Canadians praise Pope's social encyclical

  • July 9, 2009
{mosimage}It's almost as if Pope Benedict XVI had Canada and its controversies in mind as he penned the first social encyclical of the 21st century.

By updating Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio, and making an explicit link between church teaching on economic development and Pope Paul's teaching on human sexuality, abortion and contraception — Humanae Vitae — it was as though Benedict had the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in mind, said Michael Casey.

"It will certainly inform our discussions on policies and on our orientation. It will be stuff to work on over the next few months," said Casey, executive director of Development and Peace.

For months Development and Peace has been engulfed in controversy over whether some of its partners in Latin America, Africa and Asia have advocated for more liberal abortion laws. Casey said Caritas in Veritate is "an endorsement" of Development and Peace's work.

Development and Peace was established immediately after Populorum Progressio was issued in 1967, and the organization has always taken that encyclical as a founding charter.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop James Weisgerber was not surprised the Pope tied Populorum Progressio to Humanae Vitae.

"The sort of liberal wing of the world always wants to deal with poverty by reducing the number of people. The church's position has always been, reduce the poverty and then the population tends to level off. But reduce the poverty first," said Weisgerber.

Weisgerber believes the update of Populorum Progressio will help Development and Peace.

"Development and Peace is committed to the integral teaching of the church. I wouldn't want to think they're trying to get away with anything. I'm sure they will embrace this," he said.

Canadians will also want to take note of what Pope Benedict says about the importance of the environment, said University of St. Michael's College theology professor Dennis Patrick O'Hara.

"I've highlighted so many passages that should remind and challenge Canadians about our economic and environmental policies," said O'Hara, the director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology.

The new encyclical makes a point about the difference between the economy as a means versus the economy as an end. And the point is very relevant for Canadians, said O'Hara.

"Economics is a means toward a good. Economics is a means to help humans flourish," said O'Hara. "But what we've done is reverse it. We've made economics the goal so we can use people as the means, or use the environment as a means, to further our economic benefit. But it's the benefit of the few."

A week before the encyclical was released, a World Wildlife Fund study ranked Canada dead last among G8 nations in terms of climate change policy. That should tell Canadians that the Pope's warnings about the environment have special relevance for them, said O'Hara.

"You can't read (Caritas in Veritate) and feel comfortable about Canada's environmental policies or lack of them."

The Pope's endorsement of responsible and long-term thinking in business and finance is an important part of how he means to promote morality in the marketplace, said Regis College theology professor John Dadosky.

"To encourage businesses to think long-term instead of short-term is really wise. Basically, we're here in this crisis because people wanted short-term profit. And everybody is suffering, all the way down to the developing world."

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