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The growth of for-profit non-profit-maximizing businesses must be encouraged both by friendly regulatory environments and consumer support. Business owners should be given the opportunity to build businesses that are in line with their long term values without suffering due to regulations that favor investors over other stake holders. There should be a focus on providing work that is decent.

This is a lot to ask. No group can make change happen on its own. However, there are some promising signs. The variety of business is growing. Businesses are finding ways to be innovative even now. Consumers are starting to care about more than just cost in some areas. The growth of the sustainability and fair trade movements illustrates this. Now we need to keep up the momentum both as individuals and as a society.

The encyclical explores many other topics that I have neglected. Essays I considered adding to this series but didn't include reflections on the environment, food and agriculture, energy, economic aid, immigration and migrant workers, and technology. Given the amount I had to say about the things I do agree with, I chose not to discuss the areas where I disagree with the Pope's evaluation.

Even without those additions, the key theme of the encyclical, "charity in truth" still shines through. Many of the global systems that developed to make life better for individuals now makes life worse for many (sometimes most) of the people on the planet. These systems have reduced the human element to models and facts which, while useful as tools, prove harmful when they replace the consideration of individuals and their needs. Charity should not be limited to personal interactions. It must, hand in hand with truth, provide the basis of all interactions at all levels.

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Profit maximization has not only led to unsustainable business practices, it has also led to instability and uncertainty for individuals. Since innovation ultimately builds on top of individuals feeling like they have the ability to take chances, an increase in uncertainty is troubling.

This insecurity partially arises from the increased mobility of labor.
The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. (25)


Jobs that may disappear in a year do not provide a stable basis on which to make long term plans. Such uncertainty adversely affects individuals; it represents a loss of human potential.
Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: "Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life". (25)
People should be the ultimate focus of social and economic life. Policies, both of government and business, should take human potential into account when making decisions. When we lose track of the idea that society exists for people we suffer from the systemic problems we see in the global economy today.

Often the development of peoples is considered a matter of financial engineering, the freeing up of markets, the removal of tariffs, investment in production, and institutional reforms — in other words, a purely technical matter. All these factors are of great importance, but we have to ask why technical choices made thus far have yielded rather mixed results. We need to think hard about the cause. Development will never be fully guaranteed through automatic or impersonal forces, whether they derive from the market or from international politics. Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good. (71)

In addition to technical means, there must be an increased focus on the rights of workers. In addition to ensuring that workers can be part of effective unions, businesses need to try to provide value to all their stakeholders — "the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society" (40).

From the point of view of the individual, everyone everyone should have access to work that is decent.

What is meant by the word "decent" in regard to work? It means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labour; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one's roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living. (63)
Work that meets these conditions can provide a sound basis for a sustainable economy, one that builds around true value, not quick profit. If all workers cannot achieve this standard of decency then the economy is failing us no matter how much profit it might make.

For this to come about, individuals must use their power as consumers.
[T]he consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in- and with the social responsibility of the enterprise. Consumers should be continually educated regarding their daily role, which can be exercised with respect for moral principles without diminishing the intrinsic economic rationality of the act of purchasing. (66)
Consumers are an essential part of a market economy, and if they do not desire change then change will not occur.

Global economic growth has created opportunities for those who have lacked opportunities, but it has also increased more uncertainty into the lives of invidivuals. Instability has made it harder to focus on the long term, integral human development requires such an ability.

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What is needed, therefore, is a market that permits the free operation, in conditions of equal opportunity, of enterprises in pursuit of different institutional ends. Alongside profit-oriented private enterprise and the various types of public enterprise, there must be room for commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends to take root and express themselves. … Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself. (38)


In theory, nothing blocks the creation of a business that tries to make a profit without abandoning justice. However, such businesses face difficulties. From 40:
Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting their social value. Owing to their growth in scale and the need for more and more capital, it is becoming increasingly rare for business enterprises to be in the hands of a stable director who feels responsible in the long term, not just the short term, for the life and the results of his company, and it is becoming increasingly rare for businesses to depend on a single territory. Moreover, the so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company's sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favour of the shareholders, who are not tied to a specific geographical area and who therefore enjoy extraordinary mobility. Today's international capital market offers great freedom of action. Yet there is also increasing awareness of the need for greater social responsibility on the part of business.
Companies have difficulty making a large impact without external investors. But our current economic system values these investors more than other stakeholders and assumes (often but not always rightly) that external stakeholders want to maximize profits. This and the shifting identity of investors causes a focus on short term profits which can hinder traditional companies and destroy companies that want to have multiple goals.

Rejecting investment would be a simple answer to this dilemma. However, investment is necessary for growth, and companies that do not grow will be shut out. Individuals, businesses, and governments should work to encourage modes of investment which, while still concerned with profit, do not require maximization of profit. As the quote above points out, one risk that prevents this is that businesses are answerable to their investors but not other stake holders (other stake holders who are, in fact, the ones that give a business real value, the workers, clients, suppliers, and surrounding community). Such an obvious misalignment of incentives can only cause problems.

Clearly, the simple distinction between "non-profit" and "profit-maximizing" does not describe the broad spectrum of business activity business owners want to engage in. "[T]he traditionally valid distinction between profit-based companies and non-profit organizations can no longer do full justice to reality, or offer practical direction for the future." (46) Economic change has already begun.
In recent decades a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two types of enterprise. It is made up of traditional companies which nonetheless subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, charitable foundations associated with individual companies, groups of companies oriented towards social welfare, and the diversified world of the so-called "civil economy" and the "economy of communion". This is not merely a matter of a "third sector", but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. (46)
The economic world is changing. What is required now is that markets and governance of those markets change to accordingly.

In summary,
business enterprise involves a wide range of values, becoming wider all the time. The continuing hegemony of the binary model of market-plus-State has accustomed us to think only in terms of the private business leader of a capitalistic bent on the one hand, and the State director on the other. In reality, business has to be understood in an articulated way. (41)
As individuals we need to encourage our governments to be flexible in the face of changing economic realities and encourage them not ot just prop up failing representatives of the old order.

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The encyclical letter's harshest criticisms are reserved for business. Businesses forget that they ultimately exist to benefit humanity. Profit in its own right serves no purpose. From 21:
Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.


Focusing exclusively on profit destroys wealth rather than creating it. This is ultimately because a system that focuses on profit rather than value eventually wastes human creativity. From 32:
Economic science tells us that structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources, inasmuch as workers tend to adapt passively to automatic mechanisms, rather than to release creativity. On this point too, there is a convergence between economic science and moral evaluation. Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.
Both economic and moral imperatives provide motivation to focus on the creation of real value rather than the maximization of profit.

Profit maximization dominates economic thinking because we can measure it easily. This creates problems because it increases the temptation to optimize for that which is only a proxy for value. In the long run, this reduction causes harm.
It should be remembered that the reduction of cultures to the technological dimension, even if it favours short-term profits, in the long term impedes reciprocal enrichment and the dynamics of cooperation. … the human consequences of current tendencies towards a short-term economy — sometimes very short-term — need to be carefully evaluated. This requires further and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals, as well as a profound and far-sighted revision of the current model of development, so as to correct its dysfunctions and deviations. (32)


How can we affect changes in the global economic system? The common answers provide part of the solution: transparency, consumer education and responsibility, competition, etc. However, the encyclical makes additional observations on how to change.

We must abandon
the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from "influences" of a moral character [which] has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. (34)
Some would see this as a radical departure from capitalism. If capitalism exists only to maximize profit then this is true. However, if a capitalist market exists to maximize value, it must account for all sources of value, including moral influences. Consumers place value on values and businesses will serve consumers better if they make moral values a core part of their mission instead of an add on.

The foundational moral value businesses must respect is justice. Many businesses neglect justice by engaging in unfair labor practices. However,
justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity, because this is always concerned with man and his needs. Locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. … the canons of justice must be respected from the outset, as the economic process unfolds, and not just afterwards or incidentally. (37)
The value of depends on its integral role in the business process. Treating it as an add on may produce a veneer of justice, but like all veneers, its penetration will be shallow.

Finance must abandon its claim to be a good in and of itself. Finance and the economy have value as tools. They can work well, but they contain no inherent value. Finance
needs to go back to being an instrument directed towards improved wealth creation and development. Insofar as they are instruments, the entire economy and finance, not just certain sectors, must be used in an ethical way so as to create suitable conditions for human development and for the development of peoples. (65)
Protecting a broken economy might provide value in the short term, but in the long term such broken systems must be rebuilt not taped together. Part of this rebuilding depends on recognizing that broken tools should be replaced.

Finally, business attitudes must change. Profit must be removed from its position of a inherent good, to be pursued even at the cost of real values and principles. From 65:
the intention to do good must not be considered incompatible with the effective capacity to produce goods. Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers. Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another.


Clearly, these changes cannot happen overnight. Governments cannot regulate a fundamental respect of justice. Businesses that ignore justice for the sake of profit exist and will continue to do so. However, both governments and individuals can take actions to encourage the growth of businesses that want to achieve both justice and profit. More on that tomorrow.

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The previous essay contains a call for us to be the protagonists of globalization rather than its victims. But what group defines "us"? Although globalization may be the responsibility of humanity in general, most individuals have little direct control over the process. Businesses and governments mediate an individual's contribution to the process of globalization. Today's essay explores the role of nations in the process of globalization.

If you read any main stream media coverage of the the encyclical, you probably are familiar with the encyclical's call for a strong world government. Sadly — but not surprisingly — main stream media reports of this fact failed to present the background from which this claim is made.

Globalization has changed the role of the state. From 24,
In our own day, the State finds itself having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance, which is characterized by increasing mobility both of financial capital and means of production, material and immaterial. This new context has altered the political power of States.
Commentators on the role of government often neglect this fundamental idea. Although recent years may have seen, in many countries, and increase in the power of the state over individuals, state power over businesses and financial markets has decreased as those players gain the ability to choose the global location most favorable to their needs (usually their short term profit needs).

In light of this change, government should re-evaluate their roles. From section 24 again:
Today, as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, which sees the State's public authorities directly involved in correcting errors and malfunctions, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today's world.
The problems facing the global economy arise from systemic underlying problems. The bandaid fixes applied by governments might be better than doing nothing, but they do not really fix anything. Fixing those problems will require a rethinking of the role and responsibility of government.

Greater economic interdependence can be seen removing one of the primary roles of the state: mediating international cooperation (or lack thereof). The encyclical does not support such a view. From 41:
we must also promote a dispersed political authority, effective on different levels. The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the current crisis, the State's role seems destined to grow
Individual governments will continue to exist, but they must cooperate with one another to deal with the challenges of a global economy.

More than economic concerns feed into the need for increased international collaboration and cooperation. Nations depend on each other for stability as well as economic benefits. For example, from 24, "the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet." Hunger, water shortages, and other problems which previously impacted a nation now impact the world.

How should world governments change in response to global changes? This will vary by the needs of each region. From 41:
The State does not need to have identical characteristics everywhere: the support aimed at strengthening weak constitutional systems can easily be accompanied by the development of other political players, of a cultural, social, territorial or religious nature, alongside the State. The articulation of political authority at the local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of giving direction to the process of economic globalization. It is also the way to ensure that it does not actually undermine the foundations of democracy.


he nature of the State may vary from region. Different regions have different needs even as they become more dependent on each other. A stable developing region has different needs than an unstable developing region or a stable developed region.

The evolution of the State can benefit from the development and evolution of other entities outside the government. We should not depend solely on government to government aid, especially in areas where the government suffers from weakness or instability.

Finally, political authority should be articulated "at the local, national, and international levels". No level of government removes the need for the others. This comes back to the principle of subsidiarity. Political power belongs at the lowest level that can accomplish the desired task, so there will always be a need for local authority. However, the local level lacks the resources to accomplish some tasks, so there is a need for an additional level of government. As global interdependence increases, the same tension exists between national and international centers of authority.

This brings us to the most talked about part of the encyclical: the call for a single world government. Clearly, by this point, we see that this does not indicate a desire for the decease of nations. But the Pope does make a strong call. From 67:
In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization[.] … To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority. … Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. [emphasis removed, there was a lot of it]
I quoted a long passage (and that's only part of it!), but the passage provides the key to understanding the encylcical's vision of the evolution of global governance. Because so many problems are beyond the control of a single nation, nations need to come together to solve these problems, but they must come together in such a way as to vest the international organization with true authority. However, this international organization needs to rely on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity so as not to overreach its bounds.

Although I do not know how such an authority would come into being, the encyclical does clearly make the case that current national governments are not structured to be able to deal with the new challenges that arise from increased global interdependence. This does not indicate the obsolescence of national governments, but rather a need for restructuring where some powers will be pushed down and others will be pushed up, all based on the needs and resources at different levels of authority.

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From this point on, I will focus on some of the meaty topics discussed in the encyclical. I would like to note that I could only use a small part of the passages I found most interesting and those quotes make up only a small part of the whole. In short, I skip over a lot of good stuff. I encourage you to visit the original. Now, onward!

Nations depend on each other more than in the past; this trend will continue. Globalization can be viewed from many perspectives: humanity in general, governments, business, and individuals. This essay covers the first of those perspectives.

Globalization creates both challenges and opportunities. There has been an
explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as globalization. ... It has been the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions, and in itself it represents a great opportunity. Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family. (33)
Globalization creates opportunities and increases standards of living, but it also has negative consequences such as exploitative international labor relationships.

Some might claim that we cannot avoid the negative consequences, that globalization is "the product of anonymous impersonal forces or structures independent of the human will" (42). However, globalization is more than a socio-economic process. "[I]t is made up of individuals and peoples to whom this process should offer benefits and development" (42). The process we call globalization arises from many individual actions all of which are focused, ultimately, on achieving some good for someone. As such, we retain the right to evaluate the process of globalization and reject the claim that it cannot be controlled.

Another false belief is that globalization requires the homogenization of culture. For people to interact globally, they must adopt a single shared culture. Usually, the assumption implicit in this belief is that such a culture would be a primarily Western culture. However, some passages in the encyclical lead me to believe the opposite. Not only is a global dialog based on homogenization of culture damaging to culture. It is unworkable.
Today the possibilities of interaction between cultures have increased significantly, giving rise to new openings for intercultural dialogue: a dialogue that, if it is to be effective, has to set out from a deep-seated knowledge of the specific identity of the various dialogue partners. (26)
Often this "deep-seated knowledge" of other cultures is ignored in global conversations, especially those mediated by popular culture. This leads to the exchange of caricatured impressions and an "us verses them" mentality on the part of those who feel that their culture is threatened by globalization. Often this resentment is directed toward the United States because it exports so much popular culture, but it also shows up in the U.S. toward other nations and culture; for example, "patriotic" resentment of things that are seen as un-American.

"As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers" (19). Globalization does not automatically solve the problem of helping people get along with each other. That understanding can only come from a sincere sharing of culture and background. Instead of viewing globalization as an uncontrollable, homogenizing force, we must take responsibility for it.
We should not be [globalization's] victims, but rather its protagonists, acting in the light of reason, guided by charity and truth. Blind opposition would be a mistaken and prejudiced attitude, incapable of recognizing the positive aspects of the process, with the consequent risk of missing the chance to take advantage of its many opportunities for development. (42)


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The encyclical briefly discusses many topics that fill the role of interesting but non-vital background information. Understanding those background topics affects one's interpretation of the more concrete proposals in the rest of the encyclical, but the basic gist of those proposals can be understood without that background.

As such, I will provide only one last background section focusing on the secondary background topic that I found most interesting. In my view, the discussion of rights and duties does not meet the standards of primary background information. However, it does provide some useful insights

The encyclical summarizes the relationship between rights and duties in section 43.
Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people's integral development. Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence. [emphasis in the original, here and throughout, unless noted otherwise]


I consider this a fair criticism of modern attitudes. Certainly, U.S. main stream media and political dialog gives a lot of air time to rights and almost ignores duties. Discussion of civic duty has fallen out of popularity. "owe nothing to anyone, expect to yourself" could be the motto for American business practice.

Rights presuppose duties. First, I want to make clear this does not mean that only people deemed "responsible" deserve rights. Throughout the encyclical, human rights are a good to aspire to, regardless of the duties fulfilled or ignored by those given the rights. As one of many examples, in section 27 we read that food and water should be considered "as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination" (emphasis removed).

Why should rights be linked to duties? Rights without duties become meaningless; they become "mere license". From 43:
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.
Without duties, the claim goes, there is no limit to what constitutes a right. Without duty, citizens will not differentiate fundamental rights from granted privileges. Certainly this rings true for modern American culture where nearly everything has been claimed as a right by someone. Linking rights to duties limits what one claims as a right because of the knowledge that additional rights leads to additional duties.

A concrete example may help. In the U.S. we have a right to free speech. Legally, we have the right to say anything we want in a public forum because the founders believed that free speech acts as a cornerstone to a vibrant democracy. However, without the duty to use speech responsibly, free speech becomes meaningless. The noise drowns out the signal. To maintain the value of our freedoms, we must use them responsibly. "Duties thereby reinforce rights and call for their defense and promotion as a task to be undertaken in the service of the common good" (43).

Duties promote rights in the service of the common good. But why should we care about the common good? Are the many who "would claim that they owe nothing to anyone" right? Perhaps they are, if they live without the benefits of society. From 7:
Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. ... To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally
People derive benefits from living in society. The benefits cease if society degrades, and working for the common good maintains society. The system contains enough flexibility to survive when some citizens ignore the rights and duties that support the common good, but it will fall apart without the support of its citizens.

The encyclical mentions many rights from the rights of workers to the right to water. However, it should be understood that these are claims for rights backed by duties, not entitlements.

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Charity and truth or, rather, charity in truth obviously holds a key position in understanding the encyclical letter. The document revolves around the relationship between charity and truth and how that relationship can and should manifest itself in social, economic, and political spheres. In the encyclical, both charity and truth possess religious meanings that go beyond the standard meanings of the words. Even without putting value on those additional meanings, charity in truth can form the basis of how the world reshapes itself in these economic times.

Neither charity nor truth stands on its own. In section 2 we read that charity without truth is "emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued" and in section 3, "[w]ithout truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality". In section 30 we read "[c]harity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within." Charity requires truth to reach its full potential.

Not only does charity benefit from a pairing with truth. When we understand truth with charity, "we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living". Knowledge without love puts society into a mindset that social problems should be understood as technical problems with can be solved with algorithmic solutions without considering the unique human element inherent in all human problems.

Charity should not be viewed as viewed as an add-on that we can only indulge in once we have reached a certain point of stability. Charity, like its closely related cousin solidarity, must be an intrinsic part of moving forward with global and individual development.

The vital dependence of charity in truth and truth in charity provides balance. Although the mapping is imperfect, I can perceive many similarities between "charity and truth" and "love and knowledge", "intuition and reason", "being and doing", and "art and technology" (perhaps even the traditional views of "feminine and masculine"). The first element and second elements appear as separate poles. Society usually considers the second aspect more important, the one needed to get things done. But neither aspect alone is enough. Each pair requires balance to avoid ineffective and damaging extremes, whether for individuals or societies.

Charity. Truth. Most people take as a given the insufficiency of charity alone, and I believe our global political and economic problems show the insufficiency of truth alone. Perhaps now is the time to seize the opportunity to reconcile the two and work towards a future where charity and truth balance and inform each other.

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To understand "Caritas in veritate" you must understand "subsidiarity" and "solidarity". These concepts set the context for many of the judgments and proposals made in the encyclical. For example, media reports about the encyclical often made mention of the Pope's call for a strong international authority. This call cannot be understood without knowledge of subsidiarity and solidarity.

To quote from section 38, "[s]olidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone". A key consequence of this is that solidarity is a personal responsibility as well as a responsibility of the State. (I will cover the importance of personal responsibility at greater length in a later post.)

At first glance, solidarity seems important only because it fulfills abstract ideas of fairness and global fraternity. The importance of these aspects should not be underestimated, but the encyclical gives solidarity a stronger role. Solidarity is set up as a key aspect of relations within and between countries. Solidarity underlies stable long term development. In section 7, we see the following
Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good.
Solidarity is a key feature of living in a society. As our society expands — from the tribal to the national to the global — we must expand our circle of solidarity to maintain the stability of that society.

Solidarity generalizes the need to take care of and help our families and friends and extends it to all people. It seems easy to achieve, although in practice it often devolves into powerful people or nations imposing their will upon those who are weaker.

Subsidiarity proves to be another key concept in understanding the proposals in the encyclical. Section 57 defines subsidiarity as "first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies ... offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own." Later in the same passage, the Pope goes on to say that "subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state." From an institutional level, subsidiarity can be seen as the principle that all tasks should be given to the smallest and most localized group that is able to achieve them. Combining these two views of subsidiarity, we arrive at the view that under the principle of subsidiarity, power should be given first to the individual who may then turn to larger groups when they feel the need (groups which may, in turn, choose to turn to even larger groups).

I want to raise, but not discuss at greater length, an issue with this interpretation of subsidiarity that is not brought up in the encyclical. There may be times when an entity, whether individual or group, believes itself to be competent to complete a task but is not actually competent (e.g., parents who believe they can decide that immunizations are not necessary for their children). Deciding when to override the entity is a difficult question.

Subsidiarity provides key insights to the maintaining the delicate balance between civic, state, and international power. As such it should be considered a useful concept even outside of the context of this encyclical letter. Subsidiarity is my new favorite concept and has, in fact, informed many of my opinions in the ongoing health care debate (but that is it's own post).

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This is the first in an 10 part series on "Caritas in veritate".

Pope Benedict XVI recently* released an encyclical letter titled "Caritas in veritate" (charity in truth). Main stream media gave little coverage to the encyclical, focusing mostly on the Pope's call for a true world government. The document contains much more than that.

Despite the fact that I do not believe in any god, I feel this document deserves better coverage than it received from the media. The Pope has the privilege of holding one of the few global leadership positions where he can have thoughts that do not fit in a sound bite without fearing he will be disposed of in the next election. As such, this encyclical contains a deeper and more subtle analysis of, amongst other things, the problems with our current economy than has been presented by any other world leader.

Of course, this document still comes from the Catholic Church. As such, it contains much that I disagree with. This first part of my analysis presents the issues that I choose not to consider in further depth.

I disagree with the Catholic Church on abortion, euthanasia, biological research, and marriage; these issues need no more discussion. I likewise ignore assertions about what this encyclical means for the behavior of Catholics except in so far as such assertions can validly be generalized to all people. Religious analogies for explaining concepts hold little relevance to me and get no attention.

I completely and intentionally reject the validity of the repeated claims that charity, truth, love, goodness, virtue, and ethics belong only to those who believe in a god. I find these claims ignorant and insulting.

However, I cannot continue commence on my analysis without briefly expressing my anger over this encyclical's treatment of atheism and secular culture. Even ignoring the underlying assumptions that good comes from a deity, this document still makes claims that should outrage any atheist. In particular, I quote the following from section 78, the first of two concluding sections.
ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today.
Of all the dangers to stability and peace the only one emphasized in the conclusion is disbelief. History fails to support this claim. It serves only to perpetuate useless and false stereotypes of non-believers.

I will say no more about these issues. Instead I will spend the rest of this series analyzing the interesting ideas presented throughout the encyclical letter "Caritas in veritate".

As a final note, I sometimes use a examples to illustrate points in the encyclical. These examples all come from the U.S. Do not take this as a reflection on the content of the encyclical. The choice of examples reflects my experience. The encyclical itself does not focus on the U.S. or any other single country or region.

* Well, it was recent when I started writing these essays…

Links to the encyclical and all of my essays:

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Erika RS

May 2012

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