'God for Us' in the Challenge of Integral Human Development
In what sense is Catholic social teaching theological? Undoubtedly theology is a resource for ethical reflection but it can also be an outcome of it. This dissertation explores the theological contribution of post-Vatican II papal social encyclicals on development. Particular historical challenges and also specific worldviews adopted by the popes shape ethical reasoning and political priorities for action, but they do more. They stimulate theological thinking by making options among diverse theological frameworks, favoring certain concepts or symbols and downplaying others, and thus, they contribute to entering the mystery of God’s salvific love and allowing it to seize us. Chapter one offers some guidelines for a theological reading of social encyclicals. Vatican II with its “principle of pastorality” works as a compass. Karl Rahner, whose theology is always at the same time anthropology and Christology, is a privileged partner for the investigation. The history of half a century of debates on theories of development is the background. Chapters two to four analyze successively Paul VI’s Populorum progressio (PP), John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis (SRS), and Benedict XVI’s Caritas in veritate (CiV) by retrieving elements of context, highlighting the theological meaning of their methodological options, and exploring their insights about the mystery of being human and the mystery of “Jesus Christ for us.” In the 1960s, PP develops a theology which highlights incarnation and God’s grace at work in this world (neo-Thomist framework). Twenty years later, when early hopes about development have faded, SRS pursues this lead but also rebalances it with a greater concern for sin and redemption brought by Christ in the world (Augustinian framework). It also incorporates categories put forward by Latin American liberation theology such as structures of sin, liberation, and option for the poor which stress the structural dimension of sin and grace (Liberationist framework). At the dawn of the 21st century and showing concerns for growing secularization in Western countries, CiV insists on God’s transcendence (Augustinian framework) while still showing traces of the two other theological frameworks because of his addressing challenges of global justice. The final chapter offers three guidelines for theology which arise from the recognition of the theological nature of the church’s social teaching. (1) Without losing sight of its transcendental origin, theology ought to begin within history and with human experience. (2) A Christian anthropology ought to manifest the unity of the personal and social dimensions of being human which calls for both personal conversion and structural change. (3) Christologies can articulate approaches from above and from below in a variety of ways but the inescapability of the latter needs to be stressed in connection with taking seriously the option for the poor.