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Love in truth

Charles E. Rice | Monday, October 26, 2009

Our first three columns this term discussed the Obama administration’s takeover of the American private sector, including the automotive industry, banking, health care, student loans, etc. To avoid getting lost in details, let’s note some controlling principles offered by Pope Benedict XVI in his third encyclical, “Love in Truth” (Caritas in Veritate) (CIV), issued June 29. CIV builds upon his first two encyclicals, “God is Love” (Deus Caritas Est, 2006) and “In Hope We Were Saved” (Spe Salvi, 2007). It carries forward Benedict’s assertion in his first World Day of Peace message, on Jan. 1, 2006, that “Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.” His first three encyclicals emphasize that love and acceptance of the truth about man and God offer the only hope for peace. “Jesus,” said Benedict in that message, “defined himself as the Truth in person, and … states his complete aversion to ‘everyone who loves and practices falsehood.'”

CIV focuses on “integral human development,” as urged by Paul VI in “Populorum Progressio” in 1967. CIV’s opening words note the spiritual as well as material character of such development: “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness … is the … driving force behind the … development of every person and of all humanity.”

CIV deserves attention, especially within the Beltway and in the media. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that. Let us, rather, note some unfashionable truths offered in CIV:

1. Solidarity. We are relational by nature. John Paul II described “the full meaning of freedom” as “the gift of self in service of God and one’s brethren.” Veritatis Splendor, No. 87. “The human being,” said CIV, “is made for gift.” No. 34. “Economy and finance … can be used badly where those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends … [I]n commercial relationships … gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity … must find their place within normal economic activity.” No. 36.

2. Subsidiarity. “[I]t is an injustice for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.” Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno (1931), No. 79. This principle insists on “the autonomy of intermediate bodies … and is the most effective antidote against [an] all-encompassing welfare state.” No. 56. Obamacare and other takeovers are at war with this principle.

3. The moral law applies to all human activity. “The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can … eliminate … evil … by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with material prosperity and social action. [T]he conviction that the economy must be autonomous [and] shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character [has] led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom.” (No. 34). Integral human development requires more than self-interest. It requires “upright … financiers and politicians whose consciences are … attuned to … the common good.” No 71.

4. Consistent ecology. “The Church … must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation … She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction … [T]he decisive issue is the … moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society [loses] the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature … takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person … It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice.” No. 36. Exhibit A for that contradiction is the pro-abortion politician who told Notre Dame’s graduates last May that they “must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it.”

5. Population growth is good. “[O]penness to life,” CIV states, is “a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have [emerged] from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and [their] talents … [F]ormerly prosperous nations are [in] decline … because of their falling birth rates; this [is] a crucial problem for highly affluent societies. The decline in births … puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into … financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of … labourers, and narrows the ‘brain pool.’ … [S]maller … families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure … solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of a scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is … a social and even economic necessity … to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person … States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman … and to assume responsibility for its … needs, while respecting its … relational character.” No. 44.

6. Respect for life is essential to development. “In … developed countries, legislation contrary to life [contributes] to the spread of an anti-birth mentality … [A]ttempts are made to export this mentality to other States as if it were a form of cultural progress.

“Some … [o]rganizations work … to spread abortion [and promote] sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned. [D]evelopment aid is sometimes linked to the … imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure … in favor of its juridical recognition.” No. 28.

“Openness to life,” CIV concludes, “is at the center of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the… motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good.” No. 28.

The Pope is the one universal voice showing the way to a Culture of Life built on love, Truth and hope. It is time even for politicians to give him a listen.

Professor Emeritus Rice is on the law school faculty. He may be reached at [email protected] or 574-633-4415.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.