Introduction to Caritas in Veritate
By Kirk O. Hanson
Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate
Encyclicals and Other Key Roman Catholic Documents dealing
with economics issues:
"On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth"
By Benedict XVI (German; former Archbishop of Munich; former
Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; elected
Pope on April 19, 2005)
Dated June 29, 2009 (released July 9, 2009)
Third Encyclical of Papacy of Benedict XVI
"To the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious,
The Lay Faithful, and all People of Good Will"
Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor), 1891 (Pope
Quadragesimo Anno (On the Reconstruction of the Social Order),
1931 (Pope Pius XI)
Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress),
1961 (Pope John XXIII)
Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), 1963 (Pope John XXIII)
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium
et Spes, 1965 (Second Vatican Council)
Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples),
1967 (Pope Paul VI)
Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), 1981 (Pope John Paul
Economic Justice for All: A Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social
Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986 (United States Catholic
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), 1987 (Pope
John Paul II)
Centesimus Annus(The Hundredth Year), 1991 (Pope John
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004 (Pontifical
Council on Justice and Peace)
Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), 2005 (Pope Benedict XVI)
Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), 2009 (Pope Benedict
Considerations regarding religious statements on social issues:
- Grounding in Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and/or Reason
- Relation to the Nature of God
- Identification of Principles
- Nature of Authority of the Document
- Role of "Prudential Judgements"
- Breadth, Coverage, Timeliness, to Whom Addressed
The Authority of Encyclicals
"the internal assent due to a great number of the
doctrines proposed in the papal encyclicals is something
distinct from and inferior to both the act of divine Catholic
faith and the act most frequently designated as fides ecclesiastica.
Most theologians hold that, while there is nothing to prevent
an infallible definition of truth...in papal encyclicals
Holy Father has not chosen to use (the encyclicals for this
purpose). (Joseph Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review,
In an encyclical-any encyclical-one finds statements
of various levels of authority. It is not a simple question
of whether "an encyclical is binding"
a social encyclical, one finds statements of general principles.
These are the most authoritative. One also finds various
analyses of particular political, economic, and social situations.
These usually involve judgments of a prudential sort that
are not binding in either the de fide or authoritative sense.
They still merit respectful attention, as coming from the
supreme earthly shepherd of the Church. (Stephen M. Barr,
First Things, July 9, 2009)
The Key Themes of Catholic Social Teaching (1890-2010)
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care for God's Creation
(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington
Structure of Caritas in Veritate:
79 numbered sections/paragraphs.
The Key Themes of Caritas in Veritate:
- The message of Populorum progressio
- Human Development in Our Time
- Fraternity, Economic Development and Civil Society
- The Development of People - Rights and Duties -
- The Cooperation of the Human Family
- The Development of Peoples and Technology
Strengths of Caritas in Veritate:
- Love means engagement in the field of justice and peace.
- The Church does not offer technical solutions or interfere
in politics, but cannot renounce its mission of truth.
- The Social Teaching of the Catholic Church derives from
the dynamic of love given and received through our relationship
with God and our neighbor.
- Justice is inseparable from charity. Charity goes beyond
justice, but never lacks justice.
- Promotion of the common good - of individuals, families,
and groups in society - is a requirement. Our understanding
of the common good must be extend globally to the relations
between peoples and nations.
- The chief challenge facing society today is that of
globalization. We need to ensure that globalization does
not damage the poor and the most vulnerable.
- Every economic decision has a moral consequence. The
economy needs ethics to function correctly.
- Those with wealth have a duty to share it with have-nots.
We need to share goods and resources, not only technical
- Corporations and businesses must recognize obligations
beyond profit-maximization. Laissez-faire capitalism not
consistent with Catholic social vision. Alternate forms
of business should be encouraged.
- The test of any economy is how workers are treated.
- Global economic development requires mediating economic
authorities to manage risk and build trust.
- We need to recognize that the mobility of labor can
produce significant benefits.
- The right to food and the right to water have an important
place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with
the fundamental right to life. Economic rights are related
to/grounded in the right to life.
- "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."
- Riglits always accompanied by Duties.
- Addressing encyclical to all people of good will
- Focus on economic ethics, obligations of wealthy elites.
- Endorsement of broad concept of integral human development
introduced in Populorum Progressio.
- Focus on globalization and its effects
- Emphasis on movement of peoples (immigration)
- Strongest papal statement yet on environment
- Willingness to release it during debate over the worldwide
Criticisms of Caritas in Veritate:
- Too many topics addressed. Confusion of logic.
- Mostly addresses government policy, little to say to
business owner or manager, or to consumer.
- Naïve on economics and globalization. Does not
tap Catholic lay experience sufficiently.
- Written with European categories and concerns and examples.
- Not written to embrace ecumenical perspectives on the
Kirk O. Hanson, Ethics Center executive director,
holds the John Courtney Murray SJ University Professorship
at Santa Clara University. This handout is from a presentation
he made to the Garfield Forum, Stanford University, February