As leaders of the wealthiest nations in the world prepare to gather
this week for the G8 summit in Italy, Pope Benedict released his new
encylical exactly in time to help guide their focus on economic and
social justice.

Caritas in Veritate,
(Charity in Truth), examines world events and issues like the economic
crisis, sustainable development, environmental concerns and
stewardship, all from the lens of human rights and dignity.

Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine.

….Benedict stated early in the encyclical.

I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and
continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the
consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living
and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural,
political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are
most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for
interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility.

Charity must be understood in light of the truth, he continues.

This is a matter of no small account today, in a social
and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed
to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.

Which is a continuation of his ongoing teaching to beware of the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ in our age.

As I’m reading this, I’m thinking about that false dichotomy that
persists between ‘the peace and social justice crowd’ in Catholic
activism and ‘the pro-life crowd’, as if they are mutually exclusive.

Without truth, without trust and love for what is true,
there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action
ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in
social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult
times like the present.

And at this point, Benedict turns (or returns, from past and frequent references) to the ‘Common Good.’

To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to
take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual,
there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good.
It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and
intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that
is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the
social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their
good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a
requirement of justice and charity…

The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development
proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and
relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes
evil with good…

The Church doesn’t have technical solutions to offer, he says, and
doesn’t want to interfere in state politics. But the Church does
have the mission of advancing unchanging truths about human rights and
dignity in a very changing global culture.

After all…

…as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers.

And this is only the beginning of the encyclical.

International news media began picking up on it right away, perhaps
surprisingly given other news stories captivating the media today.

Here’s Reuters:

The pope said every economic decision had a moral
consequence and called for “forms of redistribution” of wealth overseen
by governments to help those most affected by crises.

Benedict said “there is an urgent need of a true world political
authority” whose task would be “to manage the global economy; to revive
economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present
crisis and the greater imbalances that would result.”

Such an authority would have to be “regulated by law” and “would
need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective
power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for
rights.”

“Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance
with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated
measures adopted in various international forums,” he said.

The United Nations, economic institutions and international finance
all had to be reformed “even in the midst of a global recession,” he
said in the encyclical, a booklet of 141 pages.

That’s not surprising, given that Benedict tried to say the same
thing – with nuance and gentle persuasion – before the General Assembly
in his address at the UN last April. But that reform has to be grounded
on moral truths about humanity.

The New York Times
reported excitedly that Benedict is calling for a “new economic world
order” and “radical rethinking” of the global economy. But it took
until the last line of the article to get to this, and even then as an
awkward afterthought:

In line with what he calls “respecting the intrinsic
value of creation,” he also decried stem cell research, abortion and
euthanasia.

Embryonic stem cell research, to be clear.

NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez had this interesting Tweet this afternoon:

if i were obama, i wouldnt want to meet the pope after
he gives a 127 page (in the official vatican english version) defense
of truth

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....