Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Caritas in Veritate: The Truth about Humanity

This is part of a series by Jennifer Roback Morse. This installment focuses on the introductory chapter.

Many commentators read Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate as if it were a think tank white paper, and ask whether he endorses their particular policy preferences. It is a mistake to read the encyclical in this way. A close look at the document’s introduction makes plain that Benedict is not a man of the Left or of the Right: He is a non-ideological man of God.

The opening sentence soars above any political platform: “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal force behind authentic development of every person and of all humanity.” This is our first clue that we are not dealing with a technocrat or ideologue. “Authentic development” points away from the deliberations of politicians and policy wonks. Benedict does not define his objectives in material terms, such as maximizing GDP. Neither does he conduct focus groups or consult experts to figure out what people want. Rather in this encyclical, Benedict reflects on what it means to be authentically human and what the human good actually entails. That is to say, he seeks the truth about man in society.

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