Papal encyclical fuses love and justice

  • March 5, 2010
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Pope’s latest social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate could launch a revolution of divine love says a Harvard-trained economist and Jesuit priest.

Speaking at Saint Paul University  on Mar. 1, Fr. Bill Ryan urged parishes and dioceses to launch small group-study sessions of the document to bring about Church renewal.

“You won’t ‘get it’ by yourself,” he said. “You’ll ‘get it’ by sharing in small groups.” He urged the contemplation of the document in a setting where people could “tell the truth” rather than debate.

“If love isn’t true, it’s of no use,” said the Renfrew, Ontario-born priest whose service in Canada included a stint as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general secretary and as Jesuit provincial for English Canada.

“The truth is we need a revolution,” he said. “The system we have is not going to get us through.”

Calling the encyclical “prophetic,” he added: “We’re either going to love each other or we’re going to die.”

Caritas in Veritate, published in July 2009, is a “beautiful document,” a “new experience in Catholic social teaching,” he said.

The Pope’s holistic approach includes the whole person, and focuses on a notion of charity or love that “far exceeds simply giving to the poor,” he said.

“It’s a Summa of the Church’s social magisterium,” because it weaves together the Church’s pro-life and social justice teachings, including a respect for ecology, and is “driven by the dynamic of divine love,” he said.

Pope Benedict “makes love and justice inseparable,” fusing social justice with the preaching of the Gospel, he said.

He described the Pope as a “compassionate critic” who sees clearly the self-destructive drives rooted in original sin, yet proclaims divine charity as “the driving force” in integral human development. The ultimate model, Ryan said, is Christ himself.

The encyclical says love has to be enlightened by faith and reason or else it degenerates into sentimentality, he said.

Ryan also spoke on the controversial section of the encyclical that called for a global authority “with teeth” to effectively manage investment, trade, migration, and other institutions. He noted this thinking has been around for decades in the Church and compared this body to the kind of agency that regulates air traffic control worldwide.

The encyclical also reminds us of the duties to the next generation, including how the poor of the world will have adequate sources of energy and how the social costs of energy use should be borne by those who use them, he said.

Ryan said the encyclical calls for integrating human capital and the notion of giftedness into the system at all stages, including production, so that wealth distribution is not just a hand-out from the government.

The Pope reserved his harshest critique for the improper use of technology, especially biotechnology, warning of a tendency for ethics to “run after” instead of guide its development.

Ryan said the encyclical challenges the core truths of neo-liberalism that the solution is always more economic growth, more trade and that economic development happens automatically.

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