Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

There Is Now Only One Social Question: The Development of 'The Whole Person in Every Single Dimension'

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

There Is Now Only One Social Question: The Development of 'The Whole Person in Every Single Dimension'

Article excerpt

When we read the social encyclical of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, two things strike us from its very first page: first, its title and, second, the list of recipients.

A Theological Title for a Social Encyclical

Among the various social encyclicals, we normally find two different kinds of titles.

The first refers to an anniversary date: for Quadragesimo Anno of Pius VI in 1931, the title refers to the 40 years of Rerum Novarum (1891); Octogesima Adveniens of Paul VI in 1971, for the 80 years of the text of Leo XIII; and, last, Centesimus Annus in 1991, the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.

On the other hand, there is a whole series of encyclicals with titles that are explicitly social. In 1891, Leo XIII called the first social encyclical Rerum Novarum, referring to the new things expressed in the subtitle "On the Condition of Workers." (1) John XXIII, for his part, also expressed social teaching, even if indirectly, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris in 1963. Things are more direct in the 1967 encyclical of Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, dedicated to human development and also with John Paul II in 1981, Laborem Excercens devoted to human labor. This trend continues in John Paul II's 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, which focuses on development and highlights the abiding concern the Church has for social issues.

With Benedict XVI's text, we seem at first glance to have a theological encyclical rather than a social one since the title, Caritas in Veritate ("charity, or love, in truth") sounds more theological. (2) Certainly, the subtitle does reference integral human development, but even this subtitle makes clear that it is a development in love and truth. More than with other popes, this title means that we are probably dealing with a theological interpretation of social issues, not just anthropological questions. The pope himself uses this expression, which remains in Latin in the various official vernacular translations: Caritas in veritate in re sociali. It seems to me that this ought to attract our attention. Of course, Benedict XVI's theological presentation is unsurprisingly accompanied by a natural and Christian anthropology.

An Encyclical Sent to All People of Good Will

Especially when they concern matters ecclesiological or theological, papal encyclicals are explicitly addressed to all Catholics, and more precisely, to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and lay faithful. This has been the case since the first social encyclicals. Since John XXIII and Paul VI, then John Paul II, and finally, with Benedict XVI, who continues the same tradition, the phrase "and all people of good will" is added to this list. However, one does not write the same way only to believers as well as to all people of good will.

Indeed, to believers we can speak the language of faith, that of the revelation of Scripture, which, of course, does not exclude reason, but insists on defining faith as a means of access to knowledge. On the contrary, if we broaden the recipients of the letter to all people of good will, we must insist on the importance of reason. We cannot speak to believers of other religions, agnostics, and atheists, using only the language of the Catholic faith to address issues that are of common life in society and, in particular, of economic and social life.

On several occasions in his text, Benedict XVI emphasizes this double source, that of faith and of reason. Thus he says that the social doctrine of the Church "is at the same time the truth of faith and of reason" (CV, 5). He goes further in chapter 5 (56) affirming the need for a fruitful dialogue between faith and reason, a theme already dear to John Paul II, to which he had dedicated the encyclical Fides et Ratio.

Benedict says,

Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.