Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Caritas in Veritate—Early Responses

Gideon Strauss


April 23, 2010

Some time ago a group of evangelicals called for a response to Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, in a document published on the website of the Center for Public Justice, Doing the truth in love. Several responses have since come forth, including the conferences “Civilizing the Economy: A New Way of Understanding Business Enterprise?” at Princeton University and “God and the Global Economy” at Regent College, Vancouver. I participated in the latter of these conferences, and while both the encyclical and the conference provoked myriad themes worthy of consideration I want to emphasize three in particular.

1. The Gospel is fundamental for development. This is a central claim of Caritas in Veritate (see paragraph 18). The encyclical is about integral development: the call of God on humanity that we realize all our God-given possibilities and the possibilities of all creation. While this call includes a call to economic development, it calls us to far more than only the realization of the economic possibilities of the world. Benedict, referring to the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, argues that the gospel is central to such development: “because in the gospel, Christ, ‘in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself’," we cannot fully recognize the scope of our calling, or adequately respond to it, absent the gospel.

2. For less developed countries to develop, they must gain greater access to international markets. Benedict argues that “in the economic sphere, the principal 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.” While less developed countries like the one in which I was born (South Africa) also need to develop in many other ways—not the least of which is in sustaining and nurturing the rule of law—the tremendous problems of poverty in such countries cannot be adequately addressed without more developed countries opening up their markets to the goods and services that less developed countries are able to offer. This is a complex challenge, because the opening up of the markets of a country has implications for the businesses, workers, and investors of that country, who are then exposed to greater international competition. Such an opening up of markets has consequences that must be considered with care. But it makes little sense to send charitable disaster relief and development aid to our global neighbors, while denying them access to the ordinary mechanisms of commerce.

3. A global market economy must be subject to the rule of law. Benedict argues that “the integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization.” As with national commerce so with international commerce the power of sin must be constrained and a public administrative and legal infrastructure must be realized by those instruments of common grace, governments. As we said in our Center for Public Justice Guideline on Economic Justice, “With the continuing growth of international economic interdependence—and interdependence of many other kinds—governments bear ever-increasing responsibility to work together to build international institutions and protocols that will strengthen justice, including economic justice, among all peoples and states.”

One of the great opportunities of our moment is for evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians to engage in conversation around the social teachings of our various traditions. I am grateful to have been part of one such a conversation, and look forward to further responses to Caritas in Veritate in the years ahead.

—Gideon J. Strauss, Chief Executive Officer
    Center for Public Justice

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”