Reflection on Caritas in Veritate:
Truth and Love as gifts from God their ultimate source
This long Encyclical is not an easy read and from a
social science perspective some of the analysis may be questioned. It is
important to discern the "heartland" of this Encyclical. What is the
enduring contribution of this Encyclical? Where does this Encyclical
most astutely analyse the human malaise that is manifest in yet another
failure in market, political, and social orders
both national, international, and global? It is where the Pope speaks
"theologically", rather than presenting an economic, political, or
social understanding. And the heart of his theological speaking is this:
the created order has its own "logic"
and this logic is love in truth, Caritas in Veritate.
This "logic" does not arise from the created order
in-and-of-itself; but from the One who created this order. Thus, the
love and truth inherent in the created order are theological: the
"logic" is from the Theos (God) who created and who sustains the
universe. Particularly in its human aspect, love and truth are not "from
man"; love and truth are not, so to speak, "human constructions", nor do
they arise from human subjectivity. Rather, love and truth are inherent
in the created order (and thus in the human order) because they are
inherent in God's work of creation. As such, they are God's gift. They
are "of God", not "of man". Yet, however, it is in the nature of God's
action in the world that man is to discover truth and to enact it in
love. This is the human enterprise: to live in love and truth.
Pope Benedict's forceful confronting of our contemporary
world is not in the acuteness of his analysis of economic, political and
social spheres. It is in the acuteness of his presenting love and truth
as being inherent in the destiny of man
where love and truth are understood firstly "theologically", and then
secondarily and rightly as "human". The contemporary challenge is to
recognise this objectivity
both personally, socially, and globally. It is this recognition that
will guide and energise the personal, social, and global construction of
life and outcomes that are just, iustus.
This "heartland" of the Encyclical is introduced at n.
21 , where the Holy Father addresses cultural renewal for a world that
needs to "rediscover fundamental values". The words "rediscover" and
"fundamental" are crucial. The Pope wants his readers to understand that
there is a fundamental ordering of economic, political, and social
affairs that has its own nature. He amplifies (n. 51) using the language
of "human ecology" as an analogy with "environmental ecology"
to appeal to an understanding that, as the physical environment has its
own principles of ordering, so too does the human environment. And these
principles of ordering are not "made"; they are given, and thus
"discovered". It is this "discovery" (or "re-discovery") that provides
the key to "integral human development". Without this discovery, we may
have growth and change; but it may simply be enlargement and decay, and
not properly "development" (n. 29). A truly human development involves
discovering a meaning that is not of our making" (n. 70), but is given,
is "gift": Truth and love... cannot be produced: they can only be
received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be,
mankind, but God, who is himself Truth and Love (n. 52).
It is from this "discovery" that the Holy Father then
suggests the unfolding of institutional means and processes that
implement truth and love and that give rise to "integral human
development" (nn. 30, 51). In a global world the Holy Father envisages
these institutions as global, international, national, local, and
personal; as economic, political and social. In brief, he argues for
institutional development that is not segmented between, for example,
the international and the national, or between the economic and the
social (n. 41).
This comprehensive aspiration for institutional
development is however not an imperial model, but a participatory model.
In language taken from his predecessors, it is an institutional
development that captures the principles of "subsidiarity" and of
"solidarity" (nn. 41, 47, 49, 57, 58, 67). Decisions are not made simply
from "above": nations participate in the structuring and functioning of
global institutions while retaining the institutional structuring and
functioning that is proper to each nation; the social groupings that
form each nation participate in the structuring and functioning of
national institutions while retaining the institutional structuring and
functioning that is proper to each social grouping. This particularly
applies to the basic "social group", the family: the family retains the
institutional structuring and functioning that is proper to the family
and retains this as an application of the principle of subsidiarity. And
likewise with the person: it is fundamental human rights that are
retained by the individual in part as an application of the principle of
This perspective is reinforced by the principle of
"solidarity": one nation is not simply isolated from another nation; nor
one social group from another; nor one person from another person or
other persons. There is a commonality of interest, of concern, and of
action that is an application of the principle of solidarity.
These principles of subsidiarity and of solidarity are
also captured in institutional configuration and functioning as applied
to perspectives that are economic, political, and social. The "economy"
has its own proper "subsidiarity" and its own inherent structuring and
governance; the "political order" has its own proper "subsidiarity"; the
"social order" has its own inherent "subsidiarity". But none of these is
simply "autonomy": the market is not simply a law unto itself; the state
is not simply a law unto itself; society is not simply a law unto
itself. There is an interpenetration that does not admit a "binary
divide" between the market and the state; between the political order
and the family; or between any of these and the person (and, of course,
between person and person also): there is a solidarity in the
application of subsidiarity. All this, however, involves "discovery",
and discovery of what is there
Benedict XVI does not use a term coined in the social Encyclicals of his
venerable Predecessor: "economistic" (Laborem Exercens, 1981, n.
13). In using this term, Pope John Paul II was addressing a world-view
where economic value and utility were supreme and where subjectivity in
valuation was taken as a given. While not using
this language, Pope Benedict XVI addresses the same issue. When he says
"the notion of 'efficiency' is not value-free" (n. 50), he is
challenging a paradigm that evaluates outcomes, in terms of maximising
utility outcomes in relation to resource inputs, where both outcomes and
inputs are priced in an autonomously operating market. Pope Benedict
XVI, like his predecessor(s) is saying, "No!" a market is not
"efficient" simply because it produces "more" using "less"; value-adding
is not viably assessed simply upon such input-output relations. Rather,
there are values that are inherent in the nature of things. The created
order is not simply there for our arbitrary exploitation according to
subjective market valuation; and certainly persons are not simply there
for exploitation according to others' subjective valuation (n. 66).
There is an objectivity in the created order, and this objectivity is
"moral". That is, there is an objective moral order, and institutional
functioning and outcomes do not stand apart from this moral objectivity
The implementation of this
objective morality is predicated upon subjects who are capable of
generating objectively moral outcomes. They do not just "happen"; they
happen because they are generated by persons who adhere to a morality
that is not simply created by them, but that "is" (n. 35). The Holy
Father gives considerable attention to institutional configuration and
and some of this analysis may be questioned. He nevertheless makes clear
that "...it is not the instrument [institution] that must be called to
account, but the individuals [in] their moral conscience and their
personal and social responsibility" (nn. 36 and 71, 72). This underlying
morality must be grounded on the doctrine of the Church, which is
"datum" giving the transcendent value of natural moral norms (n. 45).
For Benedict XVI, the "book of nature" is not simply "natural", but also
is "transcendent" and finds its origin and, its end in God himself (n.
52). His appeal ultimately is to the classical ("not new") theological
understanding of "natural law" (n. 59).
Pope Benedict XVI thus
challenges our present era to see that the big issues are not firstly or
not simply technical questions such as how to adapt institutional
governance to respond to global financial difficulties: But also "why"
issues that involve the discovery of meaning, and meaning not of our own
making (n. 70). He argues, "When technology is allowed to take over, the
result is a confusion between ends and means, such that the sole
criterion for action in business is thought to be the maximisation of
profit, in politics the consolidation of power, and in science the
findings of research". He thus asserts, "Both professional competence
and moral consistency are necessary" (n. 71). The Pope says, "What is
astonishing is the arbitrary and selective determination of what is put
forward today as worthy of respect" (n. 75). What he urges is that
people should afresh be "surprised" (n. 77) at the (re-)discovery of the
integral nature of the natural order and of the human order, and of the
integrity of body, soul, and spirit in the human order (nn. 74, 76). It
is this (re-)discovery and adherence to what is discovered that brings
"integral human development" (n. 78).
This integral human
development is a manifestation of charity and truth that springs from
what is in the nature of things and in the nature of man, and that
begins in and leads to God. Life essentially is theological, and
is essentially theological. The Encyclical "in simple" is a call for a
contemporary rediscovery of love in truth,
Caritas in Veritate.