Friday, July 17, 2009

Caritas In Veritate, Pt. 2

We left off from the previous post with the Holy Father talking about how human development isn't just about the acquisition or the bequeathing of stuff, much less burgeoning economic prowess. To the contrary, these things will hinder development if they are accomplished at the expense of God. Given that temptation comes from the WORLD, the flesh, and the Devil, you can see how easy it is for this to happen.

But, and here's where the political left has been trying to make their bones with this document, you can't ignore the government's role in economics or that of economics in social justice. So:

Today, as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, which sees the State's public authorities directly involved in correcting errors and malfunctions, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today's world. Once the role of public authorities has been more clearly defined, one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally, that have come about through the activity of organizations operating in civil society; in this way it is to be hoped that the citizens' interest and participation in the res publica will become more deeply rooted.

Ah-HA! The Pope is about to drop some mad Marxist-socialist-communist-whatever science on us, right?

Not so much.

Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers' associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

I've been told this is somehow different from what Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI said on the subject, not to mention JPII. I have yet to see a good explanation of this alleged difference. The Church has always supported workers' rights and the formation of unions, albeit unions free from corruption. The bottom line is that cutting off social systems that are meant to protect the masses in exchange for that new factory is crossing some moral lines that are best left alone. This does not equate to some sort of "nanny state," which was condemned in Centessimus Annus:

In recent years the range of such intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of State, the so-called "Welfare State". This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the "Social Assistance State". Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.

It would be really nice if people just calmed down and didn't take everything the Pope says to its immediate and most distorted extreme.

The Pope goes on to discuss some items that are driving globalization and creating problems that we really haven't seen before. One of these is cultural exchange, which led him to drop this nugget:

Let it not be forgotten that the increased commercialization of cultural exchange today leads to a twofold danger. First, one may observe a cultural eclecticism that is often assumed uncritically: cultures are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable. This easily yields to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue; on the social plane, cultural relativism has the effect that cultural groups coexist side by side, but remain separate, with no authentic dialogue and therefore with no true integration.

Secondly, the opposite danger exists, that of cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles. In this way one loses sight of the profound significance of the culture of different nations, of the traditions of the various peoples, by which the individual defines himself in relation to life's fundamental questions. What eclecticism and cultural levelling have in common is the separation of culture from human nature. Thus, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them, and man ends up being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.

Very important, especially in light of what seems to be growing views among certain camps that are basically cultural elitism and moral bankruptcy when considered at a cultural level. The Church basically doesn't care if a certain group has been indoctrinated via culture into thinking that intrinsic evil is ok. The badness in question remains bad. It's weird how folks will try to skirt around the issue of the Church purifying a lot of bad pagan stuff, but when it gets applied to modern cultural stuff, we get blasted for it in the claim that we are "imposing" on the other group. This view, of course, has moral relativism as its foundation, taking it for granted that what the other group is doing must be ok.

Next topic: Hunger is bad, and everybody should help to get rid of it. I think we can all agree and move on to a bit more controversial topic.

Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favour of its juridical recognition.

Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.

Isn't it odd that the leftists haven't really grabbed hold of the pro-life material in this encyclical? Or that the rightists (or whatever they are called) aren't harping on these elements more? It shouldn't be surprising to anyone. It just goes to show that no significant group currently on the political radar is completely backing the Church. I wanted to draw this bit out specifically because the Pope is clearly going beyond abortion here to target contraception and sterilization as well.

The gall of the man.

Now, something that has come up in modern times is that every time a pope mentions religious liberty, everybody kind of freaks out. The fuzziness of Dignitatis Humanae has something to do with this, but I think it would be a major issue anyway, if for no other reason, than the rampant advance of secularism. Given that our current Pontiff has such a knack for outraging folks, he naturally waded into these waters:

There is another aspect of modern life that is very closely connected to development: the denial of the right to religious freedom. I am not referring simply to the struggles and conflicts that continue to be fought in the world for religious motives, even if at times the religious motive is merely a cover for other reasons, such as the desire for domination and wealth. Today, in fact, people frequently kill in the holy name of God, as both my predecessor John Paul II and I myself have often publicly acknowledged and lamented. Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism, which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.

The Pope here doesn't seem to be making much of a point other than religious conflicts are bad and escalate into much larger issues if not defused. Check this out, though:

Yet it should be added that, as well as religious fanaticism that in some contexts impedes the exercise of the right to religious freedom, so too the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries obstructs the requirements for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources. God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to “be more”. Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved. If man were merely the fruit of either chance or necessity, or if he had to lower his aspirations to the limited horizon of the world in which he lives, if all reality were merely history and culture, and man did not possess a nature destined to transcend itself in a supernatural life, then one could speak of growth, or evolution, but not development. When the State promotes, teaches, or actually imposes forms of practical atheism, it deprives its citizens of the moral and spiritual strength that is indispensable for attaining integral human development and it impedes them from moving forward with renewed dynamism as they strive to offer a more generous human response to divine love. In the context of cultural, commercial or political relations, it also sometimes happens that economically developed or emerging countries export this reductive vision of the person and his destiny to poor countries. This is the damage that “superdevelopment” causes to authentic development when it is accompanied by “moral underdevelopment”.

I want all the separation of Church and State folks to take notice here. The crux of every Magisterial warning about Church/State separation has hinged on two factors. One, such a policy promotes indifferentism. Two, such indifferentism eventually leads to atheism. I'll admit that this isn't exactly Pius IX and the Syllabus of Errors, but it is quite refreshing to see the Pope bringing these elements back into play. Oh, and for those who are freaking out that over the fact that he didn't explicitly mention Catholicism in this snippet, please unclench for a moment. Try to accept that maybe the Pope is actually thinking with the mind of the Church here. What other religion is he going to be promoting?

We are returned to the centrality of God as the set up for the next chapter:

Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.

Again, if we humans try to go it alone, we're screwed.

Pope Benedict concludes with some further comments on globalization and the human aspects of the economy which are being ignored in favor of a more materialist vision of human development. The next chapter begins the more economic-centric parts of the encyclical. Hopefully, I'll have some stuff up for that shortly.

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