After a few delays, Pope Benedict’s long-awaited third encyclical on economic and social issues is set to be signed tomorrow, June 29, and released to the public on July 6 or 7, according to Catholic News Agency.
We here at American Catholic have had our share of lively debates over the meaning and application of Catholic social doctrine. I anticipate that they will continue following the release of this encyclical. This is a historical event of great importance to Catholics all over the world. Like some of his predecessors, and particularly Pius XI, Pope Benedict will be addressing the world on social and economic matters in the midst of a world wide economic crisis.
It was the crisis itself that reportedly caused the delay in the completion of the encyclical, and as it would be reasonable to assume, it is now clear that much of it will deal directly with the breakdown of the financial system in particular, and with the phenomenon of globalization in general.
According to the CNA article,
“In the midst of the new international economic, commercial and financial context,” the Pope will suggest an international agreement to lead the process of globalization: “an authority that should be regulated by law, should stick coherently to the principles of subsidiarity ad solidarity, should be aimed at achieving the common good and committed in fostering an authentic integral human development, inspired in the values of charity and truth.”
The encyclical will also have a pro-life message:
The encyclical, in fact, is likely to say that “openness to life is at the core of every true development,” and regarding the ambiguous policies aimed at “reducing the need for abortion” by means of other social policies, the Pope warns that “if personal and social sensibility toward the welcoming of a new life is lost, even other forms of welcoming (life) useful to social life become fruitless.”
Finally, it will say something I have believed for a long time:
The document will also say that “food and water are universal rights,” and will remind that the Greek word Oikonomia – from which the word “economy” comes – means the rule or management of the oikos, the home: “the development of all nations depends above all in recognizing that we are one single family.”
In the 21st century it is absolutely unacceptable that a single person go without food or water due to some failure in the economic or political system. The technology and resources exist to feed the world; it is a failure of the human will that keeps over a billion people in hunger worldwide. Regardless of whether markets or governments are either to blame or praise in particular situations, the Pope will speak of the need for each of us to have the will and the courage to face these problems. Speaking to some parish priests back in February, the Pope said,
While there is original sin, we will never achieve a radical and total correction. Nevertheless, we must do everything possible to implement corrections that are at least provisional, sufficient to enable humanity to live and to put obstacles to the dominance of egoism, which presents itself under pretexts of science and of national and international economy...
Justice cannot be created in the world only with good economic models, even if these are necessary. Justice is only brought about if there are just men.
Amen to that, your Holiness!