In case you haven’t seen this yet, this is from here.
The intellectual center of this encyclical is that “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.” It rests a notion of authentic human development upon the principle enshrined in Gaudium et Spes 22, that the human person only has self-understanding to the extent that he or she knows Christ and participates in the Trinitarian communion of love. As the Pope says, “Life in Christ is the first and principle factor of development.” The whole document is a plea to understand the limitations of a secularist notion of development. Behind secularism lies the error of Pelagius which in contemporary times takes the form of trust in education and institutions without reference to God or the interior dynamics of the human soul. A purely secularist notion of development reduces the human person to a kind of economic machine somehow designed for the accumulation of wealth.
Such a truncated concept of development has fostered government policies hostile to the more spiritual elements of human life, including relationships of reciprocal self-giving in love. Abortion is encouraged, couples are persecuted for having more than one child, and international aid is linked to the acceptance of contraceptives. The questions covered in Humanae Vitae are thus not merely those of purely individual morality, but indicate a strong link between life ethics and social ethics. The concept which links the two is that of a “human ecology.”
Secularist notions of development also fail to comprehend the root cause of drug addiction and depression which is the malnutrition of the human soul, made for communion with God but imprisoned within a materialist universe. When cultures no longer serve the deepest needs of human nature and actually narrow the spiritual horizons of people, people don’t know who they are and feel depressed.
The remedy for this pandemic in contemporary Western culture is to grasp the fact that truth is something which is given to us as a gift: “In every cognitive process, truth is not something that we produce, it is always found, or better, received. Truth, like love, ‘is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings’” (34).
Caritas in Veritate is a masterful synthesis of the Trinitarian anthropology of Gaudium et Spes and the subsequent insights of Paul VI and John Paul II, applied to the contemporary context. The core theological ideas were all present in Ratzinger’s essay on the notion of human dignity in Gaudium et Spes, written in the late 1960s.
At the more practical level this encyclical is exciting in that it calls for a reform of the United Nations and the economic institutions of international finance. It is clear that the general tendency of such institutions to equate human development with the success of capitalism and democracy or material progress is utterly inadequate when measured against the Gospel’s standard.
Here on SCE, we always barack for the home team. (Tracey Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia). Good on ya, Tracey.