Pope Benedict XVI has some fascinating things to say in his latest encyclical titled Caritas in veritate “Charity in Truth.” A papal encyclical is a general letter to Roman Catholic Christians, and Popes use such letters to teach the church the Christian viewpoint on key issues. The document is 30,472 words, which translates to about 54 pages of single-spaced text. For a good summary, see Francis Beckwith’s piece at the Christianity Today website.
Among other things, I found it interesting that the Pope attempted some “public access” arguments in favor of marriage. Much of this letter is taken up with economic issues, and the Pope insists that healthy economic policies must be built upon the recognition that economies are comprised of persons created in the image of God and that these persons owe one another “love in truth.” The Pope holds furthermore that some “formerly prosperous nations” are experiencing economic decline precisely because of a shortage of human capital due to “falling birthrates” (44). For this reason, the Pope concludes:
“It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character” (44).
In short, the argument goes like this. Love for one’s neighbor means adopting a concern for his economic interests (at both the macro and micro levels). At the macro level, it is not in any society’s economic interest to deplete its most precious resourceâ€”human capital. That capital is being exhausted in those places where marriage and family are held in low regard. The subtext is very clear. The degradation of marriage makes for the degradation of economies, and love requires us to promote public policies that do not degrade either. Homosexual “marriage” degrades both, and thus love bids us to oppose it.
Whether or not this argument will persuade secularists remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I’m happy that the Pope has made the attempt.