Caritas in veritate (Pope Benedict XVI)

Caritas in Veritate, Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI

First Published in the St. Bartholomew Bulletin: September, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI
Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth, June 29, 2009.
Because it is filled with truth, Benedict XVI says that charity can be understood in the abundance of its values. It can
be shared and communicated. Truth is logos that creates dia-logos (dialogue) and therefore communication and
communion. Truth opens and unites our minds in the logos of love, the Christian proclamation and testimony of
charity. In the present social and cultural context, there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth. A Christianity of
charity without truth would be a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. There
would no longer be any real place for God in the world.
Charity is love received and given. It is “grace”. Its source is the wellspring of the Father’s love for the Son, in the
Holy Spirit. It is creative love in which we have our being. It is redemptive love, through which we are recreated.
Love is revealed and made present by Christ (cf Jn 13:1) and “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Rom
5:5) As the objects of God’s love, we become subjects of charity and are called to make ourselves instruments of
The Pope notes that this dynamic of charity, received and given, is what gives rise to the Church’s social teaching,
the proclamation of the truth of Christ’s love in society. Truth preserves and expresses charity’s power to liberate in
the ever-changing events of history. It is at the same time the truth of faith and of reason. All need this truth for a
satisfactory solution to the grave socioeconomic problems besetting humanity. Without truth, without trust and love
for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility. Social action ends up serving private interests and
the logic of power that results in social fragmentation.
“Caritas in veritate” is a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that governs moral action. The Holy
Father at this point wants to consider two of these in particular, because of their relevance to an increasingly
globalized society: justice and the common good.
First of all, the Pope says that every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity, however, goes beyond
justice because to love is to give. It never lacks justice which prompts us to give the other what is “his.” I cannot
“give” what is mine to the other without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. Not only is justice not
extraneous to charity but it is inseparably intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity.
On the one hand, charity demands justice. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the
other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in giving and forgiving. The earthly city is promoted to a more
fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God’s love
in human relationships.
The first of two important elements in the criteria that govern moral action and considered by Benedict XVI in our
previous installment was justice. Today we visit his treatment of the common good. He says that besides the good
of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is a good that is sought, not for
its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community. To desire the common good and strive towards
it is a requirement of justice and charity. Every Christian is called to practice this charity in a manner corresponding
to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he has in the polis (city), -the political path- of charity. It is as
important as that charity in which we encounter the neighbor outside of the institutional mediation of the polis.
When animated by charity, the commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and
political stand. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way
for eternity through temporal action: to the building of the universal city of God. The Pope sees that in an increasingly
globalized society, the common good cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family (all peoples
and nations). It must be done in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, making of it a prefiguring
of the undivided city of God.
The Holy Father recalls that in 1967, Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical, Populorum Progressio, taught that life in
Christ was the first and principal factor in the development of peoples. He says that Paul VI entrusted to us (referring
to himself) the task of its continuing development with the ardor of charity and the wisdom of truth. The primordial
truth of God’s love is his grace bestowed upon us. It opens our lives to the gift that makes it possible to hope for a
“development of the whole of man and of all men.” (cf John XXIII’s Encyclical, Pacem in Terris, #42)
At a distance of forty years, Benedict intends now to pay tribute to the memory of Pope Paul VI by revisiting his
teaching on integral human development and by taking his own place within the path of that teaching so as to apply it
to our own times. This continuing application had already begun with the publication of John Paul II’s Encyclical,
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, on the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio. Previously, only Rerum Novarum had
been commemorated in this way ( The Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, published by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, gave birth to
modern Catholic Social teaching in the face of the consequences flowing from the converging realities of Capitol and
Labor). Since a further twenty years have now passed, the Pope wishes to express his conviction that Populorum
Progressio deserves to be considered the “Rerum Novarum” of the present age, “shedding light,” as he says, “upon
humanity’s journey towards unity.”
Love in truth – caritas in veritate – is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and
pervasively more globalized. Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue
developmental goals that possess a more humanizing value. The sharing of goods and resources is guaranteed not
by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf
Rom 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.
The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim “to interfere in any way in the politics of
States”. Benedict XVI says that she does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish for a society that is attuned
to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth. That alone is the guarantee of
freedom (cf Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development. This mission of truth is something that the
Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the
truth that sets us free.
The Message of Populorum Progressio (The Progress of Peoples)
A fresh reading of Populorum Progressio, more than forty years after its publication, invites us to remain faithful
to its message of charity and truth. Benedict says that an evaluation is needed of the different terms by which the
problem of development is presented today, as compared to forty years ago. The correct viewpoint is that of the
Tradition of the apostolic faith, a patrimony both ancient and new, outside of which Populorum Progressio would be a
document without roots.
The Pope recounts how Populorum Progressio occurred immediately after the close of the Second Vatican
Council. The Encyclical clearly indicates its close connection with the Council. Twenty years later, in Sollicitudo Rei
Socialis, John Paul II also emphasized the earlier Encyclical’s fruitful relationship with the Pastoral Constitution,
Gaudium et Spes, of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict XVI, likewise, recalls here the importance of
Vatican Council II for Paul VI’s Encyclical and the subsequent social teaching of the Popes.
Paul VI set out to convey two important truths. The first is that the whole Church, in all her being and acting, is
engaged in promoting integral human development. All the energy that she brings to the advancement of humanity
and of universal fraternity is manifested when she is able to operate in a climate of freedom. That freedom is limited
when the Church’s public presence is reduced to her charitable activities alone.
The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in all his dimensions.
Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing space. More on this next
We ended last time with the Holy Father saying that without the eternal, human progress in this world is suffocated.
In the course of human history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee
humanity’s right to development. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough. Integral human development
is primarily a vocation. It involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover,
it needs God. Without him, development is either denied or entrusted exclusively to man who is trapped into thinking
that he is his own salvation and he ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an
encounter with God are we able to recognize the divine image in the other, ourselves thereby maturing into a love
that becomes concern and care for others.
The link between Populorum Progressio and the Second Vatican Council does not mean that Paul VI’s social
magisterium marked a break with that of the previous Popes. It is not a case of two typologies of social doctrine, one
pre-conciliar and one post-conciliar, differing from one another. On the contrary, there is a single teaching, consistent
and at the same time ever new. Coherence within the overall doctrinal corpus does not mean a closed system. To
the contrary, it means dynamic faithfulness to a light received. The Church’s social doctrine illuminates with an
unchanging light the new problems that are constantly emerging. Within the Church’s living Tradition, her social
doctrine is built on the foundation handed on by the Apostles to the Fathers of the Church. It is then received and
further explored by the great Christian doctors. This doctrine points definitively to the New Man, to the “last Adam
who became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), the principle of charity that “never ends” (I Cor 13:8). It is attested to
by the saints and by those who gave their lives for Christ in the field of justice and peace. Populorum Progressio,
situated within this great current of Tradition, can speak to us today.
Populorum Progressio, linked to the Church’s entire social doctrine, is closely connected to the overall magisterium of
Paul VI, especially to his social magisterium (teaching). Benedict XVI says that Paul VI clearly understood that the
social question had become worldwide. He grasped the interconnection between the unification of humanity and the
Christian ideal of a single family of peoples in solidarity and fraternity. Within the notion of development, understood
in human and Christian terms, he proposed Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development.
Wishing to make Christ’s love fully visible to contemporary men and women, Paul VI robustly addressed important
ethical questions without yielding to the cultural weaknesses of his day.
In his Apostolic Letter, Octogesima Adveniens (1971) (On the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum) Paul VI
reflected on politics and the danger of utopian and ideological visions, matters closely connected to development that
put its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy. Paul VI warned against technocratic ideology so prevalent today,
aware of the great danger of entrusting the process of development to technology alone. Technology, viewed in
itself, is ambivalent. Today, we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny totally the very value of
development, viewed as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation. At the same time, this leads to a
rejection of scientific discoveries that, if well used, could serve as an opportunity of growth for all. The idea of a world
without development shows a lack of trust in man and in God. It overlooks the fact that man is constitutionally
oriented towards “being more”.
Pope Benedict XVI says that two additional documents of Paul VI, without direct link to social doctrine, the Encyclical,
Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) (1968) and the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the
Modern World) (1975) are important for delineating fully the human meaning of the development that the Church
proposes. It is helpful to see them in the light of Populorum Progressio.
The Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, emphasizes the unitive and procreative meaning of sexuality, thereby putting at the
foundation of society the married couple, man and woman, who accept one another mutually, in distinction and in
complementarity: a couple, therefore, open to life. Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and
social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching. Most recently John Paul II’s Encyclical, Evangelium
Vitae (The Gospel of Life) (1995), continues the development the Church’s forceful maintenance of the link between
life ethics and social ethics. A society that lacks a solid foundation when it asserts values such as the dignity of the
person, justice, and peace but then, at the same time, radically acts to the contrary, tolerating a variety of ways in
which human life is devalued and violated, especially among its weak and marginalized.
The Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, is closely linked with development. In Paul VI’s words,
“Evangelization would not be complete if it did not take into account the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of
man’s concrete life.” He forcefully presented the relationship between the proclamation of Christ and the
advancement of the individual in society. Jesus Christ loves us and is concerned with the whole person. This
teaching forms the basis for the missionary aspect of the Church’s social doctrine. It is an essential element of
evangelization, forming an indispensable setting for faith.
In Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI taught that progress, in its origin and essence, is foremost a vocation. In the
design of God, every man is called upon to develop and fulfill himself. Every life is a vocation. This is what gives
legitimacy to the Church’s involvement in the question of development. Except this be so, the Church would not be
entitled to speak on development. Paul VI, like Pope Leo XIII before him, knew that he was carrying out a duty
proper to his office in doing so.
To regard development as a vocation is to recognize that it derives from a transcendent call and that it is
incapable, on its own, of supplying its ultimate meaning. Paul VI said in Populorum Progressio that there is no true
humanism but that which is open to the Absolute and is conscious of a vocation that gives human life its true
meaning. Benedict XVI notes that this vision of development is at the very heart of Populorum Progressio and lies
behind all of Paul VI’s reflections on freedom, truth and charity in development.
Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples. The types
of messianism that give promises but create illusions always build on a denial of the transcendent (beyond the
temporal) dimension of development. This involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means of development,
while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy because it sets them free. Pope
Paul VI was in no doubt that each one remains, whatever be the influences affecting him, the principal agent of his
own success or failure. This freedom concerns development but it also affects underdevelopment, not due to chance
or historical necessity but attributable to human responsibility. When the people in hunger make a dramatic appeal to
the peoples blessed with abundance, this too is a vocation because it is a call addressed by free subjects to other
free subjects. Only when it is free can development be integrally human. Pope Benedict concludes that only in a
climate of responsible freedom can development grow in a satisfactory manner.
Besides requiring freedom, integral human development also demands respect for its truth. The vocation to
progress drives us “to be more.” But what does it mean “to be more.” Pope Paul VI answers the question by saying
that development must be integral. That is to say that it must promote the good of every man and of the whole man.
Pope Benedict makes the comment that even more so today than in the time of Paul VI, the Christian vision has the
particular characteristic of asserting and justifying the unconditional value of the human person and the meaning of
his growth. Pope Paul VI wrote, “What we hold important is man, each man and each group of men, and we even
include the whole of humanity.” In promoting development, the Christian faith does not rely on privilege, or position of
power, or even the merits of Christians, although these exist, but only on Christ, to whom every authentic vocation to
integral human development must be directed.
The Gospel is fundamental for development, because in the Gospel, Christ fully reveals humanity to itself. Precisely
because God gives a resounding “yes” to man, man cannot fail to open himself to the divine vocation to pursue his
own development. The truth of development consists in its completeness that involves the whole man and every
man. This is the central message of Populorum Progressio, valid today and for all time. The Christian vocation to
this development applies to both the natural plane and the supernatural plane. Benedict XVI in another talk said that
when God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the ‘good’ begins to wane.
Finally, the vision of development as a vocation brings with it the central place of charity within that development.
Paul VI in Populorum Progressio pointed out that the causes for underdevelopment fall in other areas than simply the
natural order, namely, in the will and in thinking. Underdevelopment has still an even more important cause, namely,
the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples. As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us
neighbors but it does not make us brothers. Fraternity originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father,
who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is. Paul VI placed at the summit of
development “unity in the charity of Christ who calls us all to share as sons in the life of the living God, Father of us
Populorum Progressio repeatedly underlines the urgent need for reform. It calls for courageous action to be
taken without delay. This urgency is also a consequence of charity in truth. It is Christ’s charity that drives us on:
“caritas Christi urget nos.” (2 Cor 5:14) The establishment of authentic fraternity demands our openness to
understanding it in depth and to mobilize ourselves at the level of the “heart”, ensuring fully human outcomes from the
economic and social processes.
Human Development in Our Time
Paul VI understood development to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples from hunger, deprivation, endemic
diseases and illiteracy. Economically, this meant their participation on equal terms in the international economic
process. Socially, it meant that their evolution into educated societies be marked by solidarity. Politically, it meant
the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace. The succession of crises that afflict
the world today makes us question the extent to which Paul VI’s expectations have been fulfilled by the model of
development adopted in recent decades. We recognize that the Church had good reason to be concerned about a
purely technological society setting realistic goals. Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end. Once profit
becomes the exclusive goal, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.
Benedict XVI continues by telling us how Paul VI hoped to see a real growth, of benefit to everyone and
genuinely sustainable. Yet, it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been weighed down by
malfunctions and dramatic problems. This presents us with choices that cannot be postponed. They concern nothing
less than the destiny of man. All these multifaceted problems lead us today to reflect on the measures that would be
necessary to provide a solution to problems of decisive impact upon the present and future good of humanity. The
different aspects of the crisis are increasingly interconnected. They require new efforts of a holistic understanding
and a new humanistic synthesis. The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation rightly cause us
concern. The world needs a profound cultural renewal, a rediscovery of fundamental values that build a better future.
The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment that shapes a new vision for the future. We should address
the difficulties of the present time with confidence rather than resignation.
Today the picture of development has many overlapping layers. The many twists in the causes and faults of
development and underdevelopment should prompt us to liberate ourselves from ideologies that often oversimplify
reality in artificial ways. It should lead us to examine objectively the full human dimension of the problems. As John
Paul II had already observed, the demarcation line between rich and poor countries is no longer as clear as it was at
the time of Populorum Progressio. The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the
increase as well. The scandal of glaring inequalities continues. Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in
rich countries as well as in poor ones. Large multinational companies as well as local producers sometimes fail to
respect the human rights of workers. International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends through
irresponsible actions. In the context of immaterial or cultural causes of development and underdevelopment, we can
find similar patterns of responsibility reproduced.
Many areas of the globe today have evolved considerably, albeit in problematic and disparate ways. It is to be
stressed that progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs, above all, to
be true and integral. The mere fact of emerging from economic backwardness, though positive in itself, does not
resolve the complex issues of human advancement. After the collapse of the economic and political systems of the
Communist countries of Eastern Europe, a complete re-examination of development was needed. Pope John Paul II
called for such in 1987. He pointed out that the existences of opposing blocs had been one of the principal causes of
underdevelopment. In 1991, after the events of 1989, he once again asked that there should be a comprehensive
new plan for development. This has been achieved only in part. It is still a real duty to be discharged today, perhaps
by choices that are necessary to overcome current economic problems.
The world that Pope Paul VI had before him was still far less integrated than today’s world. Hence Populorum
Progressio assigned a central, albeit not exclusive, role to “public authorities.” In our own day, the State finds itself
having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by a new context of international trade and finance. This
new context has altered the political power of States. Today, we need to take to heart the lessons of the current
economic crisis. It seems more realistic to re-evaluate the States’ role and powers so that through new forms of
engagement they might address the challenges of today’s world. Once the role of public authorities has been more
clearly defined, one could foresee an increase in new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally. In
this way it is to be hoped that the citizens’ interest and participation in the res publica (civic, public affairs of state or
otherwise), would become more deeply rooted.
From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare are finding it hard and could find it even harder
in the future to pursue their goals of true social justice. The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the
part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost. Consequently, the market has
prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production
centers. 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. As a consequence there arise grave danger to the rights of
workers, for fundamental human rights, and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State.
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. Trade union organizations experience greater difficulty
in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers. Traditional networks of solidarity have more and
more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued from within the Church, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for
the promotion of workers associations that can defend their rights must be honored today even more than in the past.
This comes in response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international as well as the local level.
The mobility of labor is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects. Nevertheless, uncertainty over
working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation tends to create new forms of psychological instability
adversely affecting the forging of coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. This leads to situation of human
decline. Unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization. The current crisis can only make
this situation worse. Being out of work for a prolonged period, dependent upon public or private assistance,
undermines the freedom and creativity of the person, his family and their social relationships. Benedict says that he
wishes to remind everyone, especially governments, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man,
the human person in his or her integrity.
Benedict XVI points out that in Paul VI’s day cultures were relatively well defined and had greater opportunity to
defend themselves against attempts to merge them into one. Today, interaction between cultures has increased
significantly, resulting in greater cultural dialogue. Important not to forget is that increased commercialization of
cultural exchange leads to a twofold danger. First, cultural eclecticism places cultures alongside one another. They
are simply viewed as equivalent and interchangeable. This leads to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural
dialogue. These cultural groups coexist side by side but remain separate. Secondly, an opposite danger exists in
cultural leveling and an indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and lifestyles that lose sight of the significance
of the cultures of different nations and the traditions of various peoples. Importantly, these aspects define them in
relation to life’s fundamental questions. Eclecticism and cultural leveling both separate culture from human nature.
As a result, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends themselves. Man ends up
being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. As a result, the Pope concludes that humanity runs new risks of
enslavement and manipulation.
Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure. The situation could become worse. Hunger reaps
enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man’s
table. Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25:35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church as she responds to the
teaching of her Founder concerning solidarity and sharing of goods. Hunger is not so much dependent on a lack of
material things as on a shortage of social resources, institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to necessary
food and water. At the same time, these institutions need to manifest the capacity to address primary necessities
ensuing from genuine food crises.
The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed by eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and
promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. It entails development and dissemination of appropriate
agricultural technology. The Holy Father sees this accomplished with the involvement of local communities in
choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land. It envisions the utilization of traditional as well as
innovative farming techniques deemed appropriate and respectful of the environment. At the same time the process
needs to attend the needs of the most deprived peoples.
The right to food and water has an important place in the pursuit of other rights beginning with the fundamental
right to life. Public conscience must consider food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings,
without distinction or discrimination. Solidarity with poorer countries in the process of development can point toward
a solution of the current global crises. Economic support for these countries can help them to take steps to satisfy
their own demand for consumer goods and development. At the same time, contributions can be made to sustain the
productive capacities of rich countries risking compromise by the crisis.
Benedict XVI says that the theme of integral human development takes on an even broader range of meanings. It is
often thought that development, or its concurrent socioeconomic measures, merely requires implementation through
joint action. However, he points out that joint action needs to be given direction because all social action involves a
doctrine. In view of the complexity, it is obvious that the various disciplines must work together through an orderly
interdisciplinary exchange. Charity does not exclude knowledge, but requires, promotes and animates all of this from
Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his
first beginnings and his final ends. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile.
The individual who is animated by true charity labors skillfully to discover the causes of misery and the means to
combat it. Charity in truth requires, first of all, that we know and understand the specific competence of every level of
knowledge. Charity is not an added extra. 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. Charity in truth requires that we always push farther ahead. Yet, going beyond never means
prescinding from the conclusions of reason. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in
intelligence, and intelligence is full of love.
The Holy Father says here that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand while charity animates
them in a harmonious interdisciplinary whole. The interdisciplinary dimension of the Church’s social doctrine can
exercise a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics, and science to come
together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity. Pope Paul VI had seen clearly that among the causes of
underdevelopment there existed a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding
synthesis. Pope Benedict points out that excessive segmentation of knowledge, the rejection of metaphysics by the
human sciences, the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are all damaging not only to
the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples. The “broadening of our concept of reason
and its application” is indispensable for success in weighing all the elements of development and in the solution of
socioeconomic problems.
The significant new elements in development of peoples today demand new solutions. They need to come together,
respecting the laws proper to each element in the light of an integral vision of man and at the same time reflecting the
different aspects of the human person, all contemplated and purified by charity. Remarkable convergences and
possible solutions are then possible without any fundamental component of human life being obscured.
The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require that economic choices do not cause morally
unacceptable disparities in wealth to increase. The Holy Father continues to make the goal of access to steady
employment for everyone a priority. Through the systemic increase of social inequality not only does social cohesion
suffer but so too does the economy. It does so through the progressive erosion of the network of relationships of
trust, dependability, and respect for rules. Further, the Pope says that it is economic science that tells us that
structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources. Human costs always include
economic costs while economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.
Benedict XVI reminds us that the reduction of cultures to the merely technological dimension in the long term will
impede reciprocal enrichment and the dynamics of cooperation. Lowering the level of protection accorded the rights
of workers or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution hinders the achievement of lasting development. The
human consequences of current tendencies towards a short-term economy need to be carefully evaluated. This
requires further and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals as well as a far-sighted revision of
the current model of development in order to correct its dysfunctions and deviations. It is demanded by the earth’s
state of ecological health while at the same time being required by the pervasive cultural and moral crisis of man.
More than forty years after Populorum Progressio, real progress remains an open question. If some areas of the
globe with a history of poverty have experienced remarkable changes, other areas are still living in a situation of
deprivation. In some cases one can even speak of deterioration. It is significant that some of the causes of this
situation were already identified in Populorum Progressio. Other causes, mentioned only in passing in the Encyclical,
have since emerged with greater clarity, e.g. the process of decolinization. More than forty years later, we must
acknowledge how difficult has been this journey towards autonomy.
The Pope notes that the principal new feature on the horizon is the explosion of worldwide interdependence, more
commonly known as globalization. Paul VI had partially foreseen it but not in its ferocious pace of growth.
Originating within economically developed countries, this process has spread to include all economies. In itself, it
represents a great opportunity. Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause
unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family. Charity and truth are about broadening
the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing these powerful new forces. All this needs be
animated from within the perspective of that “civilization of love” whose seed God has planted in every people and
Fraternity, Economic Development, and Civil Society
Benedict XVI says that charity in truth places us before the astonishing experience of gift. The human being is
made for gift that expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension. Sometimes modern man is wrongly
convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life, and society. In faith terms, this is a consequence of original
sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature, inclined
to evil, gives rise to serious errors in all areas of his life and morals. The pernicious effects of sin have been no less
evident in the economy for some time. That man is self-sufficient has led him to confuse happiness and salvation
with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action.
These convictions have led to economic, social, and political systems that trample upon personal and social
freedom, unable to deliver the justice that they promise. History is thereby deprived of Christian hope, a powerful
social resource for integral human development. Hope encourages reason and gives it the strength to direct the will.
Indeed it is called forth by faith while charity in truth feeds on hope and, at the same time, manifests it. As the
gratuitous gift of God, hope bursts into our lives as something not due us. Gift by its nature goes beyond merit. Its
rule is one of superabundance. It takes first place in our souls as a sign of God’s presence in us. St. Augustine
teaches us that truth, itself gift, as is charity, is greater than we are. In every cognitive process, truth is not something
that we produce. It is found, or better yet, received. Truth, like love, is neither planned nor willed, but somehow
imposes itself upon human beings.
The Pope tells us that because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community
without imposing barriers or limits. The unity of the human race, a fraternal communion transcending every barrier, is
called into being by the word of God-who-is-Love. Benedict feels that he must make it clear, on the one hand, that
the logic of gift does not exclude justice. On the other hand, development, if it is to be authentically human, needs to
make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity.
In a climate of mutual trust, the market is the economic institution that permits encounter between persons as
economic subjects. The market is subject to the principles of so-called commutative justice that regulates the
relations of giving and receiving between parties to a transaction. However, the social doctrine of the Church has
unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive and social justice because of the wider network of relations
within which the market operates. Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely
fulfill its proper economic function. Today, it is this trust that has ceased to exist and the Holy Father sees it as the
grave loss that it is.
Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio insisted that the economic systems as the first to gain from the
development of poor countries would be rich ones. The poor are to be considered, not a burden, but a resource. It is
erroneous to hold that the market economy has an inbuilt need for a quota of poverty and underdevelopment in order
to function at its best. It is in the interests of the market to promote emancipation. To do so it must draw its moral
energies from other subjects that are capable of generating them.
Benedict XVI observes that economic activity cannot solve all social problems through simple application of
commercial logic. It needs also to be directed toward the common good. Grave imbalances are produced when
economic action is seen merely as an engine for wealth creation; when it is detached from political action, and
directed to pursuing justice through redistribution.
The Church has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of
itself, the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak. Indeed, the market can
be a negative force because a certain ideology can make it so. The market is shaped by the cultural configurations
that define it and give it direction. The Pope reminds us that instruments that are good in themselves can be
transformed into harmful ones. It is man’s darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument
itself. Therefore, we must call to account individuals, their moral consciences, and their personal and social
The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is a part of human
activity and because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner. The great challenge
before us, accentuated by the problems of development in this global era, is to demonstrate, in thinking and behavior,
that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can
and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand. It is also demanded by
economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and of truth.
The Church’s social doctrine has always maintained that justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity.
All phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. Thus every economic decision has a moral
consequence. The Holy Father says that perhaps at one time the creation of wealth could be entrusted to the
economy and then the task of distributing it could be assigned to politics. Today that would be more difficult.
Economic activity is no longer circumscribed within territorial limits while the authority of governments continues to be
principally local. Hence the canons of justice must be respected from the outset. Space also needs to be created
within the market for economic activity by individuals who choose to act according to principles other than those of
pure profit. The many economic entities that draw their origin from religious and lay initiatives demonstrate that this is
concretely possible.
Benedict XVI says that in the global era, competitive models tied to cultures that differ greatly influence the economy.
Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts in order to regulate relations. But it also needs just laws and forms of
redistribution governed by politics. It needs works redolent of the spirit of gift. The economy in the global era seems
to privilege contractual exchange but it also demonstrates its need for political logic and the logic of the unconditional
John Paul II drew attention to this question in Centesimus Annus when he said that a system of three subjects
was required: the market, the State, and civil society. He saw that it was civil society that offered the most natural
setting for an economy of gratuitousness and fraternity, but he did not mean to deny it a place in the other two
settings. Today economic life must be understood as a multi-layered phenomenon. In the global era, economic
activity cannot prescind from a gratuitousness fostering solidarity and responsibility for justice and the common good.
Solidarity is first a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone for everyone. It cannot be merely delegated to the
State. In the past it was possible to argue that justice came first and gratuitousness followed afterwards as a
complement. Today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice.
Alongside profit-oriented private enterprise and the various types of public enterprise, there must be commercial
entities based on mutualist principles, pursuing social ends. It is from reciprocal encounters in the marketplace that
hybrid forms of commercial behavior emerge, giving rise to an attentiveness of ways of civilizing the economy.
Without rejecting profit, charity in truth requires that structure be given to those types of economic initiative that aim at
a higher goal than the mere logic of profit as an end in itself.
Paul VI in Populorum Progressio called for the creation of a market economy including within its range, all
peoples and not just the better off. He called for efforts to build a more human world for all, without one group making
progress at the expense of the other. In this way he was applying on a global scale the insights contained in Rerum
Novarum. Not only is this vision threatened today by the way in which markets and societies are opening, but also it
is evidently insufficient to satisfy the demands of a fully humane economy.
Solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence, and actions of gratuitousness stand in
contrast with giving in order to acquire (the logic of exchange) and giving through duty (the logic of obligation,
imposed by State law). To defeat underdevelopment, action is required above all on a gradually increasing
openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion. The
exclusively binary model of market-plus-State is corrosive of society, while economic forms based on solidarity build
up society. The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and law cannot establish attitudes of gratuitousness. Yet
both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift.
The Holy Father notes that today’s international economic scene, with its many severe problems, requires a new way
of understanding business enterprise. Of great risk to businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to
their investors, thereby limiting their social value. It is increasingly rare for business enterprises to be controlled by a
director who feels responsibilities in the short term, as well as the long term, for the life and results of his company.
Likewise, it is becoming increasingly rare for businesses to depend on a single territory. Outsourcing of production
can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders (workers, suppliers, consumers, natural
environment, and broader society) in favor of the shareholders who more and more enjoy an extraordinary mobility.
Today’s international capital market offers great freedom of action. Yet there is also an increasing awareness of
the need for greater social responsibility on the part of business. From the perspective of the Church there is a
growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors but must
also assume responsibility for the stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business. In recent years a new
cosmopolitan class of managers has emerged, who are often answerable only to the shareholders. By contrast,
many far-sighted managers are becoming increasingly aware of the links between their enterprise and the territories
in which they operate. Paul VI asked people to pay attention to the potential harm caused to one’s home country by
the transfer abroad of capital simply for personal advantage. John Paul II taught that investment always has moral as
well as economic significance. All this is still valid today.
There is no reason to deny that a certain amount of capital can do good if invested abroad rather than at home.
What should be avoided is a purely speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only
short-term profit. It is true that the export of investments and skills can benefit the populations of the receiving
country. Yet it is not right to export these things merely for the sake obtaining of advantageous conditions for
purposes of exploitation, without making a real contribution to local society.
It is helpful to observe that business enterprise involves a wide range of values. We have accustomed ourselves
to think purely in terms of the private business leader of a capitalistic bent, on the one hand, and the State director,
on the other. Business has a human significance, prior to its professional one. It is present in all work, understood as
a personal action. With good reason, Paul VI taught that “everyone who works is a creator.” Additionally, there exist
various types of business enterprises, over and above private and public. In order to construct an economy to serve
the national and global common good, it is appropriate to take account of this broader significance of business
activity. It favors “cross-fertilization” between different types of business activity, from the non-profit world to the profit
world, from the public world to that of civil society, from advanced economies to developing countries.
The Pope is not unaware that “political authority” involves a wide range of values. The integrated economy of the
present day does not make the role of the States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater
collaboration. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In
terms of the current crisis, the State’s role seems destined to grow. In some nations, the reconstruction of the State
remains a key factor in their development. The focus of international aid within a solidarity-based plan should rather
be on consolidating constitutional, juridical, and administrative systems. There needs to be aid directed towards
reinforcing the guarantees proper to the State of Law, a system respecting human rights and truly democratic
institutions. The State does not need to have identical characteristics everywhere. The articulation of political
authority at local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of directing the process of economic
globalization and ensuring that it does not undermine the foundations of democracy.
While globalization should certainly be understood as a socioeconomic process, this is not its only dimension.
Humanity itself is becoming increasingly interconnected. If globalization is viewed from a deterministic standpoint,
the criteria with which to evaluate and direct it are lost. As a human reality, it is the product of diverse cultural
tendencies that need to be subjected to a process of discernment. The unity of the human family and its
development towards what is good forms the truth of globalization as a process and its fundamental ethical criterion.
There needs to be a sustained commitment to a person-based and community-oriented cultural process of worldwide
integration that is open to transcendence.
Despite some of its structural elements, “globalization,” a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people
make of it. We should not be its victims, but its protagonists, acting in the light of reason, guided by charity and truth.
The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the possibilities of large-scale
redistribution of wealth. If badly directed they can lead to an increase in poverty and inequality even triggering a
global crisis. It is necessary to correct the malfunctions that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples
while ensuring that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty.
Paul VI in Populorum Progressio had strongly opposed the former idea that poor peoples should remain at a fixed
stage and should be content to receive assistance from the philanthropy of developed peoples.
The worldwide diffusion of forms of prosperity should not therefore be held up by projects that are self-centered,
protectionist, or at the service of private interests. The transition inherent in the process of globalization presents
great difficulties that can only be overcome if we prod it towards the humanizing goal of solidarity, often suppressed
by considerations of an individualistic and utilitarian nature. Globalization is a multifaceted and complex phenomenon
that must include a theological dimension. In this way it will be possible to steer the globalization of humanity in
relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods.
The Development of People – Rights and Duties
The Environment
Benedict XVI notes that human solidarity while a benefit for us also imposes duties. Many today are concerned
only with their rights. People often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and others’ integral
development. We are witnessing a grave inconsistency here. Appeals are made to alleged rights, sometimes
arbitrary and non-essential in nature. Individuals demand that these be recognized and promoted by public
structures. At the same time elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the
world. Individual rights, detached from a framework of duties, can run wild. This leads to an escalation of demands,
effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. Overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties. Duties set limits to
rights, ensuring that they do not become license. Duties thereby reinforce rights and call for their defense and
promotion in the service of the common good.
If the only basis for human rights is to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, those rights can be
changed at any time. Governments and international bodies can then lose sight of the objectivity and inviolability of
rights. Such a way of thinking and acting compromises the authority of international bodies, especially in the eyes of
those in most need of development. The Holy Father reminds us that the sharing of reciprocal duties is a more
powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.
The rights and duties inherent in population growth are a very important aspect of authentic development, since they
are concerned with the inalienable values of life and family. To consider “over-population” the primary cause of
underdevelopment is mistaken. To be sure, due attention must obviously be given to responsible procreation.
The Pope teaches that the Church, in her concern for man’s authentic development, urges him to pay full respect to
human values in the exercise of his sexuality. It cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment. Nor can sex
education be reduced to technical instruction aimed solely at protecting the interested parties from possible disease
or the “risk” of procreation. To do this would be to disregard the deeper meaning of sexuality. This meaning needs to
be acknowledged and responsibly appropriated not only by individuals but also the community. It is irresponsible to
view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure, regulated through strategies and mandatory birth control. Against
such policies, there is need to defend the primary competence of the family in the area of sexuality as opposed to the
State and its restrictive policies.
Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have
emerged from their poverty thanks in no small way to their population and the talents of their people. Presently, we
see prosperous nations passing through uncertainty and decline because of falling birth rates, a crucial problem for
highly affluent societies. Falling beneath “replacement levels” puts a strain on their entire socio-economic structure.
Having considered the decline of the birth rate as detrimentally critical, the Holy Father further says that smaller
families risk impoverishing social relations. They exhibit scant confidence in the future and a certain moral
weariness. It truly becomes a social and even economic necessity to hold up to future generations the beauty of
marriage and family, seeing that the both of them respond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. Even
States should be enacting policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family, founded on marriage
between a man and a woman. The family is the primary and vital cell of society.
The economy needs people-centered ethics in order to function correctly. Today, we hear much talk of ethics in
the world of economy, finance, and business. The Pope sees “ethical financing” being developed. He says that
these processes are praiseworthy and deserve much support. It would, at the same time, be advisable to develop a
sound criterion of discernment, since the adjective “ethical” can be abused. Much depends on the underlying system
of morality. Here the Church’s social doctrine can make a specific contribution, based as it is on man’s creation “in
the image of God.” This gives rise to the inviolable dignity of the human person and the transcendent value of natural
moral norms. By ignoring these two pillars, business ethics loses its distinctive nature. It risks becoming subservient
to existing economic and financial systems rather than correcting their dysfunctional aspects. Efforts are needed to
ensure that the whole economy be ethical by its respect for requirements intrinsic to its very nature. The Church’s
social teaching is quite clear on the subject, recalling that the economy, in all its branches, constitutes a sector of
human activity.
It would appear that the traditionally valid distinction between profit companies and non-profit organizations can
no longer do full justice to reality. Recently a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two. It is made up
of traditional companies that subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, groups of
companies that are oriented to social welfare and the diversified world of the so-called “civil economy” and the
“economy of communion”. This is a matter of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public
spheres that considers profit as a means of achieving human and social ends.
It is to be hoped that these new kinds of enterprise will succeed in finding a suitable juridical and fiscal structure
in every country. Without prejudice to the importance and the economic and social benefits of the more traditional
forms of business, they steer the system towards a clearer and more complete assumption of duties on the part of
economic subjects. Additionally, the very plurality of institutional forms of business should give rise to a market that
will not only be more civilized but also more competitive.
The Holy Father comments further that in those countries that are marginalized from the influential circles of the
global economy, it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and
managed. In development programs, the centrality of the human person must be preserved. The principal concern
must be to improve the actual living conditions of the people in a given region, thus enabling them to help
themselves. Social concern must never be an abstract attitude. Development programs need to be flexible and the
people who benefit from them ought to be directly involved in their planning and implementation. Much depends on
the way programs are managed in practice. Benedict recalls what Pope Paul VI said about people themselves
having the prime responsibility to work for their own development. This holds true today as well. Solutions need to
be carefully designed to correspond to people’s concrete lives. There is need for the active mobilization of all the
subjects of civil society, both juridical and physical persons.
International cooperation requires people who can be part of the process through the solidarity of their presence,
supervision, training and respect. At times it happens that those who receive aid become subordinate to the aidgivers and the poor merely serve to perpetuate expensive bureaucracies. It is to be hoped that all international
agencies and non-governmental organizations will commit themselves to complete transparency.
Today the subject of development is also closely related to the duties arising from our relationship to the natural
environment. The environment is God’s gift to everyone, to the poor, towards future generations, to humanity as a
whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance, our sense of responsibility
wanes. God’s creative activity is lost. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature to be an untouchable
taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of
God’s creation.
Nature expresses a design of love and truth. God has given it to us as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to
us of the Creator and his love for humanity. According to the Apostle Paul, it is to be “recapitulated” in Christ at the
end of time. Thus the Pope says that it too is a “vocation”. Nature is at our disposal as a gift of the Creator, enabling
man to draw from it the principles needed in order “to till it and keep it”. It is contrary to authentic development to
view nature as something more important than the human person. This leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new
pantheism. It is also necessary to reject the opposite position that aims at total technical dominion over nature, to be
treated as nothing more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure. Nature is a wondrous work of the
Creator containing within itself a “grammar” for its wise use and not its reckless exploitation. Today much harm is
done to development as a result of distorted notions.
Benedict XVI makes a very important point when he says that human beings interpret and shape the natural
environment through culture that, in turn, is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the
dictates of the moral law. In this context, projects for integral human development cannot ignore coming generations.
They must be marked by solidarity and intergenerational justice within a variety of contexts: ecological, juridical,
economic, political, and cultural.
Energy is a notably important concern. States, power groups, and companies hoarding non-renewable energy
resources makes for grave obstacles to development in poor countries. Stockpiling of natural resources is many
times found in the poor countries themselves. This often causes exploitation leading to conflicts between and within
nations. The Holy Father reminds the international community of its urgent duty to find institutional means of
regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources.
There is a pressing moral need for renewed solidarity, especially in relationships between developing countries
and the highly industrialized. Advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption. At the
present it is possible to achieve improved energy efficiency while at the same time encouraging research into
alternative forms of energy. A worldwide redistribution of energy resources is also needed so that countries lacking
those resources can have access to them. If these major issues are to be faced adequately, everyone must
responsibly recognize their impact on future generations, particularly on the many young people in the poorer nations.
Importantly, the Pope notes that this responsibility is a global one. It concerns not just energy but the whole of
creation that we cannot bequeath to future generations depleted of its resources. Human beings legitimately exercise
a responsible stewardship over nature. On this earth there is room for everyone. The entire human family must find
the resources to live with dignity through the help of nature itself – God’s gift to his children – and through hard work
and creativity. We must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that
they too can worthily inhabit it and cultivate it. This means being committed to making joint decisions aimed at
strengthening the covenant between human beings and the environment. It should mirror the creative love of God,
our source and ultimate end.
Competent authorities must make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared
environmental resources are fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations.
International leaders must be ready to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the
weakest. Benedict makes the point that the greatest challenge facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient
use, not abuse, of natural resources. Ultimately, “efficiency”, is not value-free.
The Holy Father says that the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.
In a society prone to pleasure seeking and consumerism regardless of the sometimes evil consequence, what is
needed is the adoption of a new lifestyle. Truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the common good
should be the factors that determine consumer choices, savings, and investments.
Nature is now so integrated into the dynamics of society and culture that it hardly constitutes an independent
variable. When incentives are offered for economic and cultural development, nature itself is protected. How many
natural resources are squandered by wars! Peace in and among peoples would also provide greater protection for
nature. Peaceful agreement about the use of resources can protect nature and the well being of the societies
The church has a responsibility towards creation. In the public square she must defend not only earth, water,
and air as gifts of creation but she must also protect mankind from self destruction. There is need for a human
ecology, correctly understood. When “human ecology” is respected within human society, environmental ecology
also benefits. Human virtues are so interrelated that the weakening of one places others at risk. The ecological
system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.
To protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents. 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, and human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of
society ends up losing the concept of a wholesome human ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations
respect the natural environment when our educational system and laws do little or nothing to help them to respect
themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible. It takes into itself a whole spectrum of values for it to be
integral human development. Our duties toward the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person.
It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on others. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our
mentality and practice today: one that demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society.
Truth and the love that it reveals cannot be produced. They can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source
is not mankind but only God, who himself is Truth and Love. The Pope notes how that which is prior to us and
constitutes us, - subsistent Love and Truth -, shows us what goodness is and in what our true happiness consists.
Benedict XVI declares that it shows us the road to true development.
The Cooperation of the Human Family
Benedict XVI continues by saying that in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true
openness means, not the loss of individual identity, but profound interpenetration. This is also a part of the common
human experiences of love and truth. For example, the spiritual unity in one flesh, arising out of spousal love, makes
out of the two a real and relational unity.
In Christian revelation of the unity of the human race, relationality is an essential element in the metaphysical
interpretation of man. Other cultures and religions that teach brotherhood and peace are of enormous importance.
However, some religious and cultural attitudes do not fully embrace the principles of love and truth and so end up
obstructing authentic human development. A certain proliferation of different religious “paths”, together with religious
syncretism, gives rise to separation and disengagement. The process of globalization sometimes can negatively
favor this kind of syncretism. Additionally, some religious and cultural traditions can ossify society in rigid social
groupings that fail to respect the dignity of the person sometimes in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. Within
these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves. Authentic development is impeded.
The Pope makes the important point that religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism. Neither does
it imply that all religions are equal. Discernment is needed regarding the contribution of cultures and religions,
especially of those that wield political power. This discernment has to be based on the criterion of charity and truth
and it needs to take account of the need for emancipation and inclusivity within the context of a truly universal human
community. “The whole man and all men” is also the criterion or evaluating cultures and religions. Christianity, the
religion of the “God who has a human face”, contains within itself this very criterion.
The Christian religion as well as other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a
place in the public realm. It must be remembered that the Church’s social doctrine came into being in order to claim
“citizenship status” for the Christian religion. The exclusion of religion from the public square, and at the other
extreme, religious fundamentalism, saps public life of motivation, and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive
character. Human rights risk being ignored either because they are robbed of their transcendent foundation or
because personal freedom is not acknowledged. Secularism and fundamentalism exclude fruitful dialogue and
effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith.
For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face. Failure in
this dialogue comes with an enormous price to human development.
Fruitful dialogue between faith and reason renders the work of charity more effective within society. It constitutes
the framework for fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers. The Pastoral Constitution of the
Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, asserted that “believers and unbelievers agree almost unanimously that
the earth should be ordered towards man. For believers, the world derives from God’s plan and not blind chance.
This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with all persons of good will, a living family under
the Creator’s watchful eye.
Benedict XVI says that a criterion for fraternal cooperation between believers and non-believers is the principle of
subsidiarity, an expression of inalienable human freedom. Subsidiarity is first of all a form of assistance to the human
person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person
someone who is capable of giving something to others. Reciprocity is the heart of what it is to be a human being.
Subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against an all-encompassing welfare state.
The principle of subsidiarity is particularly well suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic
human development. The governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, involving different levels that
can work together. Globalization certainly requires authority. This authority, however, must be organized in a
subsidiary and stratified way so as not to infringe upon freedom, and at the same time, yield effective results in
The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa. The former
without the later gives way to social privatism. The latter without the former gives way to paternalist social
assistance. International development aid can sometimes lock people into a state of dependence, extending even to
localized oppression and exploitation. Economic aid to be true to its purpose must not pursue secondary objectives.
Aid programs must increasingly acquire the characteristics of participation from the grass roots. The Holy Father
reminds us that the most valuable resources in countries receiving development aid are their human resources.
Herein lies the real capital to guarantee a truly autonomous future for the poorest countries.
In the economic sphere the assistance needed by developing countries is the gradual penetration of their
products into international markets. Too often, aid has served to create only fringe markets for the products of the
donor countries. It is necessary to help the developing countries improve their products, adapting them more
effectively to the existing demand. The importation of products from economically poor countries is very often what
guarantees their survival. Just and equitable international trade in such as agricultural goods can be beneficial to
everyone, both to suppliers and to customers.
Cooperation for development offers a wonderful opportunity for an encounter between cultures and peoples. If
economically developed countries fail to take account of their own or others’ cultural identity, they cannot enter into
meaningful dialogue with the poor countries. At the same time if poor countries are indiscriminately open to every
cultural proposal, then they will not be in a position to assume responsibility for their own authentic development.
Technologically advanced societies must not confuse their own development with a presumed cultural superiority.
Evolving societies must remain faithful to all that is truly human in their traditions as willed by the Creator. The
tradition of ethical wisdom knows this as the natural law. The Holy Father notes that this universal moral law provides
a sound basis for all cultural, religious, and political dialogue while it ensures that the pluralism of cultural diversity
does not detach itself from the common quest for truth, goodness, and God. This law etched on human hearts is the
precondition for all constructive social cooperation. The Christian faith by becoming incarnate in cultures and at the
same time transcending them, can help them grow in universal brotherhood and solidarity for the advancement of
global and community development.
In the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating
wealth for all. More economically developed nations should do all that they can to allocate larger portions of their
gross domestic product to development aid. One way of doing so is by reviewing their own internal social assistance
and welfare policies, applying the principle of subsidiarity, and creating integrated welfare systems. With the active
participation of private individuals and civil society, it is actually possible to improve social services and welfare
programs while at the same time saving resources. More organic systems of social solidarity make possible the
harnessing of dormant energy benefiting solidarity between peoples.
To further development aid, a fiscal subsidiarity might be employed allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a
portion of the taxes that they pay to the State. This could help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below.
Greater solidarity at the international level, especially in the ongoing promotion of greater access to education, is
at the same time an essential precondition for effective international cooperation. The term “education” refers not
only to classroom teaching and vocational training but also to the complete formation of the person. This effort
encounters the problem, however, that in order to educate, it is necessary to know the nature of the human person.
The prominence of a relativistic understanding of that nature presents serious problems for education, especially
moral education. Yielding to this kind of relativism makes everyone poorer and has a negative impact on the
effectiveness of aid to the most needy populations.
The phenomenon of international tourism offers an illustration of the significance of the problem of a relativistic
understanding of human nature. The Pope notes that tourism can be a major factor in economic development and
cultural growth. Yet, at times, it can be the occasion for exploitation and moral degradation. Currently, it offers
unique opportunities for the economic aspects of development when combined with the cultural aspects, chief among
which is education. However, in some cases international tourism has a negative educational impact on tourism as
well as the local populace who often times can be exposed to immoral or even perverted forms of conduct. A tourism
of sex often takes place with the support of local governments, with silence from those in the tourists’ countries of
origin, and with the complicity of tour operators. We surely need to develop a different type of tourism, one that offers
growth and has the ability to promote genuine mutual understanding.
Another aspect of integral human development, worthy of attention, is migration. It is striking because of the
sheer numbers of people involved and the many problems it raises, posing dramatic challenges to the international
community. It is a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions. There need be effective policies of close
collaboration between the migrants’ countries of origin and their countries of destination. No country can, on its own,
address today’s problems of migration. We all have witnessed the suffering, dislocation and the aspirations that
accompany these migrants. Foreign workers, nevertheless, do make a significant contribution to the economic
development of the host country with their labor, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the
money they send home. Obviously, these laborers cannot be considered as a mere commodity or workforce. Every
migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by
everyone and in every circumstance.
At this point, the Holy Father highlights the direct link between poverty and unemployment. He says that many
times poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work by limiting opportunities for it or by a low value that
is put on work and the rights that flow from it. On May 1, 2000, on the occasion of the Jubilee of Workers, Pope John
Paul II issued an appeal for “a global coalition in favor of ‘decent work.’” What is meant by the word “decency” in
regard to work? His Holiness says that it is work that expresses the essential dignity of persons, a work freely
chosen that effectively associates them with the development of their community. This type of work enables the
individuals to be respected, free from discrimination while making it possible for them to meet their needs and provide
schooling for the children. Finally, it is a work that allows workers to freely organize while at the same time rediscover
their roots at a personal, familial, and spiritual level.
Reflecting on the theme of work, it is well to recall that labor unions should be open to new and emerging
perspectives. Looking to wider concerns than just the specific category of labor itself, union organizations are called
to address some of the new questions arising in our society. The Holy Father here is thinking of some of the complex
issues between workers and consumers. This appears to constitute new ground for unions to creatively explore the
issues. The global context in which work takes place also demands that national labor unions turn their attention as
well to those outside their own membership, in particular, to workers in developing countries where social rights are
often violated. The protection of these workers will enable trade unions to demonstrate the authentic ethical and
cultural motivation that makes it possible for them to play a decisive role in development. The Church’s traditional
teaching makes a valid distinction between the respective roles and functions of trade unions and politics. This
distinction allows unions to identify civil society as the proper setting for their necessary activity of defending and
promoting labor.
The Pope says that finance, through renewed structures and operating methods, needs to return to being an
instrument directed towards improved wealth creation and development. The entire economy and finance must be
used in an ethical way to create suitable conditions for human development. It is certainly useful, and in some cases
imperative, to launch financial initiatives in which the humanitarian dimension predominates. In a sense, the entire
financial system has to be aimed at sustaining true development. The intention to do good must not be considered
incompatible with the effective capacity to produce goods. Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical
foundation of their activity. Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible
and must never be detached from one another. If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with
provident and just expediency.
Both the regulation of the financial sector and experimentation with new forms of finance are positive
experiences that should be further explored and encouraged, highlighting the responsibility of investors. The
experience of micro-finance, its roots in the thinking and activity of the civil humanists should be strengthened and
fine-tuned. This is all the more necessary for many of the more vulnerable sectors of the population needing
protection from the risk of usury and from despair. The weakest members of society should be helped to defend
themselves against usury as much as the poor need help against exploitation. Rich countries also are experiencing
new forms of poverty. Micro-finance can be beneficial to them as well by giving practical assistance with new
initiatives opening new sectors for the benefit of the weaker elements in the society.
The Holy Father now considers how global interconnectedness has led to the emergence of a new political power,
consumers and their associations. This contains some positive elements while excesses assuredly need to be
avoided. It is good for people to realize, as well, that purchasing is always a moral, and not simply an economic, act.
As a result, the consumer functions with specific social responsibilities.
At the present moment, purchasing power having diminished, people must live more frugally. Necessary are forms of
cooperative purchasing. Additionally, new ways of marketing products from deprived areas of the world would be
helpful, so as to guarantee producers a decent return. Within this context, certain conditions need to exist: namely,
that markets need to be genuinely transparent; while producers, beside their profits, should receive improved
formation in professional skills and technology. Finally, trade of this kind must not become hostage to partisan
ideologies. At the same time, it would seem desirable that consumers have a more incisive role toward building
economic democracy.
The Pope notes that because of an unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is need for reform of the
United Nations Organization and, likewise, of economic institutions and international finance. He feels that there is
an urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving
poorer nations a more effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to give direction to
international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. For many positive reasons there is urgent
need of a true world political authority, as Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would
need to be regulated by law and observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity in order to strive for
the common good. In addition it would need to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human
development inspired by the values of charity in truth.
Such an authority would need to be universally recognized and be vested with the effective power to ensure
security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. It would need the authority to ensure compliance from all
parties. Without this, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest
nations. Integral development of peoples and international cooperation require a greater degree of international
ordering, marked by subsidiarity. All this requires the construction of a social order that conforms to the moral order,
to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as
envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.
The Development of Peoples and Technology
The development of peoples is intimately linked to the development of individuals. The human person by nature
is actively involved in his own development while our being and its limits profoundly shape our freedom. No one
shapes his own conscience arbitrarily. We all build our own “I” on the basis of a “self” that is given to us. A person’s
development is compromised if he claims autonomy in producing what he becomes. Analogously, the development
of peoples goes awry if humanity thinks it can recreate itself through the “wonders” of technology alone. We must
fortify our love for a freedom that is not merely arbitrary, but that is rendered truly human by acknowledgment of the
good that underlies it. Man needs to recognize the fundamental norms of the natural moral law that God has written
on our hearts.
Development today is closely linked to technological progress. It is a profoundly human reality, linked to the
autonomy and freedom of man. In technology we express and confirm the dominion of the spirit over matter. The
free human spirit is more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Technology enables us to
exercise dominion over matter. In doing so it touches the heart of the vocation of human labor. In this, man
recognizes himself and forges his own humanity. Technology is the objective side of human action whose origin is
found in the subjective element, the worker himself. Hence, technology is never merely technology. In this sense, it
is a response to God’s command to till and to keep the land. (cf. Gen 2:15) It must serve to reinforce the covenant
between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God’s creative love.
Technological development can give rise to the idea that it is self-sufficient when too much attention is given to
the “how” and not enough to the “why” underlying human activity. Produced as a tool of personal freedom,
technology can be understood as a manifestation of absolute freedom. In the process of globalization, technology
itself could become an ideological power that holds us back from encountering being and truth. We, then, would
make decisions about our lives from within a technocratic cultural perspective without being able to discover a
meaning that is not of our own making. This “technical” vision is now so dominant that truth has come to be seen as
coinciding with the possible. When the sole criterion of truth is efficiency and utility, authentic development is
automatically denied. True development does not consist primarily in “doing”. The key is to grasping the fully human
meaning of human activities within the context of the holistic meaning of the individual’s being. Our actions always
remain an expression of our responsible freedom.
Human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the
fruit of moral responsibility. Beyond the fascination with technology, we must make our own the true meaning of
freedom, a response to the call of being, beginning with our own personal being.
Often the development of peoples is considered a matter of financial engineering, a purely technical matter. Yet,
we must ask why technical choices made thus far have yielded rather mixed result. Development will never be fully
guaranteed through automatic or impersonal forces. (Recall: In Catholic thought, development is viewed as a
vocation in which each of us, by God’s design, is called to develop and fulfill oneself. Integral human development
presupposes responsible freedom in respect of the truth.) Development is impossible without upright men and
women, finely attuned to the requirements of the common good. Professional competence and moral consistency
are necessary ingredients. When technology is allowed to take over, the result is confusion between ends and
means. The flow of technological know-how increases, but it is those in possession of it who benefit. The peoples
who live in its shadow remain unchanged with little chance of emancipation.
Even peace risks being considered a technical product, merely the outcome of agreements between
governments. True, peace-building requires the constant interplay of diplomatic contacts, economic, technological,
cultural changes, etc. Yet, Pope Benedict XVI sees that for such efforts to have lasting effects, they must be based
on values rooted in the truth of human life. It means that the voice of the peoples affected must be heard and their
situation taken into consideration, if their expectations are to be correctly interpreted. One must align oneself with the
unsung efforts of so many individuals deeply committed to bringing peoples together and to facilitating development.
Among such are the Christian faithful, involved in the great task of upholding the fully human dimension of
development and peace.
Linked to technological development is the increasingly pervasive presence of the means of social
communications. They are so integral a part of life today that it seems quite absurd to maintain that they are neutral,
unaffected by any moral considerations concerning people. The Pope says that often their views effectively support
their own subordination to economic interests and, not least, to attempt to impose cultural models that serve
ideological and political agendas. Given the media’s fundamental importance in engineering changes in attitude
towards reality and the human person, we must reflect carefully on their influence, especially in regard to the ethicalcultural dimension of globalization and the development of peoples. (Important to remember: the media is not
necessarily defining globalization and development from a Catholic perspective.)
Pope Benedict speaking of the media says that their meaning and purpose must be sought within an anthropological
perspective. This means that media can have a civilizing effect not only when they increase the communication of
information, but above all when they have a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal
values. Because social communications increase the dissemination of ideas, it does not follow that they promote
freedom or internationalize development and democracy for all. To achieve goals of this kind, they need to promote
the dignity of persons and peoples, inspired by charity, and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural
and supernatural fraternity. Human freedom is intrinsically liked with these higher values. The media can make an
important contribution when they are used to promote universal participation in the common search for justice.
Today there exist a crucial battleground between technology and human moral responsibility in the field of
bioethics where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. Is man the
product of his own labors or does he depend on God? Scientific technological intervention, so advanced, seems to
force a choice between reason open to transcendence and reason closed within immanence (closed within itself).
The Holy Father clearly sees an either/or choice. Closing the door to transcendence brings one up short against a
difficulty: how could being (that which exists) emerge from nothing, how could intelligence be born of chance? Only
together will reason and faith 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.
Following the lead of Paul VI, Pope Benedict XVI says that we need to affirm today that the social question has
become a radically anthropological question. It concerns not just how life is conceived but also how it is manipulated,
as biotechnology places it increasingly under man’s control. In vitro fertilization, embryo research, the manufacture of
clones and human hybrids, etc. all promoted in today’s highly disillusioned culture, believes it has mastered every
mystery because the origin of life is now within our grasp. Indeed, we must not underestimate the disturbing
scenarios that threaten our future or the powerful new instruments that the “culture of death” has at its disposal. To
the scourge of abortion we may have to add in the near future the systematic eugenic programming of births. At the
other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads in the control over life deemed no longer
worth living. Cultural viewpoints that deny human dignity foster a materialistic and mechanistic understanding of
human life. What is truly astonishing is the arbitrary and selective determination of what is put forward today as
worthy of respect.
Pope Benedict XVI speaks to us of how modern technological culture seems to tolerate unprecedented injustices
while considering insignificant matters shocking. He says that the affluent world runs the risk of no longer hearing the
knock of the poor on its door on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human. God reveals
man to himself. Reason and faith work hand in hand. The natural law reveals our greatness but also our
wretchedness insofar as we fail to recognize the call to moral truth.
The contemporary technological mindset tends to consider the problems and emotions of the interior life from a
purely psychological point of view. As a result, man’s interiority is emptied of its meaning. Gradually our awareness
of the human soul’s ontological depths, as probed by the saints, is lost. Yet, the Pope points out to us that the
question of development is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul. Over-simplification stems
from a profound failure to understand the spiritual life. It obscures the fact that development of individuals and
peoples depends partly on the resolution of problems of a spiritual nature. Development must include not just
material growth but also spiritual growth.
The human being develops when he grows in the spirit. His soul comes to know itself and the truths that God
has implanted deep within, in dialogue with its Creator. When far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease. A
prosperous society, highly developed in material terms is not of itself conducive to authentic development. The
emptiness in which the soul feels abandoned, despite the availability of countless therapies, leads to suffering. There
cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people’s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into
The supremacy of technology tends to prevent people from recognizing anything that cannot be explained in
terms of matter alone. However, knowing is not simply a material act. All our knowledge, even the most simple, is
always a minor miracle in that it can never be fully explained by the material instruments that we apply to it. In every
truth there is something more than we would have expected. In the love that we receive there is always an element
that surprises us. The development of individuals and peoples is likewise located on a height, if we consider the
spiritual dimension that must be present if such development is to be authentic. It requires new eyes and a new heart
capable of glimpsing in development the “beyond” that technology cannot give. By following this path, it is possible to
pursue the integral human development that takes its direction from the driving force of charity in truth.
Without God man neither knows which way to go nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous
problems confronting development, we find solace in our Lord Jesus Christ who teaches us: “Apart from me you can
do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) The Holy Father reminds us that, amidst the vast amount of work to be done, God is present
with those who come together in his name to work for justice. In Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI recalled that
man couldn’t bring about his own progress unaided. Only if we are aware of our calling to be part of God’s family,
sons and daughters of the Father, will we able to generate a new vision, a new energy in the service of a truly integral
humanism, one that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth.
Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters in a spirit of solidarity. Ideological rejection of
God and an atheism of indifference constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism, which
excludes God, is an inhuman humanism. Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and
stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples. God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the
short-lived. It gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all. God gives us the strength
to fight, to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope.
Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer. Truth-filled love, caritas in veritate,
is not produced by us, but given to us. Even in the most difficult times, we must above all else turn to God’s love.
True development requires attention to the spiritual life, experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship with Christ.
All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh.” All this is of man because man is
the subject of his own existence and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that
is good and leads to salvation. Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as “Our Father.” In union
with the only begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and to ask him for the daily bread that they
need, to be understanding and generous towards their debtors.
At the conclusion of the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI gladly expresses his own hope in the Apostle Paul’s
words from Romans: “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with
brotherly affection, outdo one another is showing honor.” (Rom 12:9-10). May the Virgin Mary, proclaimed Mater
Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church, by Pope Paul VI, protect us and obtain for us, through her heavenly intercession,
the strength, hope, and joy necessary to continue with generosity the task of bringing about the “development of the
whole man and of all men.”