In his introduction, he explains that charity is at the heart of the church’s social doctrine. Charity in truth, he says, “is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.”
He goes on to say that charity is formed by love, and that charity is grounded in justice and the common good.
“If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them,” he says. “Justice is inseparable from charity.” Likewise, to love someone “is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.”
The church has a rich history of articulating the rights and responsibilities of governments, corporations and the wealthy toward the most vulnerable. Pope Benedict draws on earlier social encyclicals to help put a modern spin on contemporary social concerns.
“The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase,” he says. Building wealth on the backs of the poor is a sin, says Pope Benedict, whether it is a multinational corporation or a mom and pop business.
The pope says charity towards others can be practiced in many forms: through respect for the environment, safe drinking water initiatives, equitable agrarian reform, improved farming techniques and micro-financing. He even links respect for life with development.
Using his principles as a guide, here are five ways for people of faith to embrace charity in truth.
• Make changes in consumer buying habits. This suggestion has been around for more than a decade, but continues to make a solid impact. It includes purchasing fair trade goods such as coffee and boycotting companies whose workers are subject to sweatshop conditions. It’s one of the easiest ways to promote fair wages and human dignity.
Visit Catholic Relief Services’ fair trade Web site to learn about the latest fair trade issues. You can also sign up to receive the CRS Fair Trader e-newsletter.
• Support programs that work directly with the poor. There are many faith-based organizations that work directly with the world’s poor. These organizations are profiled occasionally within the pages of this newspaper. They include the Green Bay-based Friends of Haiti medical mission volunteers. Other agencies with Catholic ties include Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, which gives North Americans an opportunity to “adopt” children and elderly from Third World countries for a few dollars a day, and Food for the Poor, an international relief agency, which feeds 2 million people every day.
• Assist self-help projects around the world such as the Heifer Project, which, as its foundation, supplies farm animals to poor farmers. It’s a great way for youth groups to get involved in helping the world’s needy. Safe water projects such as Water for Life Institute (www.water forlife.org) – which helps communities develop safe and sustainable water sources – and CRS-supported initiatives make the dream of safe drinking water a reality.
• Become an informed citizen on legislation that advocates principles of charity. Catholics in Wisconsin have at their fingertips one of the greatest resources for following legislation on public policy. It’s our own Wisconsin Catholic Conference, a team of dedicated workers who serve as the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.
The WCC follows state and national initiatives that impact the most vulnerable citizens. Sign up for the WCC mailing list to receive the latest legislative updates and action alerts.
• Lower energy consumption and support green initiatives. A visit to the Catholic Climate Covenant’s Web site is a good primer. The first step is to take the St. Francis Pledge to care for creation and the poor. The site also offers a daily tip for reducing energy usage. It’s a great resource for educators.
These are a few suggestions to put “Charity in Truth” into action. If you have other suggestions, please share them with us.