Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth, is the recent encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI. It addresses the global economic crisis by discussing the moral aspects of economics, poverty, human rights and environmental responsibility.An encyclical is a letter from the Pope that serves as a teaching document. This is Pope Benedict XVI’s third encyclical. It does not offer new Church dogma, but reiterates important teachings that already exist. As everyday Catholics, what do we learn from Caritas in Veritate? How does this document call us to live our faith?
The encyclical says, “If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity, and intrinsic to it.” (6)
Charity goes beyond justice.
It also says, “To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is the good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of ‘all of us,’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is the good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it.” (7)
To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.
Caritas in Veritate implores us to ask, are we practicing charity in our family or in our local community? Do our consumer choices reflect our social and moral responsibility to defend human life, treat people fairly, protect creation or otherwise reflect Catholic social teaching? Are we taking action to advance justice?
Pursuing charity, justice and the common good is at the core of the mission of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC). As the public affairs agency for the Catholic Church in the Commonwealth, PCC advocates for many issues that advance or defend these principles before our state government. We are blessed to live in a system of government where even ordinary citizens have a hand in promoting justice. Everyone can get involved.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network is one way Catholics can respond to the call of Caritas in Veritate. The grassroots advocacy network presents the collective voice of conscientious citizens to state lawmakers. The network along with the PCC Institute for Public Policy provides education about key issues and alerts concerned activists when action is needed.
With increasing economic distress, pressure for health care reform, threats to human life and the human family, and compromised resources for educating our children, now more than ever, Catholics need to step up their moral responsibility to work for truth in charity, justice and the common good. We can do our part to improve the global situation by taking action here in Pennsylvania.
PCC Column August 2009 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.