Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), is a call to all people, governments, businesses and organizations that ethical and moral values are essential in every aspect of our lives. The primary themes of the Holy Father’s third encyclical focus on the dignity of human life and human development in “charity and truth.” The encyclical speaks to the importance of putting one’s wealth at the service of the poor. It also addresses the current global economic crisis, noting “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity.”
On the dignity of life, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.”
Pope Benedict has consistently placed environmental ethics at the center of his social teaching. In Chapter Four of the encyclical, he brings forth that concern calling for environmental justice and solidarity. "The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole," Pope Benedict said.
"In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity,” he continues, “which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation."
Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the need for individuals to become involved in civic and political life and its culture in order to promote the common good. “Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development,” the Holy Father explained. “The exclusion of religion from the public square — and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism — hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity.”
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge encourages all the faithful to read the encyclical in its entirety. Commenting on the encyclical, Bishop Burbidge said, “In stating that are we are not just a product of our own labors, but depend always on God, our Holy Father reminds us that we cannot bring about true progress in our society without God’s help.”
“Our Lord does indeed guide us to understand how the individual rights we so cherish are always connected to the duties we have toward others, especially with regard to the gift and proper care for human life and for all of our natural resources,” Bishop Burbidge added. “In light of Caritas in Veritate and with God’s Truth to direct us, let us be more mindful of the duties which come with all the choices we make and how they are to benefit the common good of others both in the local and global community.”
Above: Pope Benedict XVI signing “Charity in Truth” encyclical at the Vatican July 6. The document, addressing the global economic crisis, was released the following day.