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Posted May 4, 2011
This is the first papal encyclical eighteen years that addresses social teaching of the Catholic Church, and the first such encyclical by the Pope Benedict XVI. The title is modeled on Ephesians 4:15, and in some way implies a continuation with the previous encyclical "God is Love" ("Deus caritas est"). The basic thesis of this encyclical is that love is not just an individual and personal attitude limited to one's circle of friends and relatives, but a universal guiding principle that ought to order the society at large. This is particularly evident when the synonym for love - charity - is used in the English translation. All the connotations of that word then become manifestly obvious. And yet, charity by itself, unless it is based and fortified by truth, can be little distinguished from emotionalism that is useless in promoting greater social and cultural development. It is precisely this truth that enables charity to have an impact and effect in social context.
This encyclical draws on earlier encyclicals that deal with social teaching of the Catholic Church, but in particular it views itself as a continuation and building upon of ideas presented in Pope Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio." It is a response to an increasingly globalized world in general and to the current economic crisis in particular. It addresses two dangerous extremes of the current debates on progress of society: the overreliance on technology on one hand, and the denial and rejection of any progress on another. It reemphasis one of the cornerstones of Catholic social teaching: the fact that life ethics and social ethics are inexorably connected. Authentic development requires adherence to truth and charity. Devaluing human life is contrary to it on both accounts.
Putting human life and human dignity at the very center of all economic and social development is seen as crucial for all development and social justice. The development and right ordering of all other human institutions is considered under the principle of subsidiarity: the appropriate level at which issues need to be addressed is the lowest lever at which they can be addressed effectively. This becomes especially relevant and urgent in the modern, increasingly interconnected, world.
In this encyclical Pope Benedict has given us another clear expression of Catholic social teaching, appropriated and updated to address the most pertinent social issues of today. It is a valuable resource and a source of teaching and guidance on matters that affect us all.
Posted July 26, 2009
No text was provided for this review.