Monday, January 16, 2012

'Inevitable Progress;' 'We're All Gonna Die;' and Getting a Grip

I started posting about "Caritas in veritate - Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI" in 2009, a little after the letter was released. Before getting back to what Benedict XVI has to say about love, truth, and acting as if they matter, a few points:
  • I've got the authority of some guy with a blog
    • I don't speak for the Church
  • Caritas in Veritate is
    • Available online
    • Not light reading
If you're curious about what Caritas in Veritate says, I recommend reading the document. I'll put excerpts and summaries of what parts of it say into these posts - along with my opinions - but, like I said, I'm "some guy with a blog."

Besides, I think Caritas in Veritate is worth reading.

Excuses, or Reasons, or Something

So, why have I only read and posted about 13 of the 79 paragraphs in Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical letter? And why has it been almost a year and a half since I last wrote about the letter?

Maybe I'm lazy. As I said back in July of 2009, one of the paragraphs is 500 words long. And that's not an unusually long paragraph. On top of that, the letter is written in a none-too-reader-friendly style. Nothing wrong with that, by the way.

For example, here's how paragraph 14 starts:
"In his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens of 1971, Paul VI reflected on the meaning of politics, and the danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions that place its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy...."
(Caritas in Veritate, 14)
I'll be getting back to paragraph 14 in a bit.

After reading part of Caritas in Veritate that could be (over-) summarized as "God matters," I got distracted by other things. Most of which were a whole lot easier to study and write about than what the Pope as to say about things like:
  • Agápe
  • Macro-relationships
  • Social conscience
  • Responsibility
  • Social action
  • Private interests
  • Logic of power
  • Social fragmentation
  • Globalized society
  • Lógos
  • Mater Ecclesiae
  • Pauline Year
  • Human advancement
  • Church's ever-living Tradition
  • Fathers of the Church
  • Populorum Progressio
  • Development of every person
  • Charity
  • Truth
That list is from the Vatican document's "subject" tag.

Like I said, Caritas in Veritate isn't light reading. And it doesn't lend itself to snappy little summaries. All of which is part of why I haven't posted about it for a while. Besides, there was always something else to post about. Something simpler: that required less concentration on my part.

Excuses, excuses.

One more thing: "Caritas in Veritate" is the title of this letter. I've seen it translated into English as "Love in Truth" and "Charity in Truth." I think I'll use its official Latin title, and the "Charity in Truth" English version. For one thing, "Charity in truth" are the first three words of my language's translation, and caritas can mean either charity or love, and love can be translated into Latin as amor, or caritas, or quite a few other words. And that's another topic. Topics.

"...Technology...Anti-Human...Degradation...Science..."

Back to Caritas in Veritate / Charity in Truth, politics, technology, science, and getting a grip.

The words I quoted actually are in paragraph/section 14 of Charity in Truth. In that order. But, dramatic as it might be, summarizing the paragraph as "Pope warns against anti-human technology and degradation by science:" That's NOT WHAT IT SAYS.

Small wonder, though, that Benedict XVI's document was called "purposefully vague" back in 2009. It's not the sort of headline-friendly thing folks are used to reading these days: like "CANCER CAUSES CELL PHONES!" No, wait. That was the other way around in the news. More topics.

Politics, Technology, Science, and All That

Remember: This is an excerpt. I'm leaving stuff out.
"In his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens of 1971, Paul VI reflected on the meaning of politics, and the danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions that place its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy. ... Paul VI had already warned against the technocratic ideology so prevalent today[26], fully aware of the great danger of entrusting the entire process of development to technology alone, because in that way it would lack direction...."
(Caritas in Veritate, 14)
The message isn't "technology is bad." Technology isn't good, either. Back to Charity in Truth:
"...Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent. If on the one hand, some today would be inclined to entrust the entire process of development to technology, on the other hand we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny in toto the very value of development, viewing it as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation. This leads to a rejection, not only of the distorted and unjust way in which progress is sometimes directed, but also of scientific discoveries themselves, which, if well used, could serve as an opportunity of growth for all. The idea of a world without development indicates a lack of trust in man and in God...."
(Caritas in Veritate, 14)
I'd have thought that Western civilization at least would have gotten over the 'technology and science will solve all our problems' thing by now. I can see how dramatic improvements in agriculture, medicine, and other technologies impressed folks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, though: well, I remember the first Earth Day: and that's another topic, too.

I've posted about the sort of neo-Luddite nonsense that blames technology and science for everything from the extinction of the American bison1 to the impending ice age, melting of the ice caps, or - more recently - 'climate change.'

What the Pope seems to be trying to say is that science and technology aren't gonna kill us all, that it's okay to use our brains, and that trying to climb back into the trees simply ain't gonna work:
"...Idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity's original natural state, are two contrasting ways of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility."
(Caritas in Veritate, 14)
But, like I said, that's just part of what the paragraph said.

Okay. 14 sections down, 65 to go. This may take a while.

Still, next week I won't be doing quite so much catch-up and background.

More posts about "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth)
"Caritas in Veritate"

Related posts:

More:

1 The American bison, or buffalo, is far from extinct:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Stutter: "I recommend reading reading the document."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

Right right. Thanks!

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