Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ave! Benedictus XVI Pontifex Maximus!

Pope Benedict XVI, the Professor, once more proves that he is probably the most profound Pope in history in his latest encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" or Charity in Truth. This encyclical synthesizes our 21st century angst about 1) human rights, 2) science, 3) technology and 4) environment and provides the way to cast out the emotional baggage we have. A four letter word is the way out according to the pope. The overwhelming theme here is that the truth about these things should be sought in love.

Reading Benedict's clear prose I found it interesting that since we are in the business of seeking "logos" we can only do this in "dia-logos". In doing the latter, we have to respect diversity and even love diversity, realising that in this, we see God. And we need to be authentically free to do so, at every stage of life. This is probably the most basic vocation. We are called to many paths but the path s converge to really what the Gospel says as the Way. The Way is Christ, who is the eternal Logos and our dealing with Him is an eternal dia-logos.

Thus it is necessary to uphold life right from the start. If we uphold human life at the start, then we uphold human life in all its potentialities. And potentialities is what living is all about. And this is where Benedict's critique of globalization takes off. He neither condemns or praises this new economic paradigm. But the results of globalization should be spread in a climate of justice and charity, which is the physical expression of authentic human development. Thus business should not be only for the proprietors but to all stakeholders that make an enterprise work. In this sense Benedict extends what environmentalists have always spoken about. And Benedict moves on to the issue of the environment. In Benedict's view, nature expresses God's design for love and truth. This of course should never be misconstrued as "intelligent design". However the value of nature and environment cannot be separated from the value of the human person. Thus to defend nature and environment is to defend the human person. Nature and environment cannot be held higher that the human person. Only when human dignity is properly understood that true concern for the environment becomes viable.

Benedict writes

"The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits."

And for science and technology, Benedict writes that these cannot be just for dominating nature but for enabling the human person, in which as search for meaning is in itself is as important as searching for scientific truth.

The Pope writes

Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other's assistance. Only together will they save man. Entranced by an exclusive reliance on technology, reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence. Faith without reason risks being cut off from everyday life.'

The encyclical is unique that it integrates our angsts in the 21st century in a coherent picture. The previous Popes, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II have written important encyclicals in their pontificates but these deal with specific ideological, moral and social issues. Benedict XVI links them all in this latest one.

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