Toward our integral development PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 25 February 2016 14:04



We need to expand our understanding of our human development. Our problem now is that that term is often restricted to mean economic development only, or at best, some social, political or cultural development. Sorry, but it does not go far and deep enough.

Obviously, the elements and factors that go into these aspects of development are already bewildering and exacting. But common sense alone would tell us we should not get stuck there. These aspects, while indispensable, do not capture our over-all dignity and stature. They do not give the whole picture.

Such understanding of development would lack its radical foundation and ultimate purpose. It can have colorful and stimulating moments, but in the end it would just be going in circles, with all the probability of going bad and dangerous.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told us how development should be understood in his encyclical “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in the truth). In the first place, he reminded us that development is not just a purely human affair.

Development is a God-given vocation, both a divine gift and our responsibility, the arena where the interacting love between God and man and the love among us in God are played out.

It’s not just a product of the brilliance of some people, no matter how extraordinary that brilliance may be. It cannot be pursued by simply using human means, no matter how practical and convenient they are.

The fullness of both faith and our sciences has to go into it. The requirements of both piety and pragmatism, sanctity and

competence have to be met. Not one or the other, but both. It should be a holistic development, not a reductive one.

We have to avoid the extremes of the pietistic and spiritualist approach on the one hand, and the purely secularized and pragmatic approach on the other hand.

The former led us to the anomalies of unhealthy clericalism in the past, with some vestiges of it still remaining in the present. The latter has grounded us on a certain law-of-the-jungle, dog-eat-dog world of Godless pragmatism now raging in today’s society.

Ok, this is easier said than done. Still, with our wealth of experience and knowledge gathered through the years, I’m sure we have better insights and tools to effect the ideal way to achieve genuine and integral development.

We just have to be hopeful and optimistic, slowly but steadily putting into action those things we think can help achieve this kind of development. We may have to go through the mess of the trial-and-error approach, we may be heckled and taunted, but we just have to move in the most prudent way we can.

Yes, it’s true that when I’m with priestly company, there’s still a tendency to get simplistic, idealistic and moralistic with respect to world problems, often not giving due consideration to the realities of things.

But I also note a growing improvement in this area. More clerics are now more sensitive to the distinctions between the ideal and the actual, and more respectful of the legitimate autonomy and differences in temporal matters while pursuing the ultimate eternal goal of man.

The same when I’m with laypeople immersed in business and politics. There’s still a lot of secularized attitude, where God and religion hardly enter into their calculations.

Still, I can see a growing number of them learning how to integrate faith into their earthly affairs. There may be awkwardness and incompetence, but I think a trend in this direction can be seen in many places. We just have to sustain it and make it gain momentum.

There’s a need to clarify the true nature and scope of human development. And the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave us abundant ideas.

When he, for example, talked about what constitutes “decent work”, he said:

“It means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society,

—   “Work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community,

— “work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination,

— “work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labor,

— “work that permits the workers to organize themselvesfreely, and to make their voices heard,

— “work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level,

—  “work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”

Let’s try to listen to the Pope in our journey toward integral development!