The Civilization of Love: the Pope’s Call to the West
Ed. Note: What follows is a joint statement organized and coordinated by David L. Schindler of Communio and signed by various individuals affiliated with certain Catholic-oriented periodicals, which in turn is followed by an editorial comment from the NEW OXFORD REVIEW.
The collapse of international Communism has destroyed one of the most obvious enemies of human freedom, but it has left the starving of the Third World in their misery, even while the moral anarchy of a mass popular culture prevails in the affluent West — threatening to corrupt and enslave entire populations by destroying those “common things” (G.K. Chesterton) that lie at the root of social order and organic community. In the long run, Communism itself may have had less power to destroy traditional morality and historic cultures than the disintegrative consumerism of the West.
And so, when Pope John Paul II criticizes the complacency of the developed nations, and looks to them to make “important changes in established lifestyles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources” (Centesimus Annus, #52), this is no mere “vestigial rhetorical fragment that somehow wandered into the text…notable chiefly for its incongruity with the argument that the Pope is otherwise making” (as one leading neoconservative theologian has asserted). The Pope is setting out one of the most fundamental requirements of the new evangelization.
The universal call to holiness, made concrete in the promotion of justice and leading toward a civilization of love, demands nothing less than a change of lifestyles. The Pope goes so far as to question the “models of production and consumption” that dominate present-day economic theory, and even “the established structures of power which today govern societies” (ibid., #58). The need to respond to this call could not be more urgent. “Everyone should put his hand to the work which falls to his share, and that at once and straightaway, lest the evil which is already so great become through delay absolutely beyond remedy” (ibid., 56, citing Rerum Novarum).
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