by Fr. Fred Kammer, SJ
Pope Benedict’s new encyclical has prompted a number of responses from various viewpoints emphasizing perspectives that range from “nothing new here” to “nothing old left.” His style, consistent with his first encyclicals on charity and hope, is highly theological, uses primarily a natural law approach (as distinct from a more Scriptural approach), and relies heavily on the concepts of love, truth, vocation, gratuitousness, and integral human development. So much is the latter the case that, as the author indicates near the conclusion, “…we need to affirm today that the social question has become a radically anthropological question…” [No. 75, emphasis in the original, as in all subsequent quotations from the encyclical.]
Within this approach and emphases, the encyclical consistently affirms many major themes drawn from the tradition of modern Catholic social teaching, in some cases giving them new shape or application. The most quoted document is Populorum Progressio, the 1967 encyclical on the development of peoples by Pope Paul VI, whose twentieth anniversary observation in this encyclical was delayed by the world’s financial crisis. The two parts below display those continuities, first, in principles, framework, and focus issues and, then, with regard to particular issues and considerations. Within these two parts, the changes in message, content, or tone are noted as the discussion proceeds, although most of the newness would be captured in the broad inclusiveness with which Pope Benedict paints the “integral” in integral human development, which leads him to give special emphasis to such diverse issues as bio-ethics, culture, environment, hunger, migration, spirituality, and technology.
I. Major Themes Reiterated in the Encyclical
It should come as no surprise that the most basic principles from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church should be prominent in this encyclical. Included here would be the centrality of the human person—sacred and social—as well as the common good, charity and justice, and subsidiarity and solidarity.
The human person, sacred and social—Following Paul VI, Benedict emphasizes the openness of the human person to the transcendent beginning with his discussion of both the vocation and capacity to love at the outset of the encyclical and ending with his insistence on the inclusion of spiritual and moral growth in any effort at holistic human development . The pope also emphasizes the essentially social nature of the human person in his discussions of the common good, solidarity, rights and duties, and chapter five’s discussion of interpersonal relationships and the unity of one human family .
Justice and charity—The pope emphasizes justice as one of the two criteria by which the principle of “caritas in veritate” governs moral action in the commitment to development. As did several of his predecessors, he discusses the interplay of justice and charity in various ways: charity goes beyond justice; justice requires giving the other what is “his” prior to any giving of what is mine (charity); justice and charity are inseparable; justice is a way of charity and its minimum measure; charity demands justice; and charity transcends justice and completes it . The pope expressly invokes the traditional three types of justice: commutative, distributive, and social; and he indicates that their application to the market is essential to “the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well” .
What stands out in Benedict’s approach from the first paragraph of the encyclical is the heavy emphasis on caritas—love—that had been the theme of his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (2005). He describes it as a force for engagement in the field of justice and peace whose origin is in God (who is love and truth), a God who has a plan for each person in which each of us finds our own truth and the freedom that comes from adherence to that truth or plan for us. Charity and truth, then, are the vocation of each person, planted in our hearts and minds . The language and concepts of charity, truth, and vocation then are intertwined throughout the pope’s encyclical.
The common good—The encyclical emphasizes the common good as the second key criteria to be applied to development, indicating that it “is a requirement of justice and charity” . The pope also indicates that in this globalized world the duty to seek the common good now extends to the whole human family. The common good is repeatedly invoked throughout the document as a duty of individuals, managers, institutions, and governments and as a measure of the justice of the market and the economy.
Subsidiarity and solidarity—Pope Benedict expressly discusses the principle of subsidiarity drawn from Quadragesimo Anno (1931) emphasizing that the principle “fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility” . In this way it respects human dignity, is an effective antidote to any form of “all-encompassing welfare state,” and is well suited to the management of globalization by promoting governance and authority at various levels to enhance freedom and effective results . However, as recent commentaries have emphasized, “…subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance which is demeaning to those in need” .
It is in light of these fundamental theological and moral principles of Catholic Social Teaching that the Pope follows certain lines of social analysis and theological reflection that have been common across the last century and gives them his own emphases and interpretation in this encyclical. Among these are the understanding that the moral order requires attention to both individual actions and social structures, the recognition of widespread interdependence of peoples now framed in terms of globalization, and affirmation of the importance of three sectors of the ideal society whose existence and interrelationships are critical to the common good and justice.
Individuals and structures—The encyclical emphasizes the critical importance of the responsible freedom of individuals and peoples for integral human development . No social structures can guarantee this development without such freedom. At the same time, following Paul VI, the pope acknowledges the importance of economic institutions and structures. We see this interplay of individuals and structures, for example, in discussions of hunger in the document where first Benedict cites Pope Paul on human responsibility (“…the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance.”) as an example of “vocation”—free people calling on other free people to assume shared responsibility . Then, in a more detailed discussion of hunger, he emphasizes the need for “a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water,” “eliminating the structural causes” of food insecurity,” “promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries,” “involvement of local communities in choices and decisions,” and the necessity “to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination” . In this Benedict clearly continues the emphasis in Catholic Social Teaching on the need for both individual actions and structural change to promote justice, development, and peace, but gives special emphasis here to the worldwide problem of hunger and malnourishment.
Interdependence—The “multiplication of social relationships” (Mater et Magistra, 59) that Pope John XXIII had highlighted forty-eight years ago has become even more intense in a world which Pope Benedict describes as more progressively and pervasively globalized. “The risk for our time,” the pope writes, “is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development” . Mere technical progress and utilitarian relationships cannot guarantee the sharing of goods and resources basic to authentic development. That can only be accomplished by love which overcomes evil with good. This theme of the need for a moral framework for development, globalization, and the world’s economy runs consistently through the encyclical and its particular discussions, for example, of the market, business, the environment, finance, and technology.
Three sectors or “subjects”—Pope Benedict follows his predecessor, Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus (1991), in highlighting “the need for a system with three subjects: the market, the State and civil society . He also introduces a relatively new concept of market organizations which blend the market and civil society functions together.
The pope understands and affirms the importance of the economic marketplace as the institution “that permits encounter between persons, inasmuch as they are economic subjects who make use of contracts to regulate their relations as they exchange goods and services of equivalent value between them, in order to satisfy their needs and desires” . He further acknowledges that in the global era, the economy is influenced by a number of competitive and different models tied to cultures. Economic life requires contracts, the point at which commutative justice is most applicable to regulate relations of exchange. But, as the pope notes, “the social doctrine of the Church has unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive justice and social justice for the market economy…” . Benedict also makes it clear at various points that in a globalized economy, it is access to international and other markets that is most needed by the poor and by underdeveloped nations. In his discussion of international development aid, he points out that, “the principle form of assistance needed by developing countries is that of allowing and encouraging the gradual penetration of their products into international markets, thus making it possible for these countries to participate fully in international economic life” .
The second sector or subject in society is political authority, which Pope Benedict promotes as ideally “dispersed” and “effective on different levels” , including the international. It is “the political community” which has responsibility for directing economic activity towards the common good . Grave imbalances are produced, he writes, “when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution” . He acknowledges that, “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 has altered the political power of States and calls for a reevaluation of the role of the States. Rather than “being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State,” however, Benedict suggests that in the current world economic crisis the State’s role seems destined to grow in working towards resolution of this crisis . In addition he argues that governments must commit themselves to greater collaboration with one another to deal with a transnational integrated economy , as well as a stronger and reformed United Nations and other international economic institutions and international finance .
Pope Benedict is in continuity with his predecessors as well in emphasizing the importance of civil society which Pope John Paul II saw “as the most natural setting for an economy of gratuitousness and fraternity…” . Traditionally, in this country, the sector is what we call the “voluntary sector” or “non-profit sector.” It is very consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, and in Catholic social thought this sector has been critical to arguments against the absorbing tendencies of centralizing governments. It also has been important to cushioning the worst aspects of the market. For Benedict, civil society is essential to preserving important aspects of human society and promoting integral human development. In his words:
When both the logic of the market and the logic of the State come to an agreement that each will continue to exercise a monopoly over its respective area of influence, in the long term much is lost: solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence, actions of gratuitousness, all of which stand in contrast with giving in order to acquire (the logic of exchange) and giving through duty (the logic of public obligation, imposed by State law) .
Thus, civil society is a key counter-balance to both the market and the State for Pope Benedict and Catholic Social Teaching.
The Market and Civil Society: A Blend?
In keeping with his theme of charity or love, Benedict emphasizes the importance of “gift” or “gratuitousness” explaining that, “The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension” . In terms of economic, social, and political development, he writes that it must “make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity” . He first describes this in terms of the mutual trust essential to the operation of the market and expressed in commutative justice, enhanced by distributive and social justice, and critical to social cohesion. Without solidarity and trust, as the current economic crisis attests, “the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function” .
“Commercial logic” alone also cannot solve social problems; and grave imbalances are produced when economic action—conceived of solely for wealth creation—is separated from the political action that should pursue justice. The market, he continues, is neither ethically neutral nor inherently inhuman; but, as human activity, “it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner” . This requires traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty, and responsibility; but the Church’s social doctrine, the pope writes, “has always maintained that justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity” and “every economic decision has a moral consequence” .
What seems most novel in the encyclical, however, is the introduction of new forms of “commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends” . Indeed, Benedict notes with approval the overlap and the shifting and sharing of competencies between the “non-profit world” and the “profit” world , as well as the ethical investor movement, micro-credit programs, and micro-finance—all areas where ethics and the economy blend together. However, he breaks the most new ground in his discussion of new forms of commerce when he endorses a broad intermediate area which has emerged between profit-based companies and non-profit organizations. This evolving sector, he writes:
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.
For many readers, the “economy of communion” example probably left them mystified.
Discussed at the Vatican press conference on the occasion of the release of the encyclical, the Economy of Communion model is rooted in the Italian lay Catholic focolare movement that began after Vatican II. The model, now operating in 700 businesses on every continent (45 in the US), envisions profit-making businesses wherein the “profits could be divided in three equal parts and used for direct aid for the poor, educational projects which could help further a culture of communion, and development of the business” [Luigino Bruni and Amelia J. Uelmen, Religious Values and Corporate Decision Making: The Economy of Communion Project, Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law, 2006, Vol. XI, pp 645-680, at 650]. These businesses also have a corporate culture which is decidedly focused on the principle of “brotherhood” or of reciprocity as the foundation of its management structure—namely, first we are equal; then we have different functional responsibilities. As Benedict indicates, this is just one example of a decidedly different “sector” that blends the for-profit and non-profit worlds.
C. Focus Issues
Within this framework for understanding and promoting the just society, Pope Benedict focuses the encyclical on human development that is integral, concerns the whole person, and, with Pope John Paul II, weaves together the Church’s life ethics and social ethics.
Integral human development—Benedict acknowledges Pope Paul VI’ vision of development with its three facets: economic (active participation of the poor “on equal terms in the international economic process”), social (“evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity”), and political (“consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace”) . Following Paul, his own vision maintains that, “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension” . Thus, “progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient” . True development, then, involves a variety of elements and a number of “layers”: action by public authorities ; systems of social security ; promotion of trade unionism ; the protection of the human person as laborer in a mobile world economy ; the importance of culture to human identity ; the ethical imperative to feed the hungry ; the right of religious freedom in the face of fundamentalism and atheism ; the need for inter-disciplinary and multi-level analysis and responses , including the interaction of faith, theology, metaphysics, and science ; prioritization of access to steady employment for everyone ; a focus on long-term, rather than short-term, economic and sociological considerations ; elimination of high tariffs on the products of poorer nations ; and an end to new and continued forms of colonialism .
Life ethics and social ethics—The encyclical follows the work of Pope John Paul II in underscoring the “strong links” between the Church’s teaching on life ethics and social ethics . In doing so it highlights the traditional importance of the married couple and the family at the foundation of society. Noting how the situation of poverty continues to provoke high rates of infant mortality, the pontiff urges respect for life and an “openness to life” at the heart of an appropriate development and opposition to abortion, government promotion of contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia as inconsistent with true development. He challenges the belief that population increases are the primary cause of underdevelopment, supports responsible procreation consistent with full respect for human values and sexuality, and notes how falling birth rates have produced a new uncertainty, impoverished social relations, and some decline in formerly prosperous nations. In light of this, he urges States to “enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character” . The pope returns to these themes and extends them in his discussion of technology, especially bio-ethics, in chapter six of the encyclical. There, in the context of scientific experimentation and a mechanistic understanding of human life, he urges the essential connection between reason and faith and warns that without faith reason is “doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence” .
Development and evangelization—Caritas in Veritate continues a theme from Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi which closely links development and evangelization. In Benedict’s words, “Testimony to Christ’s Charity, through works of justice, peace, and development, is part and parcel of evangelization, because Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person” . He writes that the Church’s social doctrine is a particular dimension of its mission of truth, a mission which the Church can never renounce and a “service to the truth which sets us free” . In so emphasizing this connection of evangelization and development, the pope also reiterates the teaching of the 1971 Synod on justice which emphasized that action for justice was a constitutive element of the preaching of the Gospel.
Having seen Benedict’s reiteration and extension of major principles from Catholic Social Teaching, ways of analyzing and reflecting theologically on social reality, and a particular focus on human development, the connection of life ethics and social ethics, and the role of development in the proclamation of the Gospel, we can turn to particular applications or considerations in the encyclical.
II. Particular Issues and Considerations in Line with the Tradition
Caritas in Veritate continues the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching in both the application of principles to social realities and the content of those applications. Some important examples follow, grouped under five headings: work and workers; social relationships; economy and commerce; energy and environment; and international relations.
A. Work and Workers
The tradition of modern Catholic Social Teaching that begins with Rerum Novarum in 1891 focuses first on the situation of the worker, whom Pope John Paul II called the sole “subject of work” and Benedict describes in these words, “…the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity…”  In a single paragraph later in the encyclical, the pope reiterates certain traditional particulars about human work: that it be freely chosen; respectful of the worker; without discrimination; enabling a family to meet their needs and the educational needs of their children; prohibiting child labor; allowing organization of workers (unions) and their voices to be heard; providing “enough room” for personal and spiritual development; and supportive of a decent retirement .
Benedict reiterates the importance of labor unions, their need to be open to new questions, to defending the rights of others besides their own members, and to particular concerns for the interests of “workers in developing countries where social rights are often violated” . Recognizing that union rights and negotiating capacity often are now more limited by governments and economic forces—increasing the powerlessness of citizens in the public sector and the economy—the pope writes that the traditional promotion of workers’ associations must “be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level” .
In addition, Benedict reminds us that mobility and deregulation in a more globalized economy, aggravated even by the current global crisis, create a kind of unemployment that creates psychological instability, provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and—with or without public assistance—undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family, “causing great psychological and spiritual suffering” . It is in light of the dignity of the human person and the demands of justice that we continue to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone” .
B. Social Relationships
Pope Benedict acknowledges both that the world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms and that many areas of the globe have evolved considerably, but he joins his predecessors in decrying the “scandal of glaring inequalities” . The pope blames the continuing reality of underdevelopment, in the words of Paul VI, on “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples” . He contrasts the super-development of some nations and even some wealthy people within underdeveloped nations with the hunger that “still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man’s table…”  This parable of the rich man and Lazarus (a favorite of Pope John Paul II in addressing “first world” audiences) was cited by Benedict in his first encyclical as one of the three most important of Jesus. He connects the elimination of world hunger in the global era as “a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet”  In so doing, he follows the teaching of Paul VI that, “Development is the new name for peace” [Populorum Progressio, 76].
In contrast to the economic and social realities of inequality, Benedict writes that the appearance of being connected globally must be transformed into true communion and that development “depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family … not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side” . As he observes earlier, a more globalized society “makes us neighbors, but does not make us brothers” . These observations lay the groundwork for his recommendations that all peoples must live within one human community, one family “built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace” .
Consistent with the tradition, the pope highlights the plight of international migrants as “a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions that requires bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation if it is to be handled effectively” . He notes the significant contributions of foreign workers to the host country and, through remittances, to their countries of origin. He decries the treatment of these workers as “commodities.” While noting the duty to consider the rights and needs of migrants and those of host countries, Benedict underscores the traditional Catholic view in these words: “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.”
C. Economy and Commerce
In Part I, we have highlighted the importance of markets, the necessity of justice to assure that markets are directed to the common good and function effectively, and the role of political authorities in making justice a reality. Benedict is clear that “the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way” . One way in which he discusses the implementation of economic justice in several contexts is the redistribution of particular goods to those most in need. [Beware, “Joe the plumber”!] Some examples where the pontiff cites the importance of redistribution are in the economy , redistribution of wealth on an unprecedented and worldwide scale through appropriate globalization , and a much needed worldwide redistribution of energy resources .
In addition, the pope addresses the realities of the business corporation under several headings. In one part, he counters the emphasis among a “new cosmopolitan class of managers” who are often answerable only to shareholders “generally consisting of anonymous funds which de facto determine their remuneration” . The pope insists upon a social responsibility of business that should extend to “all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference” . Benedict cautions that outsourcing of production can weaken a company’s sense of social responsibility towards these stakeholders in favor of shareholders not tied to a specific geographical area. The requirements of justice, he indicates, include “due consideration for the way in which capital was generated and the harm to individuals that will result if it is not used where it was produced” . While labor and technical knowledge are a “universal good,” it is not right to export them merely for economic advantage or, worse, for exploitation, “without making a real contribution to local society” .
D. Energy and Environment
Since Pope John Paul’s 1990 World Day of Peace message, Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation, the environment has received increasing attention from grassroots Catholic groups and Church leaders at the local, national, and international levels. In his own 2008 World Day of Peace message, Benedict returned to this theme bringing into the discussion the concept of a “covenant between human beings and the environment” [The Human Family, A Community of Peace, 7]. In this encyclical, he develops this theme further in a threefold responsibility that is part of the human relationship to the environment: “a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations, and towards humanity as a whole” . This care too is a part of our “vocation” as humans and proper human development projects consequently “cannot ignore coming generations, but need to be marked by solidarity and inter-generational justice…” .
s part of this responsibility, the pope focuses his attention on the problem of energy in today’s world, decrying hoarding by some nations and stockpiling that gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. He urges increased solidarity between developing countries and those that already are highly industrialized, lowering energy consumption, increased research into alternative forms of energy, and redistribution . With regard to the overall global environment, he emphasizes the concepts of responsible stewardship, duties to future generations, international joint action, transparency and accountability for using up shared resources, and strengthening the “covenant between human beings and the environment” . As the pope notes, we often treat ourselves in the same destructive ways that we treat the environment, and effective stewardship of creation calls for a shift from a consumerist mentality to profoundly changed life-styles reflective of the beauty of creation and our social responsibilities . He also underscores how many of the world’s resources are “squandered by wars!”
The reality of consumerism has another side in Benedict’s encyclical. He notes the recent increasing political power of consumers and their associations, a power of mixed moral quality. Seeing consumer purchasing as always a moral act, the pope urges the consumer to consider his or her social responsibility. This could involve such steps as development of consumer cooperatives, consumer promotion of products from deprived areas of the world, and other steps that contribute to building economic democracy .
E. International Relations
The encyclical setting is a globalizing economy which affects all countries and political, social, economic, and cultural realities. In this context, three specific discussions by Pope Benedict are worthy of further comment here in light of the Catholic tradition: international development aid; the UN and international agencies; and the intersection of diverse cultures.
In the context of international development aid, the encyclical emphasizes that for some countries without them, the focus should be on consolidating constitutional, juridical, and administrative systems or institutions, including a system of public order and human rights . The strengthening of different types of businesses should be promoted in those countries excluded or marginalized from the centers of the global economy ; and, as noted above, aid should allow and improve access to international markets by local people, especially for agricultural products . Among the principles governing development aid should be the centrality of the human person (improving the actual living conditions of the people to enable them to exercise responsible action), the application of the principle of subsidiarity in suitably planned projects, flexibility and care in adapting to local situations and concrete lives, involvement of people at the grassroots in planning and implementation, and careful evaluation of results . These would include both macro-and-micro-projects.
Development projects, he writes, must avoid paternalistic social assistance that is demeaning to the recipients, contributes to dependence, or fosters situations of local oppression or exploitation. In keeping with subsidiarity, the pope urges distribution of aid with the involvement of local governments, but also with economic agents and others within civil society, including local churches . The pope urges international development and aid organizations to evaluate their own effectiveness, promote transparency to donors and the public, and to work in genuine solidarity with local organizations. Finally, Pope Benedict urges economically developed nations to “do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid” which holds great promise for the world by assisting populations that are in early phases of economic development .
In part of his encyclical which has already prompted much public comment, Pope Benedict calls for the reform and strengthening of the United Nations and international economic and finance agencies to give “real teeth” to the concept of the family of nations. Included in reform should be improvement in international protection, an effective voice for poorer nations, and a political, juridical, and economic order to increase and direct international cooperation for development in solidarity. Basically, he calls for “a true world political authority,” following the earlier urging of Pope John XXIII. Commentators hysterically crying against “one world government” failed to stay tuned to Benedict’s conditions: the “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…” . Earlier in the encyclical Benedict warns about the importance of subsidiarity in order “not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature” but rather governance articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. He recognizes that globalization requires authority, but stratified according to subsidiarity “if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice” .
Contrasting the situation at the time of Populorum Progressio (1967) with the present, the pope observes that “the possibilities of interaction between cultures have increased significantly…” . This offers opportunities for intercultural dialogue, but dangers of cultural eclecticism, cultural leveling, indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and lifestyles, and the loss of the profound significance of the cultures and traditions of many nations—culture being the vehicle by which “the individual defines himself in relation to life’s fundamental questions” . Specifically addressing international cooperation for development, he warns that “technologically advanced societies must not confuse their own technological development with a presumed cultural superiority…”  and that evolving societies should remain faithful to what is truly human in their own traditions. Benedict argues that the universal moral law ensures that the pluralism of cultural diversity remains connected to the common quest for truth, goodness, and God and that this law is the precondition for constructive social cooperation.
Despite the hype to the contrary, Benedict is both a faithful heir to the traditions of Catholic Social Teaching and a contributor who continues to enrich the development of its understanding and its application to a changing world by both his synthetic theological approach and his concern for integral human development in an increasingly globalized world. He builds upon the principles, ethical framework, and key issues of the tradition, but he does so in ways that expand the concept of human development while addressing increasingly important issues of technology, the environment, and global justice and redistribution.
Jesuit Social Research Institute
July 17, 2009
Office Location: Mercy Hall, Room 306 | Mailing Address: 6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 94 New Orleans, LA 70118