The latest encyclical letter by Our Holy Father Benedict XVI entitled, Caritas in Veritate, or Love in Truth was published just this June. The letter is a social encyclical, written in the same spirit as Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII and Populorum Progressio of Pope Paul VI. It speaks on topics such as the dignity of work, the insistence upon just and living wages, the rights of workers to unionize/organize, and the need to be ever vigilant against greed, whether personal or corporate in nature. It is a timely document during this global economic crisis. Its main thrust, with the Holy Father's passionate insistence, is for authentic human development - for integral human development which can only be discovered with God, not in spite of God. I quote just a few powerful passages:
"The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized'" (para 15).
"God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to 'be more'. Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved" (para 29).
"Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere license. Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate" (para 43).
"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 ends up losing 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 is one and indivisble: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development" (para 51).