disciples of the Lord we are called to be men and women of hope.

For just as air pollution can be reversed, so too, economic pollution can be cleaned up. As Christians, we have the ultimate remedy: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For as the emeritus Pope wrote: “The Gospel is fundamental for development, because in the Gospel, Christ, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself.”

Christ became human to show us what true humanity should reflect: divine love and absolute truth.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.