For Catholic social ethicists, the eve of a social encyclical on the economy resembles Christmas Eve. There’s great anticipation in the air. What new gifts will the Pope offer to the tradition of Catholic social teaching? How will they be received by the various members of this global Catholic family? Will we be able to play with these gifts immediately in the context of social injustice, or will we need to decipher a user’s manual before we can properly apply them? Will they be conducive to ecumenical group play?
Like a little kid making last minute amendments to their Christmas wish list, here’s what I’m hoping to find tomorrow when Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth") finally appears in my inbox:
- A discussion of the impact of the global economy on the causes of urban poverty, both in under-developed countries and over-developed nations like our own;
- Attention to the personal and social sins that fuel the gross socio-economic inequities that fracture civil society;
- Further development of the spiritual practices named in previous documents that might resist sin and shape a more just economy on the local level, such as social charity, solidarity, poverty of spirit, or pacifism;
- A reiteration of the importance of work as a source of human dignity in terms of creative self-expression that generates the kind of wealth that might promote the common good;
- A recognition that poverty links the economic justice issues that rally the liberal left with the life issues that fuel the advocacy of the conservative right, whether those be abortion, national security, the health of families, mass incarceration, or disease prevention;
- Practical suggestions for harnessing the economy so that it might serve humanity and creation, whether through new green technologies, micro-lending, or workers’ cooperatives.
Either way, the new encyclical will undoubtedly offer us plenty of gifts to enjoy. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Maureen H. O’Connell