The aid of the West to developing countries based on purely technical-material principles, that doesn't only leave God to one side, but has also led men away from Him because of their pride in their own self-importance, has made the Third World into the Third World in the modern sense. This assistance has put to one side existing religious, moral and social structures and has introduced its own technicalist mentality into the vacuum. They think that they can change rocks into bread, but they have given stones in place of bread. The primacy of God is at question. It concerns recognizing Him as a reality, a reality without which nothing else can be good. One cannot govern history with mere material structures leaving God aside. If the heart of man isn't good, then nothing else can become good. And goodness of heart can only come from He who is Himself goodness, the Good. [p56, Unofficial translation from the Italian]
This commentary on the temptations of Jesus, and in particular Satan's suggestion that Christ change stones into loaves of bread struck me very deeply. I don't want to harp on about this point, but the above passage is proof (if proof were needed) that the Holy Father is a thoroughgoing Augustinian. What we have above is a development of St Augustine's doctrine (found in, for example, his late anti-Pelagian work ‘Against Julian’) that the acts of man cannot be pleasing to God unless they are rooted in the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. St Augustine affirmed something which would certainly strike many modern ears as outrageous. He argued that the virtues of pagans were ultimately vices, as they did not draw on the source of goodness and were not properly oriented to their proper end due to the absence of what we would now call the theological virtues. St Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, laid down a theology of virtue which afforded more space for so-called natural virtues.
Now, I'm not sure that we can attribute the Augustinian doctrine in its full rigour to Pope Benedict - in his anti-Pelagian polemic, Augustine sometimes ended up taking positions which further reflection theological development ended up moderating. (And indeed, the Augustinian position, as developed by later authors has much to commend it over the Thomistic theory.) However, it is clear from the above passage that in his social thought (as already expressed in Deus Caritas Est), Pope Benedict is very much thinking along Augustinian rather than Thomistic lines. He very clearly sees that even what appear to be man's most worthwhile ‘secular’ projects are ultimately harmful and misguided if the primacy of God is ignored or denied.