"Caritas in Veritate": A Defense of Life

Pontifical Academy President Comments on Encyclical

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, JULY 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- «Caritas in Veritate» presents the new face of development, true ethics and human dignity, according to the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, who is also rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, gave his evaluation of Benedict XVI’s third encyclical during a presentation Wednesday in Rome.

The prelate noted that with the publication of Paul VI’s «Populorum Progressio,» the primary exhortation was to rescue populations from illiteracy and misery. Now, Archbishop Fisichella said, without excluding those factors, the concept of development «has a broader connotation.»

The academy president lamented the incongruity of those who «defend the environment and yet forget human life and its protection.» He instead urged a «balance that does not exalt one and humiliate the other, thus falling into neo-paganism.» What is needed, the archbishop affirmed, is «integral humanism.»

«Only when people know themselves and maintain a longing for the truth can there be a guarantee that society can have coherent development,» Archbishop Fisichella said.

He went on to note how «Caritas in Veritate» illustrates true charity, showing «the path for getting out of the tunnel of generalized emotivity.»

More than no’s

The Vatican official said the Pope’s third encyclical reiterates that the Church’s message is anything but a list of «thou shalt nots.»

Instead, he maintained, the Holy Father lays out a «courageous project» in which the market, businesses and finance «are called above all to answer to needs that are intrinsic to their nature.»

Archbishop Fisichella also reflected on the anthropology presented in the encyclical. He cited Paul VI’s idea, taken up by Benedict XVI, that «under-development has a cause that is even greater than the lack of thought: It is the lack of fraternity among people and nations.»

In this regard, he affirmed that the current economic crisis is rooted in more than finances: Its true cause is a distorted anthropological base.

The encyclical, the prelate said, «shows the path that the person is called to walk along with perseverance.»

An ethical framework that takes into account, among other things, just salaries and security and is committed to «educate people so they don’t fall into forms of under-development» is needed, the archbishop continued. Such a system has to regard more than technical aspects; it must include the «social, ethical and human factors.»

He went on to emphasize the importance of solidarity always being accompanied by subsidiarity.

«Solidarity,» Archbishop Fisichella affirmed,» is not sufficient if subsidiarity is lacking,» since it runs the risk of falling into a mentality of hand-outs. «This perspective is nothing more than an anthropological demand.»

Finally, the academy president noted God’s role in development: «The spiritual horizon is not an add-on; it is the essence.» He pointed to the encyclical’s link with «Gaudium et Spes» from the Second Vatican Council, reflecting that «Jesus worked with human hands, thought with a human mind and loved with a human heart.»

The originality of this encyclical, he concluded, is that it shows how the «path taken in the light of reason cannot be fulfilled if it is not made in the light of faith.»

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