Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Globalisation, which marks society today, is in need of a reaffirmation of ethical values, as well as “a personal and communal cultural orientation, open to transcendence" that is capable of "correcting its malfunctions." Finance, the marketplace, the international and the internal relations of each country, respect for human rights, for the lives of those who work, the use and not the abuse of nature; in a word, human development. But in order for it to be an integral development that takes into account the whole of the human person, it is in need of "charity in truth." "The economy needs ethics for its efficient functioning, not any ethics but an ethics in favour of the person”. This is the point at the heart of Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI’s third encyclical made public today, and dedicated to the different aspects of the issue of development, 40 years on from Populorum Progressio, Paul VI’s great encyclical .
Addressed to the “bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, the lay faithful and all people of good will”, the encyclical begins with the affirmation that “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness” is “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity”. The binomial is indivisible, “Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity” and “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (n. 3). And “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” (n. 4).
“Caritas in veritate” is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns”, of which Benedict XVI underlines two important aspects, justice and common good. “Charity – he notes - goes beyond justice, because to love is to give”, but “I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice.” Common good is “the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity” (n. 7).
It is in this light that the Pope considers the current problem of development in all its aspects, starting from the heart of Populorum Progressio, to which the first chapter of the document is devoted. In it, Paul VI taught us “that life in Christ is the first and principal factor of development and he entrusted us with the task of travelling the path of development with all our heart and all our intelligence, that is to say with the ardour of charity and the wisdom of truth” (n. 8). It follows that
“The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.” ( n. 11). The Montini Pope “pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order. He invited us to search for them in other dimensions of the human person: first of all, in the will, which often neglects the duties of solidarity; secondly in thinking, which does not always give proper direction to the will” (n. 19). “As society becomes ever more globalized, - observes Benedict XVI - it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is” (n. 19).
Human development in our time
“The economic development that Paul VI hoped to see was meant to produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable. It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery”, but “Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis”. Such as "largely speculative" financial activities, large scale migration "often provoked” and then “given insufficient attention " and, again, "the unbridled exploitation of earth’s resources”. “The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation” must force us to “adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future. The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey” (n. 21).
Today, development is "polycentric”. “The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase” and new forms of poverty are born, while “the scandal of glaring inequalities” continues. “Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries, both old and new, as well as in poor ones. Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers” (n . 22). “International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions” of the donors and beneficiaries” while “on the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care” (n. 22).
Moreover, in our age, “the State finds itself having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance”. “This new context has altered the political power of States” (n. 24). But “as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled” (n. 24). This is particularly urgent in a market that has become increasingly global and “has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market” (n. 25). Consequently, this has prompted “new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses”, “these processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage”, resulting in “grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State” (n. 25). The encyclical recalls in this respect that the Church has always supported the creation of associations of workers to defend their rights and that this is now even more necessary, even at an international level.
Globalization is having an effect even on a cultural level, facilitating the possibility of interaction between cultures. “Let it not be forgotten that the increased commercialization of cultural exchange today leads to a twofold danger”. First, a cultural eclecticism in which cultures are “viewed as substantially equivalent”. The opposite danger exists of a “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” (n. 26).
Existence itself, however, is often at risk. In many poor countries there is still the scandal of hunger.
“Feed the hungry - recalls Pope Benedict - is an ethical imperative for the universal Church,” and it has also become, “a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet”. “Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional”. “It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination” (n. 27). From the development of peoples to the respect for life “which cannot in any way be detached”. “Openness to life is at the centre of true development”, while in various parts of the world forms of population control are developing that “even go so far as to impose abortion”. In economically developed countries, “legislation contrary to life is very widespread and frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other States as if it were a form of cultural progress” and 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”. Also of concern are the “laws permitting euthanasia”. “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” (n. 28).
The right to religious freedom is also part of the development of peoples. Its denial, states the document due not only to “religious fanaticism that in some contexts impedes the exercise of the right to religious freedom”, but also “the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries””. This “obstructs the requirements for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources”. “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” (n. 29).
At the conclusion of this examination, the Pope writes that “The significant new elements in the picture of the development of peoples today in many cases demand new solutions”. Economic decisions must aim to “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone”. Tendencies towards “a short-term — sometimes very short-term — economy” need to avoided because they determine the “lowering of the level of protection of workers' rights" to acquire a more “internationally competitive country." The correction of the dysfunction of the development model requires attention to the "state of ecological health of the planet”.
Fraternity, economic Development and civil society
Reality shows that “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. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise” (n. 34). Instead development, “if it is to be authentically human, needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity”. This is also true for the market place, “if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well” (n. 35). The “market logic”, Thus, “needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.” (n. 36). The principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity “can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (n. 36).
In today's international economic scene, “even if the ethical considerations that currently inform debate on the social responsibility of the corporate world are not all acceptable from the perspective of the Church's social doctrine, there is nevertheless a growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference” (n. 40).
Development of people, rights and duties, the environment
Many people today “claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people's integral development. Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence” (n. 43). And when “the only basis of human rights is to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, those rights can be changed at any time, and so the duty to respect and pursue them fades from the common consciousness. Governments and international bodies can then lose sight of the objectivity and “inviolability” of rights. When this happens, the authentic development of peoples is endangered” (n. 43). The need for a proper relationship between rights and duties is reflected in various aspects of social life. Starting from the problems associated with population growth. “This is a very important aspect of authentic development, since it concerns the inalienable values of life and the family. To consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view. Suffice it to consider, on the one hand, the significant reduction in infant mortality and the rise in average life expectancy found in economically developed countries, and on the other hand, the signs of crisis observable in societies that are registering an alarming decline in their birth rate. Due attention must obviously be given to responsible procreation” (n. 44).
The theme of development is now strongly linked to the duties that arise from the relationship between man with nature. “The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole” (n. 48). This also applies to energy issues: “The fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries”. The international community therefore must “find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process”. “The technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption”, while at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy”. In the end “What is needed is an effective shift in mentality which can lead to the adoption of new life-styles” (n. 51). “In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves” (n. 51).
The cooperation of the human family
The development of peoples depends, above all, “on a recognition that the human race is a single family”. To this end Christianity provides an indispensable help with the concept of unity of humankind, composed of the children of God. “Other cultures and religions teach brotherhood and peace and are therefore of enormous importance to integral human development. Some religious and cultural attitudes, however, do not fully embrace the principle of love and truth and therefore end up retarding or even obstructing authentic human development” (n. 55). The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development “only if God has a place in the public realm”. In “Denying the right to profess one's religion in public”, politics “takes on a domineering and aggressive character”. “Secularism and fundamentalism exclude the possibility of fruitful dialogue and effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. A breach which “comes only at an enormous price to human development.”. (n. 56)
“A particular manifestation of charity and a guiding criterion for fraternal cooperation is undoubtedly the principle of subsidiarity, an expression of inalienable human freedom. Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies” (n. 57). “Hence the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development”, by articulating it “into several layers and involving different levels that can work together” (n. 57). La sussidiarietà, è anche “l’antidoto più efficace contro ogni forma di assistenzialismo paternalista”. International aid can sometimes keep a people in a state of dependency”, therefore the payment of aid must made involving “civil society and not just governments”. Rich nations, in particular, are asked to "allocate more shares “of GDP for development and to facilitate greater access to the “complete formation of the person”.
In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, for a reform of the United Nations Organization and “and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making” (n. 67). The need for a “true world political authority” is also stressed, that can “observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity”. An authority that invested with “effective power” as well as “the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization”.
the development of peoples and technology
“The challenge of development today is closely linked to technological progress, with its astounding applications in the field of biology”. Technology “is a profoundly human reality, linked to the autonomy and freedom of man. In technology we express and confirm the hegemony of the spirit over matter” (n. 69). Technological development can give rise to the idea that technology is self-sufficient when too much attention is given to the “how” questions, and not enough to the many “why” questions underlying human activity. For this reason technology can appear ambivalent”. “The process of globalization could replace ideologies with technology,152 allowing the latter to become an ideological power” (n. 70). “When technology is allowed to take over, the result is confusion between ends and means, such that the sole criterion for action in business is thought to be the maximization of profit, in politics the consolidation of power, and in science the findings of research” (n. 72). Linked to technological development is the increasingly pervasive presence of the means of social communications, called to promote “the dignity of the person and of peoples”(n. 73). “Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other's assistance. Only together will they save man. Entranced by an exclusive reliance on technology, reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence. Faith without reason risks being cut off from everyday life” (n. 74).
And finally, “Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth, since the human person is a “unity of body and soul’, born of God's creative love and destined for eternal life. The human being develops when he grows in the spirit, when his soul comes to know itself and the truths that God has implanted deep within, when he enters into dialogue with himself and his Creator. When he is far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease. Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors. A prosperous society, highly developed in material terms but weighing heavily on the soul, is not of itself conducive to authentic development”. “There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people's spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account, considered in their totality as body and soul” (n. 76).