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Lecture examines human development and dignity

Emily Schrank | Thursday, January 28, 2010

Authentic development must have a consistent focus on the whole human person, two Notre Dame professors said Wednesday evening.

Maura Ryan, associate professor of theology, and Fr. Robert Dowd, assistant professor of political science, discussed the concept of human development as presented in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” in a lecture at the Coleman-Morse Lounge.
Ryan focused on the definition of development given by Pope Benedict and its relationship to charity.

“Pope Benedict makes the central claim that authentic social, political and economic development can only be brought about by love and truth,” she said. “The goal of development is to rescue people from endemic poverty.”

While there has been absolute growth in the world, it is a growth burdened with many problems. She said these problems are rooted in the unregulated exploitation of earth’s resources, the use of technology for profit rather than human need and the global financial crisis.

“He implies that only Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, can achieve the unity necessary for development,” Ryan said. “Ultimately, Pope Benedict very much wants to resist the dichotomy between charitable acts and social reform.”

She said charity is often criticized for applying patches to system failures in development circles. According to the encyclical, however, charity animates relationships of rights and responsibilities rather than replacing them.

“‘Caritas in Veritate’ suggests that authentic development is necessary for overcoming the moral and economic situation in the world today,” she said.      

 
Dowd focused on the indications of a developing society, as well as the policy implications of this development.

“Generosity and the willingness to sacrifice, conscious dedication to the common good and a belief that all of creation is somehow sacred are all signs of development,” Dowd said. “Attitudes, beliefs, morals and values combined with social, economic and political institutions lead to integral human development.”

He said external development is evidenced by respect for life, a market economy regulated by the state, economic equality and a democratic political system.

According to Dowd, development also results in policy changes, such as reduction of tariffs and limits to property rights.

“The encyclical asserts that a commitment to the common good will ultimately bring about this development and the associated changes,” he said.