n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - Does an overtly Christian ethic have a role in the new secular world in the light of recent church teaching?

Volume 40, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-9507



Development used to mean increasing gross domestic product measured at the macro-economic level. Modern secular thinking, implemented in the United Nations Development Programme, supplanted this limitation with the human development approach. Its focal themes, presented in annual Human Development Reports beginning in 1990, echo concerns of the social encyclicals and papal New Year's messages on peace. However, the only basis for the "substantial freedoms" it promotes are intuition: access and choice are obviously desirable. Here, Christian anthropology - specifically, Catholic social doctrine since the late 19th century - provides a grounded account of full human dignity and integral development. Pope Benedict XVI comprehensively and profoundly articulates this ethic in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate, in which he suggests five competencies for building the human future sketched by the UNDP and revealed in God's plan: (1) realistic analysis of present difficulties; (2) articulation of fundamental values and vision; (3) new responsibilities embraced with confidence; (4) profound cultural renewal; and (5) commitment to engagement, collaboration and solidarity. The next steps for humanity are being encouraged by the church as it embarks on a new evangelization to counter the aggressive secularism that has taken many away from the Christian sources of fundamental human dignity and destiny.

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