Summary: The attitude of a child is the attitude of knowing you are incomplete, and need to grow, to change, to take the risk to be wrong.

September 28, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

The emphasis Jesus constantly puts on being childlike puzzled me until I read Carol Dweck’s great book Mindset. A child knows–perhaps without being able to articulate it–that she needs to change, learn and grow. A child knows his own incompleteness. As we age, the expectations of others and our own need to be accepted force us into a kind of servitude of fixed mindsets. We pretend that we are complete and stop taking the risks we need to take in order to learn and grow. I have students in my regular chemistry class who could function well in a pre-AP environment, but they decline the risk because they might fail. And all of us who have been around the track of life twice know that we learn the most from our errors.

Up to now in this series of homilies, we’ve been reflecting mostly on the insights Paul VI offered in his encyclical Populorum Progressio, issued in the sixties. Pope Benedict next turns to a meditation on what has happened since that time. Paul VI had an articulated vision of development, and set as a goal to rescue the developing peoples from hunger, deprivation, endemic disease and illiteracy, to bring them into active participation in the international economy and to help them evolve into educated societies marked by solidarity. Today we can see the history of the intervening years as what Benedict calls a “succession of crises.” The Church “had good reason to be concerned about the capacity of a purely technological society to set realistic goals and make good use of the instruments at its disposal.” Profit, instead of being a means to the end–true human development of the whole person and society–became the exclusive goal, divorced from seeking the common good. In many cases the result has been the destruction of wealth and creation of poverty. Growth has lifted billions out of misery and has given many countries the chance to be real players in international politics. But the current crisis highlights the reality that economic growth is freighted with malfunctions and problems made worse by ignorance of Pope Paul’s wisdom. Because the problems of financial mismanagement, massive migration and homelessness, and unregulated exploitation of earth’s resources are all interconnected, Benedict calls for new efforts of holistic understanding and a “new humanistic synthesis,” not more patchwork technological fixes. He says this crisis becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to “shape a new vision for the future.” That vision shall become the focus of our future reflections together.

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