“Social and Political Charity” is the heading of a sub-section of Chapter Five. It runs from n.176 to n.185. three particular points stood out for me as I read the sub-section: the Pope speaks of the politics we need; the link between charity and truth; and how global society is suffering.
In n.177, quoting from Laudato Si, he says: “what is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and inter-disciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis…a healthy politics…capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia.” It is a tall order for politicians but he sees the need for change in the way things are done so that everyone is treated justly and fairly. After giving this description of what is needed in politics, he highlights the danger of economics taking over — “We cannot expect economics to do this, nor can we allow economics to take over the real power of the state. Ensuring that the needs of people should be the priority over a ‘how much will it cost?’ mentality is an important trait in Pope Francis’ thoughts.
He begins n. 179 with this statement: “Global society is suffering from grave structural deficiencies that cannot be resolved by piecemeal solutions or quick fixes.” He is conscious of the enormity of the problems in our world and the suffering that millions of people endure for various reasons, especially those due to mistreatment by their fellow human beings. He says, “Only a healthy politics, involving the most diverse sectors and skills, is capable of overseeing this process. An economy that is an integral part of a political, social, cultural and popular programme directed to the common good could pave the way for ‘Different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels’. As he continues to work through these ideas Pope Francis throws the idea of ‘political love’ or ‘political charity’ into the mix He quotes from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate’ as he lays the foundation for the idea. In n.184 Pope Francis says, “Charity is at the heart of every healthy and open society, yet today ‘it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility’ (Caritas in Veritate, n. 2). Charity, when accompanied by a commitment to the truth, is much more than personal feeling, and consequently need not ‘fall prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions’ (Caritas in Veritate, n. 3). Pope Francis recognises the importance of a truth-charity bons and acknowledges it when he says, “Without truth, emotion lacks relational and social content. Charity’s openness to truth thus protects it from, ‘a fideism that deprives it of its human and universal breadth’ (Caritas in Veritate n.3).”