Heart to Heart: Preparing for the Papal Visit

This column from the  committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland for pastoral planning for the Papal visit is based on Cardinal John Henry Newman’s motto ‘heart speaks to heart.’ Read Heart to Heart in the Scottish Catholic Observer every week.

By Fr Paul Murray

In today’s first reading we are asked the question: What does man gain for all his toil? In his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict addresses this question directly:

Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers. International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions both within the chain of donors and within that of the beneficiaries. Similarly, in the context of immaterial or cultural causes of development and underdevelopment, we find these same patterns of responsibility reproduced. On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care. At the same time, in some poor countries, cultural models and social norms of behaviour persist which hinder the process of development.

The Gospel speaks of the danger of avarice. Frequently we see that rich countries become richer and have more than they need while poorer countries become poorer and lack the basic necessities of life. Again in Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict speaks of the need for human solidarity:

“The reality of human solidarity, which is a benefit for us, also imposes a duty”. Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people’s integral development. …Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence. Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world. A link has often been noted between claims to a ‘right to excess’, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centres. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties…

Pope Benedict also points out that we need to go beyond a simple acceptance of our equality to a deeper understanding of fraternity as our human vocation.

As society becomes ever more globalised, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is.

—Resources for reflection, prayer and study are available from the website http://www.beingcatholic.org.

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