Monday, May 14, 2012

Working Toward the "Civilization of Love"

We've seen quite a bit of progress over last 45 years: but not always in a good direction.

In 1967, when Pope Paul VI wrote "Populorum Progressio," European colonial empires were dissolving: fast. Some new nations got used to being independent, learned how to manage their own affairs, and prospered. Others didn't.

Some of this section could be seen as more of the "purposefully vague" message that one reviewer complained about. (July 18, 2009) I see the fellow's point, but don't agree.
"...some of the causes of this situation were identified in Populorum Progressio, such as the high tariffs imposed by economically developed countries, which still make it difficult for the products of poor countries to gain a foothold in the markets of rich countries. ... Paul VI hoped to see the journey towards autonomy unfold freely and in peace. More than forty years later, we must acknowledge how difficult this journey has been, both because of new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers, and because of grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 33) [emphasis mine]
Citing high tariffs and "new forms of colonialism" as contributing factors sounds a little like a familiar attitude. Quite a few folks in America seem to believe that problems in other countries, particularly the new ones, are America's fault. Sometimes the blame gets extended to 'European colonialism.'

But Benedict XVI says that "grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence" is a factor, too. That sounds a little like the old-fashioned attitude about 'natives.'

I don't see it that way. There's more to the world than contemporary America and two of this country's strongly-held political and social philosophies. I'm an American, and think this country has some good qualities. But I don't expect the Catholic Church to reflect my native culture's attitudes. The Church is literally καθολικός, universal.

God, Love, and Neighbors

We wouldn't need documents like "Caritas in Veritate," if everybody would take 'love God, love your neighbor' seriously: and realize that everybody's a neighbor. The sort of love I mean is an act of the will; although it can involve emotions, or "passions," as the Catechism put it:
" 'To love is to will the good of another.'41 All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved.42 Passions 'are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.'43"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766)
Loving neighbors, all neighbors, is a radical idea. Getting folks to embrace new ideas takes time. (April 1, 2012) I don't expect to see "love your neighbor" become the default attitude, not in my lifetime. (May 7, 2012) Besides, I've read Job 5:7.

Still, that's what we're supposed to work toward.

Ethics, the Bottom Line, and Natural Law

Last week, I went over how ethical behavior affects the bottom line. Basically, treating employees like people who matter pays off, abusing the staff doesn't. (May 7, 2012)

Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams(January 18, 2005), used w/o permission
(Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams(January 18, 2005), used w/o permission)

I'm not surprised that doing the right thing is, eventually, the 'profitable' thing to do. Natural law, the idea that there's a set of ethical laws built into the universe that are as real as physical laws, seems reasonable to me. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1954-1960)

I've been over that before. (April 26, 2012) Fairly often.

Globalization and Charity

I get the impression that some folks see the word 'globalization' the way others see 'Satanic:' as a completely awful thing that threatens all that they hold dear. I think it's more of a 'good news/bad news' thing. Maybe that's why I'm not inclined to see this as a strident warning about the appalling evils of big, bad, globalization:
"...The principal new feature has been the explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as globalization. Paul VI had partially foreseen it, but the ferocious pace at which it has evolved could not have been anticipated. ... It has been the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions, and in itself it represents a great opportunity. Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 33)

Globalization and the "Civilization of Love"

I could take phrases like "ferocious pace" and "unprecedented damage," and imagine that globalization is the ultimate evil: which must be stopped.

I see a few things wrong with that attitude.

First, it's not gonna happen. The 'good old days' aren't coming back. For which I'm grateful. I remember the 'good old days.' (July 6, 2009)

Second, progress isn't a problem. Development is something that's supposed to keep happening: as "Caritas in Veritate" keeps saying. Problems come when folks idolize technology, or profit; or drop charity and reason out of the equation.

Idolatry, by the way, is treating something that is not God as if it is God. It's also a very bad idea. (Catechism, 2112-2114)

Today's world is "vast and complex." I don't see that as a problem, by itself. Daft decisions can affect more folks: but so can wise decisions.

Clinging to the status quo doesn't look like a good idea. Not to me. Trying to turn back the clock and live in some rosy 'good old days' simply won't work.

I'm cautiously optimistic about building a better world. We have much more information today, than we did in my youth. Just as important, we're learning new ways of evaluating and sharing that information. It's not going to be easy, and I doubt that development will happen without problems. But I'm also quite certain that folks can make it happen.
"...Hence charity and truth confront us with an altogether new and creative challenge, one that is certainly vast and complex. It is about broadening the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing these powerful new forces, animating them within the perspective of that 'civilization of love' whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture."
("Caritas in Veritate," 33)

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

Related posts:


Holly@A Life-Size Catholic Blog said...

I'm not exactly sure what I Googled to end up here, but I'm very glad that I did. You have a GREAT blog! I'll be stopping back to read more. It's like a book I didn't want to put down.

A new follower...Holly

Brigid said...

Plural agreement: "Citing high tariffs and "new forms of colonialism" as contributing factor sounds a little like"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Holly@A Life-Size Catholic Blog,

Wow. Thanks for the good words.

It takes me a while to go through comments - sorry about the delay.

"A Life-Size Catholic Blog" is an intriguing title.

Thanks again.

Brian Gill said...


Found, fixed, thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

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.