Encyclical Summary

Basic Highlights of the Social Encyclical Caritas in Veritate

Developed by Bill Purcell, Center for Social Concerns

Caritas in Veritate was written as a teaching tool to further the social mission of the worldwide Church, in particular to commemorate the social teachings on human development put forth in past encyclicals The Development of People/Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI in 1967 and On Social Concern/Sollicitudo Rei Socialis by Pope John Paul II in 1987. The release of the document was originally to be in 2007 but was delayed until 2009 because of the global economic crisis.

Pope Benedict wrote this teaching not to provide prescriptions to the economic crisis, but to provide a framework of values and principles for action that go beyond any particular ideology. Overall, this encyclical offers a framework to assist the marketplace in working for the common good.

This synopsis covers only some of the main points of the encyclical; I strongly encourage you to read the encyclical in its entirety.

For pragmatic purposes, here are eight main points drawn from each section emphasized within Caritas in Veritate. The numbers in parentheses indicate the actual numbered paragraphs in the encyclical where you can find more about that point.

Introduction: Charity is a form of love that should support the common good.
Charity in truth is the driving force behind authentic human development of every person. (1) Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. (2) Justice is inseparable from charity and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity, but charity goes beyond justice and completes it with true giving. (6) We must all strive for the common good, which is the good for all of us in society. (7)

Chapter One: Human dignity needs to be uplifted in multiple ways.
Integral human development promotes the development of the whole person. For this human development to occur people must be free and truth must be respected. (18) The causes of underdevelopment are a lack of solidarity and community, not a lack of material. (19)

Chapter Two: Development must respect life and overcome oppressive poverty.
Development must rescue people from the evils of poverty. (21) Some nations have made economic progress, but the world is more economically integrated today, which presents new challenges. (24) Workers rights have been weakened and need to be strengthened. (25) Economic commercialization can lead to cultural weakening through relativism or the loss of cultural identity. (26) Respect for life invites us to broaden our concept of poverty and underdevelopment. (28) Authentic human development requires dialogue and engages various disciplines of knowledge to seek the truth. (30) The Church’s social doctrine is interdisciplinary which makes it effective. (31) Today we need to seek new solutions for human development. (32)

Chapter Three: Economic development will improve civil society.
Giftedness is key to human development. (34) While the market emphasizes commutative justice, the social doctrine of the Church upholds distributive and social justice as important for the market economy. (#35) Political structures must help direct economics toward the common good. (36) Charity in truth calls us to be global citizens. (42)

Chapter Four: Duties exist for the development of people and the environment.
All structures and policies must promote the centrality and integrity of the family. (44) The economy needs to put people first, not profits, to function properly. (45) The reality between the distinction of for-profits and non-profits has changed and a new broad sector of economic involvement has emerged. (46) True charity calls us to care for all of God’s creation. (48)

Chapter Five: Humanity needs to work together like a healthy, functioning family unit.
Isolation can be one of the deepest forms of poverty. (53) Development aid for poor nations is a valid means of creating wealth for all. (60) Greater access to education is key to developing international solidarity. (61) Immigration requires bold new policies of international cooperation. (62) Poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work. (63) Labor unions need to be open to new perspectives within the world of work. (64) Finance needs to go back to being an instrument of wealth creation and development. (65)

Chapter Six: Technology should be used as a tool for good, keeping people first.
Technology must be seen as a human creation in service to responsible freedom. Human development is more than just doing. (70) Peacebuilding occurs when those peoples affected are heard and attended. (72) Development must include spiritual growth as well as material growth. (76)

Conclusion: God inspires us to work together to improve development globally.
God provides humanity with direction and assists humanity in understanding its purpose. God’s love calls us to reach out to our neighbor. (78) Authentic human development is a gift from God. (79)