Monday, February 20, 2012

"To Build a Better Future ... With Confidence Rather Than Resignation"

I'm back on schedule, after last week's 'special' post:
I've reached the second chapter of "Caritas in Veritate:"

Human Development in Our Time

The chapter starts with another reference to Pope Paul VI:
"Paul VI had an articulated vision of development. He understood the term to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 21)
"Rescuing" gets defined as getting people out of:
  • Hunger
  • Deprivation
  • Endemic diseases
  • Illiteracy
This goes far beyond getting emergency rations and medical teams into a disaster area. This sort of rescue means change. Lots of change:
  • Economic
    • Their active participation in the international economic process
      • On equal terms
  • Social
    • Their evolution into educated societies
      • Marked by solidarity
  • Political
    • The consolidation of democratic regimes
      • Capable of ensuring freedom and peace

Profit as a Means to an End

Change is needed. The trick is how to decide what to change, and how.
"...the Church had good reason to be concerned about the capacity of a purely technological society to set realistic goals and to make good use of the instruments at its disposal. Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 21) [emphasis mine]
I think this is an example of why an American wrote that "Caritas in Veritate" was "purposefully vague." The Catholic Church isn't an American institution: and isn't dedicated to supporting any of today's ideologies. Or yesterday's, for that matter. The Church isn't 'for' or 'against' Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, Tories, Populares, or Optimates, and I've been over that before. That's not the same as being apathetic or uninvolved:
Quite a bit has changed since Pope Paul VI's time. Some of it's been for the better. Some, not so much. I think the Middle East is a pretty good example of both.

Quite a few folks in the Middle East got ridiculously rich from the sale of oil. One took his share of the windfall, moved to America, and explored new horizons in garish lawn ornaments. At least one other decided to use this narrow window of opportunity another way. He's building an economy that will continue to support his country when the wells run dry. (December 19, 2010)

This Won't Wait

"...this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis. This presents us with choices that cannot be postponed concerning nothing less than the destiny of man, who, moreover, cannot prescind from his nature...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 21) [emphasis mine]
"Prescind?!" That means to:
  • Separate or single out in thought
  • Cut off, terminate, or remove
    (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
I think a reasonable way to paraphrase "man, who, moreover, cannot prescind from his nature" is to say that human beings can't stop acting like human beings. It's just not in our nature. Or, rather, it is.

After "cannot be postponed" and "prescind," "Caritas in Veritate" has a sort of laundry list of what folks are dealing with today. Or what we should be dealing with, anyway. It includes:
  • Global interrelations
  • Damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing
  • Large-scale migration of peoples
    • Often provoked by some particular circumstance
    • Then given insufficient attention
  • Unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources
"Unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources?" I still tend to cringe when I hear that sort of thing. But I agree with Benedict XVI on this point.

I think the Captain Planet version of environmental awareness is daft: and can be destructive when folks start taking it seriously. I do, however, think pandas are cute: and think that it's necessary to develop resources without leaving an impoverished mess for the next generations to clean up.

Moving on.

"Realistic Attitude"

This isn't a simple situation. There's a world - literally - of interrelated issues. A solution almost certainly means getting "holistic." That doesn't mean going to some weird health-food store. "Holistic" means "emphasizing the organic or functional relation between parts and the whole." (Princeton's WordNet)

Back to "Caritas in Veritate," and "holistic" understanding, Catholic style:
" efforts of holistic understanding and a new humanistic synthesis. The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation rightly cause us concern, but we must adopt a realistic attitude...." ("Caritas in Veritate," 21)
For someone who assumes that religious people aren't, by definition, reasonable people, that call for a "realistic attitude" may sound odd. I've run into enough frightfully 'religious' folks to know that there's some reason for seeing religion as a psychiatric condition.

But I also converted to Catholicism after I discovered that the authority Jesus gave Peter had been passed along to the current Pope. (Matthew 16:17-19 and all that.) I didn't convert because there's a 'Vatican science academy,' but that didn't hurt. And that's another topic.

The point is that the Catholic Church insists on faith and reason, and reason doesn't function well if it's not connected to facts. More topics.

Confidence and Hope

Picking up where I left off - - -
"...we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 21)
This isn't going to be easy. Benedict XVI says that we need to:
  • Re-plan our journey
  • Set ourselves new rules
  • Discover new forms of commitment
  • Build on positive experiences
  • Reject negative ones
The payoff:
"...The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time."
("Caritas in Veritate," 21)
I've been trying to do two paragraphs in each of these posts: but there was a lot in that one. I plan to pick up "Caritas in Veritate" with some of the many overlapping layers of today's situation: poverty, wealth, inequalities, human rights, cultural models, and social norms.

Like folks say, 'it's complicated.'

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

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.