Caritas in veritate (English: “Charity in truth”) is the third and lastencyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, and his first social encyclical. It was signed on 29 June 2009 and was published on 7 July 2009. It was initially published in Italian, English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish.
The encyclical is concerned with the problems of global development and progress towards the common good, arguing that both Love and Truth are essential elements of an effective response. The work is addressed to all strata of global society – there are specific points aimed at political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, financiers, and aid agencies but the work as a whole is also addressed to all people of good will.
Caritas in veritate contains detailed reflection on economic and social issues. The Pope points out that the church does not offer specific technical solutions, but rather moral principles to inform the building of such solutions. The economic themes include an attack on free market fundamentalism, though a simplistic polarization of the free market model versus interventionist big government solutions is rejected. There is emphasis on the need for the actions of all economic actors to be informed by ethics as well as the profit motive. Other areas discussed include hunger, the environment, migration, sexual tourism, bioethics, cultural relativism, social solidarity, energy, and population issues.
The encyclical is divided into six chapters, along with an introduction and conclusion.
The encyclical begins with a discussion of how charity and truth are fundamental parts of our development, both as individuals and for humanity as a whole. Love (charity)[lower-alpha 1] is described as an extraordinary force motivating people to strive for the common good: “The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them”. The Pope emphasizes that while charity is “at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine”, it must be linked to truth if it is to remain a force for good. Without truth, love can become an “empty shell” to be filled with emotional influences which in the worst case can result in love turning into its opposite. Similarly, social action without truth can end up “serving private interests and the logic of power”. Another risk for the individual without truth is to fall prey to an excessively sceptical and empirical view of life. The Pope pays tribute to Pope Paul VI‘s 1967 encyclical Populorum progressio, which he describes as the “Rerum novarum of its day”.[lower-alpha 2] Benedict goes on to recognize he is echoing the principal theme of Populorum progressio in calling for people to strive for greater development with all their hearts and minds. He says the Christian is called on to engage politically for the benefit of other people in so far as he or she is able, and equally to love and help their neighbours on an individual level.
Chapter 1 continues the discussion of Populorum progressio, illustrating how it fits in both with Pope Paul VI’s overall magisterium and with the broader tradition of Catholic teachings. Benedict recounts how the earlier encyclical taught that institutions designed to hasten social development are not by themselves sufficient to ensure good outcomes. He reminds us that Paul VI advised the chief causes of enduring poverty are not material in nature, but lie in failures of the will and “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples”. He asserts that people working for the benefit of others need their own individual sense of vocation, which is derived in part from the Bible and the life of Christ. Benedict states that while reason alone can identify inequality and while globalization has made us neighbours, neither can establish the sense of fraternity which flows from God’s love. The Pope introduces a theme concerning the importance in tackling hunger which reoccurs later in the work, using a quote from Populorum progressio: “the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance”.
The Pope describes globalization as the main feature of the current age. While acknowledging the great benefits delivered, including the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions and nations, the Pope warns globalization has already created many new problems and that without the influence of charity and truth, it could cause “unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family”.
Benedict warns of dangers arising from unbalanced growth and from those pursuing profit purely for its own sake, without seeing profit as a means to do good. He discusses increasing inequality, including new groups of poor emerging even in rich nations. The pope says globalization has in part given rise to damaging cultural eclecticism and levelling. Addressing political leaders, Benedict says that “The primary capital to be safeguarded is man” and suggests that reducing prolonged unemployment should be a high priority as it causes “great psychological and spiritual suffering”. He goes on to discuss the suffering caused in the underdeveloped world by food shortages, saying that to feed the hungry is an ethical imperative. The Pope considers a number of trends harmful to development: the prevalence of corruption in both poor and rich countries, the existence of harmful speculative capital flows, the tendency for development aid to be “diverted from it proper ends due to irresponsible actions”, the “unregulated exploitation of the earths resources”, and “on the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of healthcare”. While acknowledging that organized religion is not always an entirely positive influence, the Pope warns of the danger of state imposed atheism, which he says deprives citizens of the moral and spiritual strength needed for genuine development and to respond generously to divine love. He emphasizes that successfully resolving the various global challenges will need Love as well as knowledge and quotes Populorum progressio: “the individual who is animated by true charity labours skilfully to discover the causes of misery, to find the means to combat it, to overcome it resolutely”.