Civilizing the Economy

By Patrick J. Deneen for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Pope Benedict XVI’s eagerly awaited third encyclical was released today:  “Charity in Truth.”  I’ll be reading it over the next few days, but here’s a link to a quick synopsis.  The concluding paragraph of the summary points in an exciting direction:

In a chapter entirely dedicated to the rights and duties of man to safeguard the environment, Pope Benedict writes that in order to protect nature it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; he points out that once again the decisive issue is “the overall moral tenor of society”. The Pope asks the question,  how can we expect society to respect the environment if society does not respect human life?. “If there is no respect for the right to life and natural death the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and with it that of environmental ecology”. The book of nature, is one and indivisible. “A humanism which excludes God, he concludes, is an inhuman humanism”. “Development must not just include material growth but also spiritual growth”.

It’s to be wondered whether American Catholics and fellow-travelers will overcome their cognitive dissonance to consider the continuity of the pro-life, pro-nature (“environment”) position.  Or, will prominent voices in the American Church and beyond continue gorging in a cafeteria – both Left and Right alike?

Be that as it may, the linking of the pro-human, pro-nature position is the past and future of the Church.  The Left and Right can get on board and finally acknowledge this deep interlinking of the moral dimension of how we treat the world and each other, or remain in the straitjacket of narrowing and indefensible partisan posturing.  It’s time to see the truth of the matter – that at base the crisis of our age calls for our devotion to improving “the overall moral tenor of society” on behalf of an overarching human and natural ecology- and that this amazing Pope is showing us the path.

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