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Summary: Jesus can act as Messiah when He is approached by humans who admit their blindness, weakness and sin; so we must admit decades of blindness in our human development policies.

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November 16, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

“Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile.” As Luke portrays Jesus making his pilgrimage to the Holy City whose inhabitants will murder him, He finally responds to one who is publicly calling him The Messiah–Son of David. But it’s not a politician or revolutionary. It is, as always, a poor, disabled, weak human like you and me. And, like you and me without Christ, he admits his blindness and weakness and asks to be healed. The first step is always to admit we have a problem, and the second is to find the one who can repair us.

As we listen to the Holy Father speak about human development, it behooves us in the West to listen carefully and admit that we have acted rather blindly over the past decades as we have reached out to the third world and claimed to desire their development. If, the Pope says, there are multiple levels of human development–economic, social, communitarian, spiritual–then “the correlation between its multiple elements requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples. Often it is thought that development, or the socio-economic measures that go with it, merely require to be implemented through joint action. This joint action, however, needs to be given direction, because ‘all social action involves a doctrine’[74]. In view of the complexity of the issues, it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within. Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be “seasoned” with the “salt” of charity.” He goes on: “Faced with the phenomena that lie before us, charity in truth requires first of all that we know and understand, acknowledging and respecting the specific competence of every level of knowledge. Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth[76]. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.” So, our moral decision making has to make common cause with our research and scientific conclusions about development. Charity can bring them together, and it can be fostered by applying the social doctrine of the Church, itself having “an important interdisciplinary dimension.” In other words, over the past half-century we have gained a lot of knowledge about human beings and human community, but the secular world has not listened to the Church’s words, to the Incarnate Word, and their actions have been like the madman who thinks he can make a slow watch run better by jamming a pencil into the works. For instance, USAID, which is supposedly for human development, conditions everything they do on the promotion of population control. That means sending birth control devices instead of malaria eradication materials to Africa, and that immoral action has led to the increased incidence of AIDS. “The excessive segmentation of knowledge[80], the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences[81], the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions.” We must press politicians to see that integral good, and to act only with charity, not self-interest.


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