Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Charity in truth

RERUM Novarum of Pope Leo XIII in 1891 was a trailblazer. It was the first social encyclical that opened the eyes, though how late, of most in the Church who have been largely if eternally peroccupied only with either solving theological problems or refining the pageantry of the sacristy or both.

A far cry from the usual concerns of the church that was more serious with indulgences rather than temporal inadequacies, this pioneer social doctrine addressed the condition of labor and the challenges of the Industrial Revolution's widespread exploitation of workers. Being new and, well, strange, it somehow resounded throughout the Christendom as it upheld the rights of employees to organize, and rejected communism and unbridled capitalism.

The social encyclicals that followed were built from Rerum Novarum's foundations--all the way from Quadragesimo Anno to Mater et Magistra, and Pacem in Terris, to Vatican II's Digniatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes, until Paul VI's Populorum Progressio and the three blockbuster social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.

Thence came Caritas in Veritate (Charity in truth).

Issued last July 7, 2009, this maybe the social encyclical of the century, with the most "teeth" of them all. It condemns corruption, the exploitation of workers, the destruction of the environment, the continued practice of wealthy nations imposing high tariffs on imports and consequently shut poor countries out of the international marketplace, and the enforcement of patents especially on medicine that could save the lives of millions of poor people if only they were priced reasonably.

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI even called for the reform of the United Nations, as well as the international bodies involved in economics and finance, saying that the reform should help ensure that the world's poorer countries have a voice in economic decisions impacting everyone.

According to the Pontiff, charity is not an option for Christians, and "practicing charity in truth helps people understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful, but essential for building a good society and for the true integral development."

Indeed, one sees the perfection of the truth only in charity. Perhaps, it's time now to get going and realize that this "truth" is one that you find, too, in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines--only that it takes so long to sleep and bother.

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