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'CARITAS IN VERITATE'

Ultimo Aggiornamento: 29/08/2009 20.08
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I missed this early commentary on CIV which does pick up on the new theological - even metaphysical - points that Benedict XVI introduces as fundamental to assimilating the concept of charity in truth and how it applies to the life of individuals and nations.

In common with the best commentaries on CIV so far, Mr. Caldecott sees the encylical integrally - one greater than the sum of its parts and that cannot be given its proper due otherwise - rather than merely a sum, or enumeration of such parts. much less cherry-picking from it only what fits into one's own ideology and prejudices.

Stratford Caldecott is the G.K. Chesterton Research Fellow at Benet’s Hall, Oxford, and editor of Second Spring and Sophia Institute Press.




Metaphysics has returned:
The more overlooked themes
of the new encyclical

By Stratford Caldecott
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OXFORD, England, JULY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org) - There are four particular elements of Caritas in Veritate on "integral human development" that are worth mentioning because they have so far not been widely noticed.

First, this encyclical is closely connected to the Pope’s two previous encyclicals -- on love and on hope -- and forms with them a triptych on the Christian faith, in both its theoretical and its practical dimensions, namely, love and hope grounded in truth.

Second, the encyclical takes Catholic social teaching to a new level by basing it explicitly on the theology of the Trinity and calling for "a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation." Metaphysics is back.

Next, it introduces a new principle -- that of "gratuitousness" and "reciprocal gift", which enables us to break the "hegemony of the binary model of market-plus-State" (38, 39, 41).

In other words, economics as a human activity is not ethically neutral and must be structured and governed in an ethical manner; that is, in accordance with the highest ends of man.

Economics and politics are not to be separated, because justice must enter into the economy from the outset, and justice is made perfect only in "giving and forgiving."

The radical implications of this principle for the market economy will need time to unfold.

Finally, those in the Distributist, Green, and "alternative economics" movements will be encouraged that the encyclical opens the door to the development of alternative "economic entities" that act on principles other than pure profit, or which treat profit merely as a means to a social end, including cooperatives, credit unions, micro-finance, and the "economy of communion" (46).

In fact, it hopes that new "hybrid" forms of commercial behaviour will emerge in the marketplace in the future (38). It insists that the "weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury" (65), and insists that use of technology be subordinated to the "holistic meaning" of the human (70).

It consolidates the strong environmentalist emphasis of John Paul II within Benedict XVI's vision of integral human development, linking human to environmental ecology and the natural law(51).

Man is called to be the wise steward of creation, defending earth, water and air as "gifts of creation that belong to everyone," and helping to prevent mankind from destroying itself (51).

The Pope writes that it is "incumbent upon the competent authorities to make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations: the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet" (50).

But all this is set against a spiritual horizon, for we cannot achieve true solidarity with others without transcending our own selfish and material concerns in the "experience of gift" (34).


'The experience of gift' - love received and given - is a wonderful expression for the concept of charity as 'God's love received and lived' and therefore given in an equally selfless manner to others.

But even those who have only looked at the encyclical as a statement on social and economic issues have generally ignored the concept of 'gratuitousness' and 'gift' that the Pope argues should find a place in pratical economic policy. I suppose they are not used to dealing with abtractions that refer to Christian virtues and values.


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Posted earlier in the BENEDICT NEWS thread:


If the Nobel Prize juries weren't so ideologically driven, I would send this article as a nominating letter for Benedict XVI to be considered for the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics.

And again, I muct apologize not having seen this article earlier. I try to post teh good ones as soon as I come across them, but I'd have to dedicate at least an hour a day just to check out all the CIV commentary that's being posted to keep up. But this was in the Times of London, and I missed it.



Pope Benedict is
the man on the money


The best analysis yet of the global economic crisis,
tells how people, not just rules, must change


by Brian Griffiths
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July 13, 2009


Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach is a trustee of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Trust and Vice-Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. He was an economic adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A devout evangelical Christian, he is, by virtue of his title, a member of the House of Lords.


When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, his strengths and weaknesses seemed clear. Here was an eminent theologian, philosopher and guardian of Christian truth, but a man unlikely to make the Church’s message relevant to the world today.

How simplistic this now looks in the light of his third encyclical, in which Pope Benedict XVI confronts head-on the financial crisis that has rocked the world.

The language may be dense, but the message is sufficiently rewarding. The encyclical analyses modern capitalism from an ethical and spiritual perspective as well as a technical one.

As a result it makes the (UK) Government’s White Paper on financial reforms published two days later look embarrassingly one-dimensional and colourless.

It is highly critical of today’s global economy but always positive. Its major concern is how to promote human development in the context of justice and the common good.

Despite heavy competition from some of the world’s finest minds, it is without doubt the most articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the financial crisis that has yet appeared. It should strike a chord with all who wish to see modern capitalism serving broader human ends.

The Pope makes it clear that the encyclical takes its inspiration from Populorum Progressio, the encyclical published by Paul VI in 1967, at the height of anti-capitalism in Europe. It attacked liberal capitalism, was ambivalent about economic growth, recommended expropriation of landed estates if poorly used and enthused about economic planning.

It was in stark contrast to Centesimus Annus (1991), the most recent encyclical dealing with economic matters, published after the fall of communism by a Polish Pope.

John Paul II affirmed the market economy as a way of producing wealth by allowing human creativity and enterprise to flourish.

Pope Benedict is highly critical of modern capitalism.
- He believes that the international economy is marked by “grave deviations and failures”.
- Economic growth is weighed down by “malfunctions and dramatic problems”.
- Businesses that are answerable almost exclusively to their investors have limited social value.
- The financial system has been abused by speculative financial dealing and has wreaked havoc on the real economy.
- Globalisation has undermined the rights of workers, downsized social security systems and exploited the environment.
- As global prosperity has grown, so has “the scandal of glaring inequalities”.

Despite these criticisms, the encyclical has a positive view of profit, providing it is not an exclusive goal.
- It recognises that more labour mobility resulting from deregulation can increase wealth.
- It accepts that economic growth has lifted billions out of poverty and enabled some developing countries to become effective players in international politics.
- Globalisation offers an unprecedented chance of large-scale redistribution of wealth worldwide.

The kind of market economy Pope Benedict defends is much closer to the European social model than the “spontaneous order” of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.

For him, market capitalism can never be conceived of in purely technical terms. Development is not just about freeing up markets, removing tariffs, increasing investment and reforming institutions. It is not even about social policies to accompany economic reforms.

At the heart of the market is the human person, possessing dignity, deserving of justice and bearing the divine image. The market needs to be infused with a morality emanating from Christian humanism, which respects truth and encourages charity.

The encyclical suggests six major ways to make global capitalism more human.

First, it calls for “the management of globalisation” and a reform of international economic institutions. They are needed “to manage the global economy, to revive economies hit by the crisis, to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis . . . to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration”.

Not surprisingly, for this huge task we need “a true world political authority” through reform of the United Nations.

Next, there needs to be greater diversity among the enterprises that create wealth: mutual societies, credit unions and hybrid forms of commercial organisation.

Third, globalisation has weakened the ability of trade unions to represent the interests of workers, something that needs to be reversed.

Fourth, the scandal of inequality requires countries to increase the proportion of GDP given as foreign aid.

Fifth, because the environment is the gift of the Creator we have an intergenerational responsibility to tackle climate change.

Finally, everyone involved in the market, traders, producers, bankers — even consumers — must be alert to the moral consequences of their actions.

“Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the common good.”

Pope Benedict’s words are not just platitudes. They affect every person at work every day. In the City [London's financial center], they are a challenge to management to create a culture of prudence, responsibility and integrity.

There has to be zero tolerance for misleading clients, fudging conflicts of interest and inflating valuations. However great the revenue they produce, those who deviate must be disciplined. This kind of ethos cannot be imposed by regulation alone.


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When CIV was presented July 7 at a Vatican news confErence, there were four presentors: Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP); Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi, who was secretary of the PCJP for several years until he was named Archbishop of Trieste shortly after the CIV presetnation; Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Commission Cor Unum; and Stefano Zamagni, an academic eccnomist who was one of the technical consultants to the Pope during the preparation of CIV.
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Left to right in group photo: Mons. Crepaldi, Cardinal Cordes, Cardinal Martino, Fr. Federico Lombardi, and Mr. Zamagni. Center photo, Cardinal Martino; right photo, Cardinal Cordes.

The Vatican has now made available an English translation of the presentation by Cardinal Cordes:




CIV in the context
of Benedict XVI's Magisterium

by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes
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I have been asked to situate the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate within the context of the thought and magisterium of Benedict XVI.

His first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, on the theology of charity, contained indications on social doctrine (nn. 26-29). Now we have a text dedicated entirely to this subject.

What strikes me from the outset is that the central concept remains caritas understood as divine love manifested in Christ. This is the source that inspires the thinking and behavior of the Christian in the world.

In its light, truth becomes "gift …, not produced by us, but rather always found or, better, received" (n. 34). It cannot be reduced merely to human goodwill or philanthropy.

In my intervention, I wish to comment first on social doctrine within the mission of the Church, and then treat one of its principles: the centrality of the human person.


1. Social Doctrine in the Mission of the Church

1.1. The Church's task is not to create a just society

The Church was constituted by Christ to be a sacrament of salvation for all men and women (LG 1). This specific mission subjects her to a constant misunderstanding: secularization to the point of making her a political agent. The Church inspires, but does not do, politics.

Drawing on Populorum Progressio, the new Encyclical states clearly: "The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim to meddle in the politics of the State" (n. 9).

The Church is neither a political party, nor a politicizing actor. Woe to those who reduce the Church's mission to a worldly pressure movement to obtain political results.

Cardinal Ratzinger himself opposed this possible misunderstanding in the 1980s as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the face of certain theologies of liberation. (Instructio of 6.8.1984).

This implies in turn that the social doctrine of the Church is not a "third way," that is a political program to be implemented in order to attain a perfect society.

Whoever thinks in this way risks -- paradoxically -- creating a theocracy, in which the valid principles concerning faith become, tout court, principles to be applied for social life, both for believers and unbelievers, embracing even violence.

In the face of such errors, the Church safeguards, together with religious freedom, the rightful autonomy of the created order, as assured by the Second Vatican Council.


1.2. Social Doctrine as an element of evangelization

Of course, the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate expresses the import of the Church social doctrine in various places, for example number 15, which treats the relationship between evangelization and human promotion, from the starting point of Populorum Progressio.

Whereas, up until now, social doctrine emphasized action to promote justice, now the pastoral side is broached: social doctrine is affirmed as an element of evangelization. That is to say: the Church's perennial announcement of Christ dead and risen has a consequence also for social living. This affirmation contains two aspects.

We cannot read social doctrine outside the context of the Gospel and its proclamation. Social doctrine, as this Encyclical demonstrates, is born from and is interpreted in the light of Revelation.

On the other hand, social doctrine cannot be identified with evangelization, but is one element. The Gospel deals with human acting also in social relations and institutions born from them, but cannot limit man to his social life.

John Paul II vigorously defended this concept in "Redemptoris Missio" (n.11). Hence, the Church's social doctrine cannot take over the announcement of the Gospel in the person-to-person encounter.


1.3. Social Doctrine: not without revelation

A brief historical overview: As a result of the industrial revolution (19th century) and its negative consequences, the Church's leaders urgently pressed the State for a response in order to reestablish social justice and the dignity of the human person in philosophical terms.

Later, with Pacem in Terris, John XXIII focused largely on the horizon of faith and spoke of sin and victory over it through the divine work of salvation.

John Paul II then introduced the concept of "structures of sin" and applied salvation also to the fight against human misery. His Sollicitudo Rei Socialis integrated social doctrine within moral theology: "This belongs, therefore, not to the field of ideology, but theology, and especially moral theology" (n. 41). With this step, social doctrine enters clearly into the theological domain.

The principles of social doctrine have not remained merely philosophical, therefore, but have their origin in Christ and His word. In Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI writes that faith purifies reason and thus helps it to create a just order in society; this is where social doctrine is inserted (cfr. 28a).

This proceeds, then, upon the foundation of a discussion accessible to all reason, and hence on the basis of natural law. But it recognizes its dependence on faith.

The new Encyclical treats more explicitly and more decisively all of this, with charity as the foundation. It teaches, "charity is the supreme path of the Church's social doctrine" (n. 2). Charity understood here as "received and given" by God (n. 5).

The love of God the Creator Father and His Redeemer Son, poured out in us through the Holy Spirit, empowers the social life of man on the basis of certain principles.

It affirms for development the "centrality … of charity" (n. 19). Wisdom -- it also says -- capable of orienting man "must be 'mixed' with the 'salt' of charity" (n. 30).

These simple -- apparently obvious -- affirmations conceal some important implications. When it is loosed from Christian experience, social doctrine becomes that ideology which John Paul taught it should not be. A political manifesto without a soul.

Social doctrine rather, in the first place, commits the Christian to "incarnating" his faith. As the Encyclical claims: "Charity manifests always, even in human relations, the love of God, it gives theologal and salvific value to every worldly task" (n. 6). To the oft-formulated question: "What contribution does the Christian make to the edification of the world?" social doctrine provides the answer.


2. An anthropocentric approach

The heart of social doctrine remains the human person. I already said that, in a first phase, the attention of this discipline was oriented, rather, to problematic situations within society: regulation of work, right to a just wage, worker representation.

Later, these problems were dealt with at an international level: the disparity between rich and poor, development, international relations.

With the theological emphasis, John XXIII treats more decisively the question of all this in terms of the human person -- we are in a second phase in the evolution of this discipline.

John Paul II then reinforced this understanding by centering social reflection on the anthropological. This aspect is present in a striking way in the document: "The first capital to be defended and valued is man, the human person, in his entirety" (n. 25); "The social question has become radically the anthropological question" (n. 75).

Progress, to be truly so, must, therefore, enable man to grow in his entirety: in the text, we find references to the environment, market, globalization, the ethical question, culture, that is, the various places where man carries out his activity.

This end remains a precious heritage in social doctrine from its beginnings. But, more deeply, the anthropological question implies answering a central question: which man do we wish to promote?

Can we consider true development a development that imprisons man in an earthly horizon, formed only by material well-being, ignoring the question of values, meaning, the infinite to which he is called?

Can a society survive without foundational reference points, without looking at eternity, denying man and woman an answer to their deepest questions? Can there be true development without God?

In the logic of this Encyclical, we find then a further stage, perhaps a third phase in the reflection on social doctrine. It is not by chance that charity is placed as a key link: divine charity responds, as a human act, through a theological virtue, as I said at the beginning.

Man is not considered only as the object of a process, but as the subject of this process. The man who has known Christ makes himself the agent of change in order that social doctrine does not remain a dead letter.

Pope Benedict writes: "Development is impossible without upright men and women, without economical actors and politicians who do not live strongly in their consciences the call to the common good" (n. 71).

Here, we are in perfect continuity with the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, which, in its second part, treats the characteristics of those who work in charitable organizations.

And the horizon widens to the public world, where often, in the north and south, we experience phenomena that are all too well-known, preventing the growth of people: corruption and illegality (cfr. n. 22), the lust for power (cfr. DCE 28).

The "original sin," as the text recalls in n. 34, prevents the construction of society in many places. Also in those who guide society. We cannot confront the social question without the ethical.

The Encyclical refers to the "new man" in the biblical sense (n. 12). There can be no new society without new men and women. Social doctrine will not remain a treatise or an ideology only if there are Christians prepared to live it in charity, with the help of God.

Authenticity on the part of all the actors is needed. Formulated without any twist of words: "Far from God, man is troubled and sick" (n. 76).

It is very significant that the last paragraph of the Encyclical (n. 79) is dedicated to prayer and the call to conversion: God renews the heart of man so that he may dedicate himself to living in charity and justice.

Christians, therefore, do not simply stand at the window to watch or protest, infected by the modern culture of denouncing others, but they allow themselves to be converted to build, in God, a new culture. This is true also for the Church's members, both as individuals and groups.


3. Progress

I wish to end with a reflection on the concept of progress. Paul VI -- this Encyclical also recalls -- spoke about it in a succinct way (Populorum Progressio, n. 21).

Unfortunately, human growth has often been conceived as independent from the question of faith, as if human promotion is one thing, and the proclamation of the faith another. In addition to unifying the two dimensions, this document introduces a further element in the concept of progress: hope (n. 34).

As Pope Benedict XVI stressed in Spe Salvi, hope cannot be that of progress constructed for well-being in this world (n. 30), since this does not coincide with human freedom (nn. 23-24); the foundation of Christian hope is the gift of God (n. 31).

Hence, hope helps us not to enclose progress in the edification of an earthly kingdom, but it opens us to the gift: in God, we find the crowning of the desire for man's good.

It is always within this optic that the Church formulates social doctrine and Christians find in it inspiration for their engagement in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen: There is great interest in this Encyclical. When read well, Benedict XVI's text is a light for society and, last but not least, for us Christians.




Vatican official considers
innovative ideas in CIV

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ROME, JULY 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Though Caritas in Veritate is in step with a long tradition of magisterial teachings on Catholic social doctrine, it also offers something new, says the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

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Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, just named the archbishop of Trieste, Italy, was one of those who presented Benedict XVI's third encyclical during a press conference Tuesday.

The prelate affirmed that "economy and work, family and community, natural law instilled in us and creation placed before us and for us, should be seen as a call," because social doctrine views development as a "vocation" that implies a "solidary taking up of the responsibility for the common good."

Archbishop Crepaldi highlighted that for the first time in a social encyclical, the right to life and to religious liberty are explicitly and clearly placed in relation to development.

"Procreation and sexuality, abortion and euthanasia, the manipulating of human identity and eugenic selection are evaluated as social problems of primary importance, which, if they are handled according to a logic of pure production, deform social sensitivity, undermining the sense of law, corroding the family and making it difficult to welcome the weak," he explained.

The encyclical affirms, the archbishop continued, that it is no longer possible "to implement development programs that are exclusively about economics-production, which do not systematically take into account as well the dignity of woman, of procreation, of the family, and the rights of the unborn."


Saving the planet

Archbishop Crepaldi also reflected on another novelty of this social encyclical: its attention to protecting the environment. He noted how this issue "should be freed from certain ideological drawbacks -- present in many versions of ecology -- that consist in neglecting the superior dignity of the human person and considering nature only in a materialist sense, produced by coincidence or necessity."

Another novelty is the encyclical's consideration of technology, which often leads to a mentality that could be called "technicity."

"The risk," the prelate said, "is that an exclusively technical mentality reduces everything to pure doing and is united to a nihilist and relativistic culture."

The Vatican official characterized Caritas in Veritate as a great cultural proposal at the service of authentic development, which encourages employing resources that are not only economic, but also immaterial and cultural, regarding attitudes and decisions.

In this context, he said, it demands a new perspective on man that only God who is Truth and Love can give.

The encyclical, Archbishop Crepaldi concluded, has the great merit of rising above outdated ideas and the oversimplification of complex problems. Attention is directed again to man, the object of truth and love and himself capable of loving and knowing the truth.

The Vatican official was asked why Caritas in Veritate was delayed in its publication. He answered that Centesimus Annus, the last social encyclical by Pope John Paul II, took five years to publish, while this encyclical required half that.

Also asked why the theme of peace was not included in-depth, the archbishop replied that it is "an encyclical not an encyclopedia."


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The Economist, a hoity-toity Britisn newsmagazine that has never been kind to Benedict XVI, decided to subsume - or submerge - its comments on CIV by lumping it in with other socially oriented initiatives by religious leaders at around the same time- initiatives the world may well never have been aware of.

It's another form of dissing the Pope, of course, but even they see positive points in the new encyclical.

BTW, Wikipedia quotes recent articles in other newspapers that describe the magazine this way: "The Economist generally supports free markets, globalisation, and free immigration, has been described as neo-liberal.[18] It also supports social liberalism, including legalised drugs and prostitution." In other words, characteristically 'liberal' or 'progressive' (the term many liberals now say they prefer) as we understand those terms today.

Curiously, it is also probably the only 'major' media outlet (its current circulation is about 1/2 million, 54% of it sold to a captive American readership) that does not use any bylines, even for its columns, (except when it solicits special contributions or runs a special report), which is perehaps explained by the fact that it "enforces a uniform voice throughout its pages, as if most articles were written by a single author".



New sins, new virtues
From The Economist print edition
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Jul 9th 2009 | ISTANBUL AND ROME


As the world heats up and economic dislocation ravages the poor, religious leaders offer up their diagnoses and prescriptions.


GLOBALISATION, technology and growth are in themselves neither positive or negative; they are whatever humanity makes of them.

Summed up like that, the central message of a keenly awaited papal pronouncement on the social and economic woes of the world may sound like a statement of the obvious.

But despite some lapses into trendy jargon, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), a 144-page encyclical issued by Pope Benedict XVI on July 7th, is certainly not a banal or trivial document.

It will delight some people, enrage others and occupy a prominent place among religious leaders’ competing attempts to explain and address the problems of an overheated, overcrowded planet.

From photogenic Anglicans like Richard Chartres, the bishop of London to the Dalai Lama, lots of prominent religious figures have been feeling the need to broaden their message. They are moving away from the old stress on individual failings (stealing, lying, cheating) and talking more about the fate of humanity as a whole.

But Pope Benedict, for all his concern with cosmic issues, is certainly not watering down his insistence on old-fashioned religious virtues, including caution and sobriety.

On many big public questions, he proposes a middle course between faith in scientific progress and nostalgia for a simpler past. People cannot expect to avoid the extremes, Benedict rather provocatively adds, when they are looking at the world through purely secular spectacles.

“When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes,” he argues.

Displaying a better-than-usual sense of public relations, the Holy See released the document on the eve of a world leaders’ summit in L’Aquila, east of Rome. And like many other big pronouncements from moral leaders, it will be seen as staking out ground ahead of the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December.

Encyclicals are the heaviest ammunition in the papacy’s intellectual arsenal. This one was delayed for more than two years as the Vatican’s thinkers struggled to keep abreast of developments in the world economy.

But the original purpose has remained intact: to offer a Catholic response to a global marketplace that in Benedict’s elegant turn of phrase, “makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers.”

The document accepts the legitimacy of markets or profits, as long as they are not idolised, or elevated far above the human beings who are affected by economic decisions.

But Benedict’s proposal for discerning the difference between healthy markets and pathological ones is uncompromising and offers no sops to the secular. An economy, he suggests, is working well when it allows individuals and societies to fulfil themselves in every way — something that in his view can happen only when God is involved.

The encyclical grafts this ideal of development in the service of God and man onto an insistence on Catholic morality in ethics.

As Austen Ivereigh, a British Catholic writer, puts it, “the message is that you can’t believe in social justice if you also believe in abortion and euthanasia.”

Giving short shrift to non-believers, the Pope also argues that without “truth” in the Christian sense, “there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power.”

This purist approach may risk narrowing the scope for the sort of tactical co-operation between believers and secularists that is emerging on many fronts, from the fight against malaria to weaning the world off hydrocarbons.

Still, some non-Catholics may agree (and some Catholics may disagree) with one of the Pope’s more concrete proposals: an overhaul of global institutions — or in plainer language an expanded role for the United Nations or some other authority. The aim of this new structure would be “the management of globalisation”. Vatican aides said this was not a proposal for world government — but it did sound a bit like that.

Such a body would need to be universally recognised, subject to international law and “vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice and respect for rights.” Its areas of competence would include managing the global economy, disarmament, food security, the environment and migration.

This may alarm those who see global bureaucracies’ sloth, pride, envy, greed and gluttony (to name only a few deadly vices) as exemplars of human failing. But the Vatican’s longing for a stronger UN goes back to 2003, when it was shocked by the world body’s inability to stop the Iraq war.

In any case, Benedict finds the roots of the economic crisis in wickedness. The global recession, he argues, is merely the latest effect of a tendency to confuse happiness and salvation with prosperity. But economic activity “cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic”. And the market should not be a place “where the strong subdue the weak”.

Throughout the document, leftish ideas about economics nestle alongside the austere moral reasoning that is a hallmark of the German-born pontiff.

A conservative American Catholic, George Weigel, has claimed that only certain parts of it — the bits he liked — were written by Benedict; in other sections he detects the influence of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, one of the more radical sections of the Vatican bureaucracy.

In the case of other religious leaders, the message is simpler. The Dalai Lama, for example, has drawn attention to a potential disaster which looms in his home region of Tibet: the melting of glaciers which serve as “Asia’s water tower” by feeding the rivers on which billions of people depend.

London’s Bishop Chartres has spearheaded efforts to make England’s established church much greener in its thinking and in its own behaviour. A plan called “Shrinking the Footprint” is intended to slash the carbon emissions of Anglican buildings, from cathedrals to vicarages to church halls.

And in Istanbul this week, dozens of prominent Islamic scholars delved into their tradition for answers to environmental problems. Originating in a land where water is very scarce, the Muslim faith has much to say about the need to use resources in a just and cautious way.

Still, the idea of restraining carbon emissions is not an easy sell in countries that have grown rich from selling hydrocarbons and have enough cash to import water and food.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Islamic scholar and spiritual guide to the global Muslim Brotherhood, got a rave reception at the Istanbul meeting — but his speech focused more on matters of human hygiene than on the treatment of the natural world.

Another participant, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, is by comparison a trailblazer. Ali Gomaa has agreed to make the institution he heads —
an office that issues fatwas, or rulings on ethical questions —carbon-neutral and is searching for carbon offsets in Egypt, a concept which few locals as yet understand.

Islam’s ecological message is much more readily grasped in the endangered forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. In Indonesia, for example, there are 17,000 madrassas — and a local NGO, the Conservation and Religion Initiative, reports good progress in persuading teachers in those schools to preach and practise good stewardship.

As a follow-up to the Istanbul gathering, Muslims and adherents of many other faiths will meet in Britain in November and present plans for greener management of their resources.

While Muslim greybeards deliberated, two leading figures in the eastern Christian world — the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, and the newly enthroned Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow — held a joint service nearby that signalled a warming in their relations and a common commitment to cool and generally improve the world.

Patriarch Bartholomew, who is planning to host an eco-symposium in New Orleans in October, called for an investigation of the “deeper spiritual and moral causes” of the planet’s woes.

Residing as he does near a narrow strait plied by giant tankers which bring oil from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, the Istanbul-based “green patriarch” was far ahead of the Vatican in calling pollution a sin.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 27/07/2009 12.18]
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Obama should heed
what the Pope says in CIV

Translated from
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August 3, 2009


The worldwide economic crisis continues, even if the president of the United States claims the recession has ended. And after that 'news' has sufficiently been talked about - often without having been read at all - banker-economist Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, says it's time to get back to Caritas in veritate.

He says it is a text all economists should read if they really want to understand 'what did not work'. To begin with, that ethics alone will not rescue mankind from the crisis.


What is the meaning of the close linkage that the encyclical attributes to charity and truth? In other words, is there a 'true' economy, or is it merely an instrument, though complex, for producing wealth?
The economy itself, if it does away with truth, negates itself, and as such, would no longer exist. To understand this, one does not have to be an economist. The crisis shows that, maes it understood by anyone who has an iota of perspicacity, that an economy which does not deal with truth is impossible - unless it is aiming for resulte other than what is there for all to see. In this sense, the crisis is a great macroscopic lesson that should not be wasted.


So, NO to an economy without truth. Are we then sending economists to religious instruction now?
Nothing of the sort! By a truthful economy, I mean that there cannot be an economy conceived as extraneous to certain laws that are written in things and are therfore at the basis of economic activity.

For example, the relationship between means and ends. If the economy of means becomes the end, then all we have is an instrument to multiply wealth at any cost. Man should know how to use the means of which he disposes. To know how to do this, he should know his ends.


It's not usual that one talks economics with a banker and hears him speak of 'laws written in things;.
If the laws of nature are not respected, the outcome will directly go against him who seeks to manipulate these laws.

And by natural law, I mean, first of all, as I explained, the relationship between means and ends. Whenever the multiplication of wealth - as, for instance, through the use of innovat6ive financial instruments - becomes an end in itself, the result is what we have seen.

We do not have to speak of God. We are talking about the economy, and this is what the encyclical does, just as Populorum progressio snd Centesimus annus did.


Therefore, the relationship between economics and ethics should be re-established, having been lost in the crisis?
No. It is not ethics that will save mankind from this crisis. If we wish to have an economy that is more respectful of morality, all it takes is simply - one might say - to be a good economist.

The relationship between ethics and economics is not in the fact that he who makes the economy decides to be more moral, or that he takes time to pray, but in this: that he practice good economics.

What creates prosperity is the good use of those particular instruments - economic instruments in this case, that nature - meaning the gifts we have been endowed with, has placed at our disposition.


The American president has said that we are nearing the end of the recession. Do you agree?
Look, to be able to say that, one must have the information that is avilable to the President of the United States, but I don't have such facts. To understand Obama's recent statements, I would start from what is probably his own starting point: that confidence is a scarce resource these days. Therefore, it is essential to increase confidence. But, I must add, one must do this with pragmatism and concreteness. And the wisdom to change course.


What has changed in the country that is the leader of world capitalism?
The crisis has shown us a perverse situation in which it is the American families who have been subsidizing the state. Instead of being served by the state, the people have served the state. [Does he mean the obvious? That by incurring massive debt, the govenment is really passing it on to the people who must pay out this debt, even unto coming generations?

But the debt-ridden life of American families has been the most obvious sign of how the state and the system can feed and lead to a lifestyle that produces an illusory, tricked-up economic development in order to increase the US domestic national product.

It was not by chance that Obama said at the start of the last G20 meeting, "We Americans should stop living above our means".

[It is only fair that Gotti Tedeschi should have pointed out that the Obama administration itself is contradicting that dictum, amassing unheard-of trillions in debt and deficit in Obama's first six months alone through astronomical spending bills. And now wanting to add yet more trillions through an ill-conceived healthcare reform that would let the government take over 20% more of the country's economy - after housing, mortgages, banks and the car industry.]


To admit that means acknolwedging that consumerism and living on credit caused the disaster.
Yes, and it is not I who is saying this. The president of the United States said so. American families have lost the little savings they have, they have lost their pension funds that were invested in stocks, they find themselves having to pay years of credit, and they must face rising unemployment.

[But all that wasn't the fault of 'American families' in general! It was the fault of a government that encouraged people to buy homes they could not afford [policies put in place as an entitlement for low-income Americans by the Democrats under Clinton] and a financial system that assured unprecedented profit for those who knew how to manipulate the system. The huge American middle class in between these lowest and highest levels of the economic hierarchy has ended up being the most aggrieved victim.]

Obama cannot just say that the recession is behind us - he should also explain why he thinks it is over, and he should explain why it should never repeat itself.

[I find it very odd that Gotti Tedeschi says nothing of the Obama administration's willfully counter-productive strategy - and evident record thus far - of spending even more, under the pretext that more government spending, more government debt and deficit, more government intervention in the daily lives of American,. is the way out of the crisis. Why does he criticize the American people but not the government?]


Let us widen our field of observation. Did the recent 'G2' summit between the USA and China create the weight-bearing axle that will carry global economics and poltiticis in this century? And what role would Europe have?
The United States wants a strategic alliance with China because China has what teh US does not have: enormous capacity for investment and consumership. That is pr4ecisely what the United States needs.

China is destined to increase its influence and to become the world's primary economic power.

But I do not believe that there will be a true and proper US-China axis. Simply because China does not look at the US, as the US looks at China.

I see China as opportunistically leaning to the USA today but strategically addressing itself to Europe. Rather than merely 'chimerical', China's influence will be real - it is investing massively in the USA and it is very much interested in the Mediterranean region, where it has been exporting people, capital and productive capacity. We can all expect completely new scenarios and a new balance of power.

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Posted earlier in the BENEDICT NEWS thread:

I had been hoping for a significant English article about CIV that I could post todat on the first month anniversary of the encyclical. A blogger alerted me to this article for a monthly magazine which makes soem good points, mostly at the expense of George Weigel for what I continue to think was an uncharacteristic rush to judgment - mostly negative - on the encyclical. He has since sort of made up for that, of course, by a more typical sober column that I also posted here.


Is the Pope capitalist?
No, he is simply Catholic

By Stuart Reid
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For the issue of Sept. 1, 2009



Hilaire Belloc said, “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe.” As far as Catholics such as George Weigel and his neocon pals are concerned, however, that is so Old Europe. To them it makes much more sense to say, “America is the Faith and the Faith is America.”

From the Faith of America comes the Weigelian Church, which preaches liberal capitalism, pre-emptive war, the Little Way of Sarah Palin, global democratic revolution, and faith and works.

Walker Percy saw this Church coming in Love in the Ruins. He called it the American Catholic Church. One of its major feast days was Property Rights Sunday, during which the ACC would display a blue banner showing Christ holding the American home (with white picket fence) in His hands.

The ACC would probably not have liked the Pope’s new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate — Love in Truth — any more than George Weigel does. Caritas runs to 30,000 words and is a summary of Catholic teaching on such matters as economics, trade, and employment.

It is, in other words — at least as far as the media is concerned — a politically charged document. And since Weigel is one of America’s most politically charged Catholic thinkers — known, especially, for his strong support of George W. Bush — his views on the encyclical had been eagerly awaited. [What does his support of W have to do with his views on the encyclical????]

In some quarters, George Weigel is seen as a guardian of orthodoxy, a hammer of the dissenting liberals who question papal teaching on such matters as contraception, abortion, and marriage — the “cafeteria Catholics” who pick what they like from the Catholic menu and turn their noses up at the rest.

Now suddenly, in his reaction to Caritas at National Review Online, Weigel has himself become a dissenting Catholic. He was not pleased that, for example, the encyclical says more about wealth redistribution than wealth creation and spoke of its “clotted and muddled” language and “confused sentimentality.”

Caritas was disjointed, he declared, the work of so many hands that “the net result is, with respect, an encyclical that resembles a duck-billed platypus.”

With respect? Quack, quack. What irked Weigel especially, I suspect, is that Caritas in Veritate lavishes great praise on the Pope Paul VI’s 1967 social encyclical Populorum Progressio, which was denounced as “souped-up Marxism” by the Wall Street Journal. [Also, I continue to believe, because Benedict XVI did not focus on John Paul II's social encyclicals, which for B16's purposes were less relevant to CIV than Paul VI's PP.]

For some right-wing Catholics that verdict became de fide, along with National Review’s gag — “Mater, Si, Magistra, No” — on the publication of John XXIII’s equally progressive social encyclical Mater et Magistra in 1961. ['Progressive' meaning 'socialist' or 'socialist-tending' rather than pro-capitalist?]

But conservatives in the 1960s should really not have troubled their shaggy little heads with the Church’s apparent “lurch to the left.” The fact is that capitalist ideology — as it has emerged in modern times — has never been embraced by the Church, and it should come as no surprise that it is not now being embraced by Benedict.

The historian Eamon Duffy summed up Catholic social teaching nicely when he wrote of Pope Pius XI (no lefty he), “he loathed the greed of capitalist society, ‘the unquenchable thirst for temporal possessions,’ and thought that liberal capitalism shared with communism ‘satanic optimism’ about human progress.”

It is possible that the great foe of communism Whitaker Chambers would have agreed with Pius. On Christmas Eve 1958, in a letter to his friend William F. Buckley Jr., he wrote, “capitalism is not, and by its essential nature cannot conceivably be, conservative. This is particularly true of capitalism in the United States, which knew no Middle Ages; which was born, in so far as it was ideological, in the Enlightenment.”

“Conservatism,” he added, “is alien to the very nature of capitalism whose love of life and growth is perpetual change … conservatism and capitalism are mutually exclusive manifestations, and antipathetic at root.”

One of the things to remember about the Catholic Church, perhaps, is that it is Christian and therefore not inclined to look with great favor on Mammon. It seeks a way of pursuing the good life, even the prosperous life, that does not involve denial of God or — a key point in Benedict’s encyclical — the abandonment of life at any stage of its development.

Not easy, of course, but, though Weigel contemptuously dismisses the idea, there is a Catholic third way between capitalism and socialism, not the one seen by Benedict’s co-religionist Tony Blair — that took us into Iraq and fed us to marketing men, with their spread sheets, Polish nannies, and suits without ties — but by such people as G.K. Chesterton, the Southern Agrarians, and Konrad Adenaeur, whose political principles were based on Catholic social teaching and who led West Germany into her Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle).

Maybe this third way will never play in Peoria or in Stratford-upon-Avon. Still, it pleases me that Caritas in Veritate will have answered at least one important question: Is the Pope capitalist? He is not. Neither is he socialist, of course, far less a liberal. What is he, then? The Pope is Catholic.


I find it sad that Catholics who consider themselves politically conservative should be split into 'regular' conservatives, I suppose one might call them, such as Mr. Reid, and those who have been labelled 'neo-cons' ['neo-' because they advocate a 'new conservatism' or are lately come to conservatism? - and which conservatism: Catholic orthodoxy or political conservatism?] like Weigel and Michael Novak.

The latter has written at least three essays tending to question the Pope, to say the least, on aspects of the encyclical. The first one was in First Things, 'The Pope of Caritopolois' which was posted here, in which, surprisingly, he says "The Catholic tradition — even the wise Pope Benedict — still seems to put too much stress upon caritas, virtue, justice, and good intentions, and not nearly enough on methods for defeating human sin in all its devious and persistent forms". To which my immediate reaction was: But what methods are there except what Christ taught????? Love and abandonment to God in prayer! Which, of course, this Pope, like other Popes before him, ceaselessly preaches.

The two others were longer essays for the Italian newspaper Libero, the first of which was entitled "But I prefer John Paul II's Centesimus Annus', and the second, more recently, entitled 'So much charity, less truth'.

(For context, Centesimus Annus was John Paul II's take on social and economic issues in the world following the collapse of Communism-Marxism, so by its nature, it was bound to be 'anti-socialist' and consequently 'pro-capitalist'. But again, that is to interpret papal encyclicals according to conventional categories of thought!)

In fairness to Novak, the headline writer chose to use in both cases an actual line from the essays taken out of context, and Novak also tries to bend over backwards to make a 'softening' statement after articulating a criticism (but I find such effort condescending rather than deferential to the Pope).

Novak did have one positive reaction - the brief essay he submitted to the Catholic Thing forum, also posted here at the time.

In any case, I find it objectionable that Catholic writers of whatever ideological shade should use the Pope in any way to wage war against those who have politically/ideologically opposed views.



An initial reaction to Reid's article by someone who appears to be more formally rooted in the affairs of the Church reinforces the distressing nature of the intra-Catholic 'ideological wars'.

Surprise, the Pope is Catholic
by Daniel Nichols
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I had been planning on writing at length on Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, but Stuart Reid has written so well on it in The American Conservative that I will just link to his succinct and eloquent essay here.

I will only add that I am much gratified and not a little bewildered by the Catholic neoconservatives’ reaction to it. Gratified, because I have been saying for years that they are not interested in conforming their thought to the mind of the Church, but only in bending it to fit their ideology, a sort of romantic free market fundamentalism wedded to belligerent nationalism. Conservative Catholics have generally taken issue or even mocked that contention, but here are Novak and Weigel proving my point beyond dispute.

I heard Novak on the radio dismissing Populorum Progressio - Paul VI’s encyclical, which Benedict was commemorating - as the Church’s “pinkest encyclical”. And he has since criticized the Pope for putting “too much stress upon caritas, virtue, justice and good intentions and not nearly enough on defeating human sin”.

A vicar of Christ is overemphasizing Divine Love? That sort of leaves one speechless, and never mind that Mr Novak’s strategy for “defeating human sin” in the past has included preemptive war. And never mind that the market controls which the neocons find so offensive are precisely geared to defeating the human sins engendered by the market.

And Weigel really went overboard in attacking the encyclical, which he “respectfully” likened to a “duck-billed platypus”. He then proceeded to instruct the faithful on what parts of Caritas they should ignore.

Which is bewildering. The strategy of co-opting the Church’s social teaching, in selecting isolated passages from isolated encyclicals to prove their contentions while ignoring all that counters them, has served the neoconservatives so well in the past that one can only wonder what has changed them.

Not that an honest reading of the Church’s teachings did not contradict them at nearly every point; I suspect that only the willing were deceived. But once again it is evident that, as Mr Reid says, the Pope is not a capitalist. Nor is he a socialist or a liberal or a conservative. Surprise, the Pope is Catholic.

I hope I will be excused for enjoying my intellectual opponents making fools of themselves. I will try not to take inordinate pleasure in the spectacle. But it will be a struggle.

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Posted earlier in BENEDICT NEWS:

Along the paths of man:
Cardinal Canizares presents CIV
at a summer course in Spain

Translated from
the 8/8/09 issue of

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"There is no economy without people, nor is there true development unless man in his wholeness is taken into account".

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said in Aranjuez, Spain, yesterday at a summer course on economy at King Juan Carlos University.

Canizares, who was Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain until he was named to the Curia last year, lectured on "The Person and the Economy", starting from the premise that in the present context, "it is the question of God that is in play".

He proposed an analysis of society in which the Church "must be present, placing God at the center of everything", referring to Pope Benedict's third encyclical, Caritas in veritate, whose very title, he said, was 'courageous, significant and stimulating'.

The Pope's encyclical, he said, confronts social issues in order to offer "the light of the Gospel of which the Church is the bearer" and does so 40 years after the publication of Paul VI's Populorum progressio.

Thus, "at the complex crossroads in which humanity finds itself today, in a full-blown global economic crisis, Caritas in veritate proposes 'a new path for mankind'... (providing) a singular contribution to the world today".

Stressing that this was not just a social encyclical, the cardinal noted how the Pope 'entered' not only into the roots of the financial-economic crisis but also into the day-to-day lives of families and individuals, not limiting himself to theoretical principles nor offering technical solutions, but inviting those concerned to always consider the actual needs of individuals.

With man as the center of attention, therefore, financial instruments alone will not overcome the global recession. Rather, man must trust in 'the power of love' - on that nearness to one's fellowmen that is not simply almsgiving, but solidarity, free generosity, sharing.

Indeed, the Church does not have any technical solutions to offer, but "its mission is truth in the name of a society built to the measure of man... (since) the truth about man insures that there is hope for mankind in the future".

Referring to the Pope's meeting last month with US President Barack Obama, the cardinal pointed out that the defense of life was a major topic, since practices contrary to human dignity are "the maximum expression of a materialistic view of the world".

Against such a view, he said, "the Church looks to the future with hope". He then went on to review past interventions on the subject by Benedict XVI before he became Pope.

As early as the 1950s and 1960s, he said, then Prof. Joseph Ratzinger already spoke and wrote about "recovering the authentic concept of Christian brotherhood, one of the key themes of the encyclical, and of which he never lost sight."

Canizares said that Benedict XVI has never been "an abstract thinker, but one very much in the world" who has always been able to conciliate faith and reason as a response to the problems of modernity, advocating full integral human development as necessary for the authentic progress of peoples.

"He has always sought to respond to the great problems of mankind and morality by offering the light of faith as the instrument of salvation."

As Archbishop of Munich-Freising, he recalled, Ratzinger first undertook a study of Europe in which he advocated "the defense of democracy and of the rule of law" along with "the need not to relegate the faith to an exclusively private sphere".

For this reason, the cardinal concluded, "there is no economy without
people, without resolving the question of man, without the truth of man who needs Jesus Christ, and without a sense of the common good."

Responding to newsmen's questions before he gave his lecture, Canizares also referred to the encyclical, particularly its section on the defense of life.

He said "laws should protect defenseless beings but today, they are used instead to eliminate the weak, the innocent and the defenseless. Medicine itself exists to cure persons, not to eliminate them".

He noted that the present economic conjuction also indicates an anthropological crisis, as the Pope points out in the encyclical, because "it is man himself and one's view of man" that is at stake - and so "the crisis is also cultural social, and moral, a crisis of humanity itself."



'Caritas in veritate':
It transcends the concept
of the modern nation-state

by Giandomenico Picco
Former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
Translated from
the 8/7/09 issue of

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The modern nation-state, which was born with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and took form with the American and French Revolutions, has always had a secret weapon: the concept of individual/national identity.

American historian Arthur Schlesinger has said that our intellect is not structured to be able to imagine the multiple possibilities of the future.

Indeed, it would have been difficult to imagine globalization as it has developed in the past few decades. It has changed the concept of 'neighbor', in the sense of anyone who could have a positive or negative impact on the life of every person.

Today, in fact, the activities of those who live on other continents can and do influence our personal day-to-day, whereas when I was a child, my idea of 'neighbor' was Carinthia in Austria, Slovenia which was then Yugoslavia, and the Veneto.

Caritas in veritate underlines that globalization "makes us neighbors, but not brothers".

In my experiences with peoples at war or living with terrorism, the concept of communication and dialog, of coexistence and even friendship - no matter how different various cultures are - appeared to be and was realizable.

But I must admit that the concept of brotherhood never figured among the objectives of any negotiation, official or otherwise. And the encylical explains it thus: reason is capable of establishing 'coexistence' but not 'brotherhood'.

In the eyes - the only part of the face I could see - of the masked Lebanese who placed a hood over my head while he drove me through the streets of Beirut at night, I sought some element of human commonality.

Some words of the encylical, words very dear to Pope Benedict XVI, would have been helpful to me then: "Religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentic human face" (No. 56).

In Caritas in veritate, I found the seeds of a vision for a future international order which conform to my own reading of reality and of my own multicultural personal history as someone from a border area that was always involved in mediating conflicts.

The reference to the limitations of State in a globalized world (cfr No. 24) and even more, the statement that "it is not necessary that the State has the same characteristics everywhere" (No. 41), open the doors to a concept of the nation-state that I would call post-Westphalian.

In the system that I see emerging, every protagonist is stronger, and at the same time, weaker, than thirty years ago, as an effect of inter-relations and interdependeces that were unthinkable before then.

The possibility that every experience of nationhood has a duration independent of others after which it exhausts itself is plausible: for some nation=states, that experience may be coming to an end.

The Pope makes a reference to a world political authority that does not yet exist, but also to the role of individuals and non-government organizations, unelected, as protagonists in the emerging international society.

Are they perhaps the first germinating elements of a direct democracy in a global society in which the individual has instruments as never before to communicate his own will and opinions?

The encyclical encourages the concept of the 'responsibility to protect' (No, 67) the citizens of every nation from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, even if individual states are unable to do it themselves: this is the new frontier of international law that goes beyong Westphalia. [A concept well articulated by Benedict XVI in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in April 2008, but then, that speech never got the attention and study that it merited - and continues to merit.]

Even more important in the encyclical's indications for a future world order is the appeal to free ourselves of those ideologies "which simplify reality, often in an artificial way" (No, 22).

That is a hope that encounters strong resistance today in many parts of the world because of the fear that the new complexities of a globalized world arouse in many.

Fundamentalisms of varying extraction are unfortunately present in many nations, and with them, the arrogance of ignorace continues to sow the seeds of confrontation and conflict.

The number of variables that the managers of the world must take into account has grown a lot in the last twenty years, and the temptation to find refuge in simplistic theories is nourished by ancestral sentiments.

The encyclical responds to this: "Hope encourages reason and gives it the power to orient the will" (No. 34). Thus, the need to generate hope.

Benedict XVI also hopes for a reform of the United Nations system and of international economic and financial institutions. And I hope that this can be accomplished not only at the numerical level.

For example, a much enlarged Security Council would be a modest reform but it could also result in further lessening its efficacy. The proper objective of reform should be the method of work employed by the various organisms of the United Nations.

"The unity of the human family does not in itself annul persons, peoples and cultures, but makes them more transparent to each other, better united in their legitimate diversities" (No. 53), the Pope states in the encyclical, perhaps with the subtext of reading identities differently.

Globalization is slowly undermining what Amartya Sen calls 'the illusion of choiceless identity', which has been the secret of the nation-state.

The emergence of multiple identities, in my opinion, will not simply change the international system but the nation-state itself, thus making more realizable the concept of a human family.

Then, perhaps, we will have leaders who will know how to be leaders even without an enemy to rally their followers against.


This is a good occasion to translate a couple more front-page commentaries on CIV that have been published in OR in the past week:


Like a lightning bolt
through the malaise of society

by Xavier Darcos
Member, Institute of France
French Minister of Labor and Social Relations
Translated from
the 8/3-8/4/09 issue of

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Addressing a disoriented world, non-egalitarian and traumatized by the spasms of a global crisis, the encyclical Caritas in Veritate arrived at the right time, like a lightning bolt ripping through dark clouds.

It allows Benedict XVI to spell out anew the doctrine of the Church in the face of the social realities today which have been based on the cynical laws of profit and unregulated economic interdependence.

It proclaims that other ways are possible and necessary. From the very sources of the Christian message, it draws hope for innovative orientations and solutions.

Benedict XVI celebrates love, the cardinal virtue of the faith - the impulse of the spirit towards other,s 'the master way of the social dostrine of the Church".

He places himself in the stream of light cast by Leo XIII's Rerum novarum to Paul VI's Populorum progressio.

The Pope first of all reaffirms what is fundamental in Christianity - love, sharing, justice - as a remedy for the selfish tactics of each-one-for-himself.

He reminds us that the Gospel opens the path towards a society of freedom and equality. And that "a Christianity of love without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance."

John Paul II made an impression on the public because of the spiritual struggle that he embodied against Soviet and Stalinist Marxism. But he, too, criticized the generalized anomie that capitalism had drifted to.

With the same impulse, Benedict XVI draws a severe balance sheet of the criminal drifts that globalization has taken, thanks to financing based on quick profits for a few.

His analyses are precise, documented and ample. They show the alienation of a humanity that has been devastated by insupportable inequalities among men, societies and nations.

Such a balance sheet, made even gloomier by the present crisis, demands a redefinition of development that is not reduced to simple continuous economic growth. The Pope stigmatizes the evident failures in their various visible forms.

The process of development requires a guide: truth.

"Love in truth' - 'the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity". Otherwise, "social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation".

Let us open our eyes: voracious progress, based on material and speculative resources, has failed. The world is devouring itself, as Chronos devours his own children. The Church proposes another choice: 'integral development' which assures shared humanistic emancipation.

Growth is beneficial, globalization does not necessarily generate catastrophe, technology in itself is not perverse - but these brute forces should be subordinated to an ethic.

In a world without compass, there are promising experiences that have started to establish new relations among men. Benedict XVI asks that such attempts be generalized, in order to explore the ways of giving, of gratuitousness, of redistribution.

He condemns the vacuity of a relativism which deprives men, in some way, of any sense to their collective life. Thus he blames the two dangers that threaten culture: an eclecticism in which everything is as good as another, without references nor hierarchy; and the uniformization of lifestyles.

In the face of the failure of 'having' and the chaos of 'being', Benedict XVI calls for a new alliance between faith and reason, between divine light and human intelligence.

Even if "she has no technical solutions to offer", the Church has 'a mission of truth to fulfill' towards "a society built in the measure of man, of his dignity, of his vocation".

Because if one goes beyond appearances, the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of a physical and material order. Rather, it resides more than anything in the lack of brotherhood among men and among peoples: "A society which is ever more globalized makes us neighbors but not brothers".

The Pope has launched an appeal in order that this crisis may oblige us to reconsider our itinerary, in view of the fact that while global wealth has grown, the disparities have also increased.

Such a magma which erodes values, has led to a depreciation of life in its specificity, to discourage natality, to suppress religious freedom, to terrorize spirituality, to put a brake on confidence and on expansion.

All it takes is that men become aware of being part of one single family, which means a recovery of uncommon values: of giving, of rejecting the market as an instrument of domination, of abandoning the culture of hedonism, of an equitable distribution of resources, cooperation, and the like.

The Pope's thinking reveals the incubus of mankind drunk on the Promethean claim to being able to 're-create' man himself by availing of the wonders of technology such as cloning, genetic manipulation, eugenics.

The source of these deviations is one and the same: dehumanization. Thus, wherever we live and whatever degree of responsibility we have, each of us must reconcile ourselves with love and forgiveness, reject the superfluous, be generous to our neighbor, work for justice and peace.

Such conduct is a moral demand that has become a condition for survival.

Reading this encyclical, which is permeated with magnificent spiritual fervor, one does not get the impression of an abstract meditation or a prayer. Rarely has a Pope looked at reality so closely in order to analyze its evils in depth and to propose, with pragmatism and lucidity, the most useful antidotes.

May his message be understood and heeded!


Two Popes and the Transfiguration
by Fr. Robert Imbelli
Translated from
the 8/5/09 issue of

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The Transfiguration - one of the religious feast days that is most theologically rich - reveals the true face of Christ, beloved Son of the Father, and the destiny to which the disciples and all men are called, revealing the truth about Christ and all mankind, as St. mark narrates: "After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them" (Mk 9,2).

Some Fathers of the Church have interpreted the words 'after six days' as an announcement of the fulfillment of creation. The creation of Adam and Eve by God is thus fulfilled in the revelation of the true man, the new Adam, Jesus Christ, in whom the glory of God physically dwells.

Moreover, the progressive education of mankind by God, through the patient pedagogy of the Torah and the Prophets, also culminates in the Son of God. That is why Moses and Elijah appear wrapped in light whose source is Christ. Their testimony was an anticipation of the glory fully revealed in Christ, their words an echo of the Word of God become human in Jesus.

In Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict XVI writes: "Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God's fmaily as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism" (No 78).

This theme, so dear to Paul VI, inspires the social doctrine of the Church and impels us to work for integral human development. Drawing from Paul VI's Populorum progressio, Benedict XVI's encyclical underscores that "the truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development" (No. 18).

Integral humanism exalts the dignity of every person from conception to natural death. It recognizes the material and spiritual needs of the human family. It promotes social justice and attributes the highest place to the common good.

It knows that service to the common good demands concrete and effective solidarity at every level. it acknowledges that the destiny of mankind is collective and that its ultimate end is the communion of saints who live with God for eternity.

A truly integral humanism contemplates mankind and all creation ultimately transfigured in Christ. In this light, one may celebrate the Transfiguration as a feast in which the Church proclaims its vision of integral humanism.

Contemplating the beauty of Christ transfigured makes his disciples desire that the world may be enveloped in the light of his transfiguration and act audaciously according to this holy desire.

But the Transfiguration also reveals 'the price of ddiscipleship' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). In the narration of St. Luke, Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus "of his exodus, that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem" (Lk 9,31).

The full weight of Jesus's love, his caritas in veritate, would be manifested only in the Paschal mystery. The new transfigured life can be obtained only through the death of the old Adam in us, so that we may be reborn to the newness of the transfigured life.

To faithfully live the journey of faith, we need a renewed commitment to follow the transfigured Christ. The Christian vision of integral humanism should be incarnated in an integral spirituality in which prayer and action, truth and love, individual responsibility and social justice, together form a seamless whole.

Caritas in veritate is permeated by the conviction that spiritual discipline and constant conversion are necessary: "Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if 'hearts of stone' are to be transformed into 'hearts of flesh' [Ez 36,26) , rendering life on earth 'divine' and thus more worthy of humanity" (No. 79).

Paul VI manifested this mystery in his life. The image of the transfigured Lord energized the heart of his spirituality and his hopes for the Church and mankind. It was a wonderful grace of Providence that this Pope died on the evening of the feast, on August 6, 1978.

Among the last words we heard from Paul VI, on the month of the Transfiguration, were perhaps those from the second Letter of Peter (1, 17-19), which constitute a testimony from this great Pope.

Jesus "received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice of majestic glory came: 'This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well-pleased'. We heard this voice descend from heaven while we were with him on that holy mountain. And we also heard, very solidly, the words of the prophets, to which you would do well to pay attention as to a lamp that shines in a dark place until day comes and the morning star rises in our hearts".


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Another early commentary I missed is unusual because it is co-authored by a rabbi and a Catholic missionary.


Truth in investment
by Rabbi Mark Goldsmith and Rev Seamus Finn
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July 10, 2009


The world has never been fully created. Judaism teaches that each human being is God’s partner in the continuing work of creation, through the concept of Tikkun Olam, our responsibility to repair the world in order that it can achieve the perfection that was intended for it.

In his 1967 Encyclical Populorum Progressio Pope Paul VI stated the Christian parallel to this doctrine: “Everyone who works is a creator”.

Many quotations from Populorum Progressio are included in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate published on July 7 by Pope Benedict XVI, which is the latest statement of Catholic social teaching for today.

Human work is never morally neutral. We always do it within the context of the economy of the time and place. Decisions need to be made about how people are treated in our common enterprise, how we will relate to the natural environment in which we work and how we will share the proceeds of our work.

As Pope Benedict writes, “justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity ... locating resources, financing production, consumption and all the other phases of the economic cycle inevitable have moral implications.”

The Encyclical notes that major changes to the business environment have taken place since 1967 that call for an updated response. Pope Benedict points out that today it is rare today for a substantial business to be in the hands of a stable long-term director, or to depend on a single territory.

Outsourcing of resource procurement and production means that there is a weaker sense of responsibility towards stakeholders such as employees of the companies and local communities who are manufacturing or providing your service for us or for their “downstream” suppliers.

Judaism and Christianity agree that, since we are created in the image of God, we all have an inviolable human dignity and a right to be treated as being of equal value in the universe as a whole.

This means that we cannot regard globalisation of production and consumption as a reason to care less about the people who are involved in the process, simply because they are more remote from us.

This has implications for the investments decisions that religious people make. Pope Benedict’s Encyclical quotes from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus, where he taught that “investment always has moral, as well as economic significance”.

The International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG) reaches out to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and all peoples of faith to encourage them to invest their own assets in accord with the teachings of their faith.

What we have found over the years that we have been coming together is that each of these faiths teaches that our investment decisions have moral dimension and have real consequences.

Thus we have a duty to make investment choices based on the social, environmental and justice principles and performance of the companies in which we invest alongside our God given ability to create wealth and prosperity by our economic activity.

Just as we expect a good standard of ethical practice from charities and governmental bodies, so too should we expect and demand a good standard of ethics from the businesses in which we invest.

Our faith demands that we do no less as we seek to realise our commitment to one another and to our earthly home. As Pope Benedict’s Encyclical teaches corporations are just as much participants in God’s world with duties as well as rights as we are as individuals.



Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is the Principal Rabbi of North Western Reform Synagogue, London; and Rev Seamus Finn, is the Director for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Missionary Oblates, Washington DC.

Rabbi Goldsmith and Fr. Finn are members of the Executive Committee of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG).


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Reflections on the Pope's
social encyclical

by Cardinal Justin Rigali
Emeritus Archbishop of Philadelphia
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August 11, 2009


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On July 7, Pope Benedict XVI published his latest encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate, “Charity in Truth.” Although this newspaper has already printed a detailed summary of this encyclical and I have made a statement concerning it, it is timely for me to cover this topic in this week’s article as well.


The human community

The Church does not generally favor a particular form of government in itself. Some forms are or have been more consistent with the Church’s teachings concerning the common good of society, others have even defended moral values in the face of opposition, but the aim of the Church is always what is best for the human person and, therefore, for the human community.

This is an important concept to remember as we approach this encyclical because it is one of what are called “social encyclicals,” that is those which address the state of human society, especially in regards to labor and the economy.

It is common for different points of view to look for their justification in encyclicals such as these but that is not their purpose.

The purpose of this encyclical, and indeed all the Church’s social encyclicals, is to proclaim and defend the dignity of the human person and proclaim the great possibilities and responsibilities that accompany that dignity.

Pope Benedict specifically states in this encyclical that the principles he puts forth here are consistent with those of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI and all his predecessors before them.


Theme of the encyclical

It can be said that because we live in an age of such instant communication there is a danger that we will become victims of what we can call “sound-bite philosophy.”

In other words, we can easily be swayed by catchy phrases or appeals to our emotions. This manner of viewing the world robs us of the use of our great abilities as human persons: to know, to think and to reason.

This is one of the reasons Pope Benedict has titled his encyclical Charity in Truth. Charity is only genuine when it is based upon the truth concerning the individual as a creature of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ.

When the truth of the human person, along with his origin and his destiny, is forgotten, untold ills can result. The last century has proven this to be all too true.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, recently summed up the contribution of Benedict XVI’s third encyclical.

He said that the encyclical was an attempt to “rediscover the courage to plan the future of humanity, not with the illusions of worn out ideologies, but with the freedom of gathering together in an ample dynamic synthesis all the elements offered by the negative and positive experience of peoples, from the reflections of the various disciplines, from the toil of reason. All of that would be unrealistic and sterile without the breath of life that the inspiration of faith offers.”


The experience of gift

A central concept of the Holy Father’s encyclical is that of gift.

First, there must be an acknowledgment on the part of each individual that he has been gifted by God with his life and his marvelous human nature, with all its possibilities.

To forget the source of energy, ideas and success or to try to live as if we have forgotten them is never a recipe for peace or true charity.

This is why the Pope is encouraging all those of good will to seek charity in truth, and not apart from it. Otherwise, even the best efforts will result in an exercise of naked power and egocentrism.

By our very nature, we are made to live in community and so the gift we have received must be shared with others and exercised for their benefit as well as our own.

Our experience of gift must extend to our neighbor and to the greater human community, always based upon a foundation of truth concerning the origin of this gift.

As I said in my statement on this encyclical:

“Pope Benedict is saying that love itself, which is charity, is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace.

"He is proposing now, as a means for the development of peoples, as a means of promoting human dignity, as a means of facing the problems that we are faced with — all these economic problems and all their consequences — the Pope is saying, we do have a solution and we have to begin with love that expresses itself in truth.”

Father Lombardi also highlighted this concept of gift in his news conference, in which he expanded on and explained certain parts of the encyclical.

He said: “Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift. Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension.”


Charity not to be reduced
to mere sentimentalism


As we know, the Church always seeks to apply eternal truths, which do not change, to the realities of modern life, which do change.

When reading the homilies and addresses given by our Holy Father, we see that he possesses a remarkable awareness of the realities of the modern world, with all of their strengths and weaknesses.

Some have attributed the extremely large numbers of pilgrims going to Rome in order to see and hear Pope Benedict, to the ability of the average person to listen to and understand the Pope’s exhortations and challenges.

One of the observations he makes in Caritas in Veritate concerns the dangers of sentimentalism, which I addressed in this column last year.

Pope Benedict points out that if charity is not understood in the light of truth and with a proper understanding of the human person, it can easily lead to an arbitrary sentimentality with a very weak foundation. It can also be manipulated for various purposes by appealing to the emotions alone.

The Pope writes: “Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the ‘economy’ of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.”

The Pope observes that without a firm foundation in truth “charity degenerates into sentimentality and love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way” (paragraphs 2 and 3).

Pope Benedict also points out the tendency of our modern society to think that it can accomplish all things on its own. It can, therefore, plan and control success or failure based upon its own programs and ideas, often seen without the light of objective truth.

This temptation is summed up at the end of the encyclical with the Pope’s heartfelt exhortation to view charity in truth and not apart from it. We would do well to conclude our brief reflection on this encyclical by quoting the Holy Father’s words on this subject.

He writes: “Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love” (78).


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Authentic human development:
Caritas in Veritate

By Rev. Richard Benson, C.M.
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August 14, 2009


Vincentian Father Richard Benson is academic dean and professor of moral theology at St. John's Seminary, Camarillo. His column appears monthly in The Tidings.


Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth), provides a timely challenge to a contemporary world in which the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" continues to grow, where materialism and individualism are sought after in place of authentic human fulfillment, and where the "consumer" and short term "profit" have become the benchmarks of too many capitalists and too many capitalist enterprises.

If anything is clear after a thorough reading of the encyclical, it is that, despite the "fall of communism" in the former Soviet Union and its satellites, capitalism has not triumphed as a means to guarantee integral human development.

The meltdown of Wall Street combined with the personal and institutional corruption that has come to light in the world of banking, investment and politics have provided just the right context to prove the need for a call to all members of society to rekindle a vision of a human society based on true charity, a charity based in truth.

The encyclical takes as its primary point of departure, the encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of that encyclical, Caritas in Veritate is both a theological reflection on the meaning of integral human development and a systematic analysis of the challenges to that integral development in the contemporary world: "More than forty years after Populorum Progressio, its basic theme, namely progress, remains an open question" (CV, n. 33).

If development is only measured by the amount of material wealth owned by individuals and countries, we will have missed the essential message of the encyclical.

In other words, this encyclical is primarily concerned with developing an understanding of "progress" and "development" that is meaningful for human society at the beginning of the 21st century and particularly one that works within an increasingly "global" society.


Three essential themes

In articulating an integral vision of human development Pope Benedict XVI teaches that there are three essential themes to Catholic Social Teaching, three themes that make love a truly authentic love, make it truthful:

- that persons are made as the imago Dei (the image of God);

- that the common good is the only true guarantor of the individual good;

- and that the imago Dei and the common good can only be authentically pursued and protected with a commitment to a consistent ethic of life.

The encyclical makes it clear that authentic human development must include God and the understanding of every person created in God's image:

"Such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to humanity, which falls into the trap of thinking it can bring about its own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that 'becomes concern and care for the other'" (n. 11)


The good of 'all of us'

The encyclical raises up another essential lynchpin of Catholic social morality - the common good:

"Another important consideration is the common good. To love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of 'all of us'… It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community" (n. 7).

It is precisely within the context of the common good that the discussion about universal health care coverage must take place. We are not authentic disciples of Christ unless we acknowledge the fact that we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. "Rugged individualism," may not in fact provide for true human flourishing and authentic human development.

Thirdly, the encyclical clearly articulates the moral disjunction that erupts when social "progress" is divorced from a consistent ethic of life. It is impossible to address the issue of poverty without addressing abortion and euthanasia, among other life issues.

As Pope Benedict XVI says, "…the social question has become a radically anthropological question…. While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human" (n. 75).


People before profit

The Pope then addresses some particular issues; issues that deserve attention if this encyclical will have any direct moral impact on the Church and society.

He identifies "speculative financial dealing, large-scale migration of peoples, and the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources" (n. 21). He shows concerns for the downside of "outsourcing," the "downsizing of social security systems," the difficulties that trade unions are experiencing "in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers."

For Pope Benedict, these are not themes to be identified with any particular political party; rather, they are part and parcel of the theme of authentic human development. Every society needs to develop just policies and laws that protect the integrity of every citizen. He is clear: The excesses of laissez faire capitalism are antithetical to full human development.

In all of this, we are reminded that the "primary capital to be safeguarded and valued" is the human person: "The human being is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life" (n. 25).

The encyclical is a timely reminder that the Church in her wisdom has always taught that "people" come before "profit." Capitalism must have a human face and spiritual soul; otherwise, it becomes a cold and evil taskmaster.


'A serious review of life-style'

While the encyclical is rich in all its teaching, I might suggest that a significant message for us in the United States is found in the section where Pope Benedict XVI discusses the connection between the environment and authentic development:

"This invites contemporary society to a serious review of its life-style, which, in many parts of the world, is prone to hedonism and consumerism, regardless of their harmful consequences. What is needed is an effective shift in mentality which can lead to the adoption of new life-styles 'in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of the common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments'" (n. 51).

Following up on this is the reminder that "consumer choices are always moral choices." In other words, for those of us who enjoy a developed economy, there is a moral imperative to ask ourselves before every retail purchase, "Is this something I and my family 'need,' or is it simply something I 'want'?"

The reality is that the greatest threat to the environment is not the earth's population but the developed world's thirst for unfettered consumerism. Solidarity with my sisters and brothers who share the same planet means that I make environmentally sane purchases. How many people who own Hummers really "need" them?


'Authentic spirituality'

In the end, it is clear that the underlying message of this encyclical is a call to authentic spirituality. Pope Benedict XVI reiterates in different places that unless each person realizes that everything we are and have is gift, integral human development cannot even get off the ground.

If development is only measured by the amount of material wealth owned by individuals and countries, we will have missed the essential message of the encyclical.

While we are called to address and remediate the evil of poverty and to dismantle the sinful structures that support injustice and continue to impoverish so many of our sisters and brothers, we also have to admit that any vision of development that does not include spiritual and moral growth is a false god.

"Development," writes Pope Benedict (n. 79), "needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason … we must above all else turn to God's love.

"Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace."




CIV and bioethics:
For Benedict XVI, humans are more than just
utilitarian 'units', says ethicist

By Trista Turley
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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI "has a vision of the human person that transcends seeing us as economic units or raw units to be used for biotechnical development," said John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

"We don't have an understanding of a human being as truly human unless we see them as being open to the transcendent or the supernatural," he said in a July 20 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

He made the comments about the Pope's stance on bioethics in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), which was released July 7.

Haas said the Pope's writing offers a profound philosophical anthropology.

While the Pontiff dedicated a large portion of the recent encyclical to addressing the global economic crisis and issues of economic development, he also discussed bioethical concerns.

"A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question," the Pope said.

According to the Pontiff, the fundamental bioethical question for humanity is whether man is a product of his own labors or if he owes his existence to God.

Pope Benedict said scientific discoveries and advances in technology have forced a choice between two types of reasoning about humanity: reason open to transcendence and the spiritual or reason closed within "immanence," or, for example, not going beyond oneself.

The Pope made the church's position on the issue clear. "It is no coincidence that closing the door to transcendence brings one up short against a difficulty," he said. "How could being emerge from nothing, how could intelligence be born from chance?"

"Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other's assistance," the pope stated. "Only together will they save man."

Pope Benedict specifically criticized in vitro fertilization, embryo research, human cloning and research into human hybrids for ignoring the transcendent nature of the human being.

"All (of these practices are) now emerging and being promoted in today's highly disillusioned culture, which believes it has mastered every mystery because the origin of life is now within our grasp," the pontiff said.

In his encyclical he also denounced abortion and euthanasia as instruments of "the culture of death."

Haas believes the Pope's message of belief in a transcendent human being will appeal to a broad audience both within and outside the church.

"There are two different versions of the human person that are radically different from each other," he stated. "The (nontranscendent view) is frightfully reductionistic: If we're nothing more than a chance development in a mindless universe, how do we have any significance? We would be able to justify using other human beings for our own ends and our own purposes."

Haas said the Pope's view of the human person is far more appealing than the other and will inspire more people.

Father Tadeusz Pacholcyzk, director of education for the bioethics center, said the Pope's positions form essential ethical foundations for scientific research.

"The Pope is asking how we can promote real development in the realm of bioethics. He is saying that openness to life is at the center of true development," Father Pacholcyzk told CNS. "If you accept life for what it is, then it helps you establish a certain moral character."

"Without that underlying morality, ethics just becomes a label," he stated.

Father Pacholcyzk said none of the bioethical positions outlined by the pope in his encyclical are new to the church.

"In this arena the message is a fairly simple one," the priest said. "I think the Pope is trying to trigger a deeper reflection on some very basic moral truths that are essentially slipping through the fingers of our culture today."



CNS also came out with a round-up of early commentary on CIV, as follows:

Encyclical breaks new ground
on social issues, commentators say

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, breaks new ground on such topics as microfinancing, intellectual property rights, globalization and the concept of putting one's wealth at the service of the poor, according to Catholic scholars and church leaders.

In interviews with Catholic News Service and in statements about the encyclical released July 7 at the Vatican, commentators said the more than 30,000-word document takes on a variety of issues not previously addressed in such a comprehensive way.

"I was surprised ... at how wide-ranging it is," said Kirk Hanson, a business ethics professor at Santa Clara University in California and executive director of the Jesuit-run university's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. "It's not just an updating of Populorum Progressio, the 1967 social encyclical by Pope Paul VI, he added.

Hanson said he also was struck by Pope Benedict's concept of "gratuitousness" or "giftedness," which reminds people "not to consider wealth ours alone" and asks the wealthy to "be ready to put (their money) in service for the good of others."

The encyclical is "a plea for the wealthiest on the planet to put their wealth toward the development of peoples," he said. "In many ways, (Microsoft founder and philanthropist) Bill Gates would be the poster child for this document."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars for health and development programs worldwide, as well as for education and housing programs in the United States.

Terrence W. Tilley, who chairs the theology department at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York and is immediate past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said one unique aspect of the encyclical is Pope Benedict's "vision that all flows from the love of God."

"It's unusual as a theological reflection on social justice," he said. "But that's what holds it all together."

Tilley said the encyclical makes a "pedagogical attempt to get people out of the mindset that charity is just giving money to those poor people over there." The Pope rejects such a "dismissive attitude," he said.

The Fordham professor also said he was "delighted to see the strength with which (Pope Benedict) supports labor organizations." But the pope also stresses "the responsibility of both management ... and labor to take care of and be responsible to other than their own constituencies," he added.

The current president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Father Bryan N. Massingale, called the encyclical "a welcome contribution to the discussion of how Christians should think and act in a global economy."

An associate professor of theological ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Father Massingale said the encyclical's "most challenging insight ... is its repeated criticism of the short-term thinking and profit-making that has dominated our financial markets and political discussions on the economy."

Pope Benedict's "support for the longer view, as well as for active participation in the political process to ensure that financial markets serve the needs of all, and not simply those with access to wealth, will definitely challenge the usual political discourse in this country, if we have the courage to take his call seriously," he added.

Father Massingale, a Milwaukee archdiocesan priest, also said that, although the Pope's support for the labor movement "is hardly surprising to those familiar with Catholic social teaching, the force with which Benedict reaffirms the role of labor unions in the pursuit of economic justice is unmistakable."

John Sweeney, a Catholic who is president of the AFL-CIO, said Caritas in Veritate "reaffirms the need for exploited and marginalized workers to have the freedom to come together and form unions to bargain and negotiate for a better life."

"We stand with the Catholic Church in the belief that when workers can form unions they lift up their communities and nations and create a culture of dignity and respect for all workers," Sweeney added.

But Father Massingale noted that the encyclical also "calls upon unions to adopt a more international perspective in light of the global mobility of labor" -- a call that the theologian said "could spur creative thought in revitalizing movements for worker justice."

Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, said the encyclical will be particularly helpful in these "difficult times for the poor in Idaho or anywhere around the world."

"The Holy Father, who has seen the terrible toll these times have taken, has given us a new vision on which to build a just economy, where all can thrive, not merely the rich and powerful," he said. "We cannot achieve true prosperity unless it is built upon a foundation of justice and care for all, including the poor."

In a different part of the country, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit said people in southeast Michigan "are living through profound changes in the social and economic fabric of our community."

"All of us citizens, and especially our leaders, need to make wise and farsighted decisions in order to lay the foundation for the better future we want to hand on to succeeding generations," he said. "The Holy Father's new encyclical, as the latest application of the church's social teaching, offers an important resource for us in the great project we are engaged in."

Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said the encyclical is "very welcome and particularly timely as our political and economic leaders struggle to address the devastating global economic crisis."

The document also notes that "responsibility does not stop at a nation's borders nor does it fall solely to political leaders," the archbishop said. "Universal human truths about human dignity transcend geographic, economic and political boundaries."

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the encyclical provides helpful guidance for finding answers to the social, economic and moral questions of the contemporary world in a search for truth.

The document offers sound reflections on the vocation of human development as well as on the moral principles on which a global economy must be based, he added.

"This encyclical offers a powerful warning to the modern world -- especially the West," said Steve Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America in Washington. "It speaks to the dangers of commerce, popular culture and technology unhinged from a vision for the common good informed by charity."

Vincent Miller, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington, said Pope Benedict "rejects the dominant vision of economics as abstract, technological efficiency" and "calls for a revisioning of economics as an essentially moral undertaking."

"His complex thought does not fit easily into our political map, but there is no doubt that Benedict is much more critical of contemporary economics than any political party in our country," added Miller, who was recently named to the Gudorf chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Andrew Abela, an associate professor of marketing who chairs the department of business and marketing at Catholic University, said the pope's main message is "that spiritual development is essential to development, and that 'even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God's love.'"

"I hope this core message is not drowned out in the politicizing of this encyclical that will inevitably happen," he added.

Abela said he was "intrigued by the pope putting forward the example" of Economy of Communion, a project launched in 1991 by Focolare movement founder Chiara Lubich that brings together more than 700 companies worldwide committed to pursuing a "higher goal" than just profit.

"I think that the Economy of Communion has the potential to revolutionize the relationship between workers and employers in positive ways," he added.

Officials of International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies known by the acronym CIDSE, hailed the encyclical as helpful to their work, saying that it might convince wealthier countries to "make up for broken promises" to the developing world.

"Political leadership in resolving the (global economic) crisis is lacking and developing countries continue to suffer the direst consequences," said Bernd Nilles, secretary-general of the organization based in Brussels, Belgium. "It's time for true reform and solidarity in the fight against global poverty."

"Economic processes should serve justice, one of the two dimensions of true human development set out by the Pope," said Rene Grotenhuis, president of CIDSE and director of Dutch Cordaid. "Every economic decision has moral consequences."

Allan C. Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Ill., said he found it "an interesting departure" that Pope Benedict did not mention the need to ensure a just "family wage" that would allow mothers to remain at home with their children. Such a call has been part of most social encyclicals dating back to Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum in 1891, he said.

Carlson also said the Pope "did a nice job of weaving in the bioethical questions with the questions of economic justice."

On population control, for example, Pope Benedict "insists that the problems of hunger and poverty are not the result of the number of people," he said. "He defends human beings as a positive good, when for some population control proponents, they are the problem."


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Environmentalism in CIV:
Pope's words are personal and political

By Mark Pattison
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WASHINGTON, August 14 (CNS)—Pope Benedict XVI's message on environmental protection, found in his new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, has applications both in individuals' daily lives as well as in the political arena, according to leading U.S. Catholic environmentalists.

"The encyclical is a very important statement for highlighting the church's teaching and leadership on the global climate-change issue," said William O'Keefe, senior director of advocacy for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services.

"The Holy Father's given us yet another rallying call of why this is important. We've got to make sure that serious climate-change efforts don't forget the poor," O'Keefe added in an interview with Catholic News Service.

The pope's message on the environment "sanctions and amplifies the work that we're trying to do ecumenically and on an interfaith basis" among Christians and Jews, said Walt Grazer, former director of the U.S. bishops' environmental justice program, and currently a consultant to the National Religious Partnership on the Environment.

Pope Benedict, Grazer added, is "trying to lift up this dual concern of care for God's creation and care for the poor. He has legitimated the mission we've taken on."

"The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of nonrenewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future," the pope said in Caritas in Veritate.

Pope Benedict's words could presage December's meeting of international leaders in Copenhagen, Denmark, on climate-change issues, said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.

"There needs to be more robust international agreements on economic life, particularly the ability to have sustainable economic life for all people," Misleh told CNS.

"In that context," he continued, "whatever happens with the climate negotiations, the Vatican and bishops around the world will be looking to see that it is a fair agreement — that it does protect creation, reducing greenhouse gases and such, but (that) people who are most impacted by climate change get enough support to overcome what's coming."

O'Keefe said CRS, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, conducted a review of its global programming a year ago, and consequently committed $60 million for adaptation programs to mitigate the effects of climate change on communities.

"This is already in response to what our folks on the ground are saying," he said. "Whenever our field people say 'There is a problem that is affecting us here,' we are forced to ask the question: What can we do with the policy environment?"

The House has already passed a bill on climate issues, and the Senate is expected to consider the legislation after it returns from recess in September. The current bill calls for an initial outlay of about $1 billion in "international adaptation" funds to help poorer nations cope with climate change.

"It starts small and it doesn't ramp up very fast," Misleh said. "What the bishops are calling for is at least $3.5 billion and ramping up quickly to $7 billion within a few years of the bill's enactment."

"The people who did the least to cause this are going to suffer the most, both here at home and in other countries where they contribute the least to greenhouse gas pollution," Grazer told CNS. He credited Pope Benedict for "putting that right out there that the nations of the world have to rise above their legitimate but more narrow self-interest."

The unanswered question, according to Grazer: "Can this kind of solidarity be reflected in the legislation?"

After the Senate considers health care reform legislation upon its return, it will likely consider the climate-change bill. "I can't predict it'll pass the Congress, but this is the best chance we've had, and will have, for quite some time," Grazer said.

"The reason we're concerned about this is because in Haiti, Cuba, Central America, the rate of disaster -- hurricanes, weather-related disasters and the severity of those disasters -- has increased, and we as a church are faced with picking up the pieces of those disasters," said CRS' O'Keefe.

Climate-change experts have linked the increase in turbulent weather all over the globe to global warming. [An example of pseudo-science interjected into political advocacy.]

"Our partners are faced with responding to those situations," O'Keefe said. "In Africa, rainfall patterns are already having an impact on how small-scale traditional African farmers are making their livelihood and they are coming to us and saying, 'What we are doing is not working. Help us.'"

"There's a need for the Catholic community to recapture some fairly ancient teachings about stewardship, living in harmony with nature, rather than exploiting nature," Misleh said.

The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change offers the Catholic Climate Covenant — and its St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor — as "a really excellent tool to help Catholics both understand and act on climate change from the point of view of their faith," he added.

Available online at catholicclimatecovenant.org, the pledge asks Catholics to pray about environmental change and stewardship; learn about climate change and Catholic teaching on the subject; assess their own contributions to climate change and act on that assessment; and advocate on behalf of the poor, whose voices usually go unheard.

"The one place where we're all challenged," Grazer said, "is the notion of lifestyle that we raise in contemporary society. We're going to have to look at our lifestyle. ... What do I need? What don't I need?"

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First Things is starting a symposium on CIV, with this letter from academic evangelicals mostly from the US, Canada and the UK calling for widespread evangelical response in practice to the new encyclical.

It's interesting that the academics have taken the lead, and as far as I haev seen, there hasn't been much public comment on the encyclical by leading religious leaders themselves. Did I miss seeing the reactions from Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the World Council of Churches, to name the most obvious?



Doing the truth in love:
An evangelical call for response
to Caritas In Veritate

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Aug 18, 2009



Recent global events awaken us to the importance of sustained Christian reflection on the nature and goal of economic life, both within our own societies and in other parts of the world.

Accordingly, as evangelical Protestants we applaud the release of Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) by Pope Benedict XVI. We call on Christians everywhere, but especially our fellow evangelicals in the global North, to read, wrestle with, and respond to Caritas in Veritate and its identification of the twin call of love and truth upon our lives as citizens, entrepreneurs, workers and, most fundamentally, as followers of Christ.

In Christ's death and resurrection, God removes all that stands in the way of right relationships between God and the world, among humans, and between humanity and the rest of creation. Human development is included in this restoration of all things to right relationship.

We commend the way in which this encyclical considers economic development in terms of the true trajectory for human flourishing.

Caritas in Veritate, following in the tradition of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio, argues that development is about the transformation of both persons and institutions and of relations among and between them.

We echo its call for a new vision of development that recognizes the dignity of human life in its fullness, and that includes a concern for life from conception to natural death, for religious liberty, for the alleviation of poverty, and for the care of creation.

Caritas in Veritate proposes an integral model of human development in the context of globalization, “the expansion of worldwide interdependence.”

We affirm with this encyclical that globalization must become a “person-centred and community-oriented process of integration.”

The encyclical correctly notes that globalization has indeed lifted millions out of poverty, primarily by the integration of the economies of developing nations into international markets.

Yet the unevenness of this integration leaves us deeply concerned about the inequality, poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, social exclusion — including the persistent social exclusion of women in many parts of the world — and materialism that continue to ravage human communities, with destructive consequences for our shared planetary habitat.

In Caritas in Veritate we find an analysis of global affairs that rejects the oversimplifying polarization of free market and active government solutions.

As the encyclical teaches, “authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or ‘after’ it.”

Economic life is not amoral or autonomous. Economic institutions, including markets themselves, must be marked by internal relations of solidarity and trust.

Profit, while a necessary means in economic life, cannot be an overriding end for truly human economic flourishing. We therefore affirm the emphasis in Caritas in Veritate on social enterprise, that is, business efforts guided by a mutualist principle that transcends the dichotomy of for-profit and not-for-profit and that instead pursues social ends while covering costs and providing for investment.

More broadly, we urge evangelicals to consider the invitation by Pope Benedict to rethink who must be included among corporate stakeholders and what the moral significance of investment is.

We would have wished for an even stronger criticism in the encyclical of the elevation of money to an idolatrous status and the resultant contemporary dominance of financial markets over other elements of the global economy.

We endorse the affirmation that an economy of charity demands space for myriad human communities and institutions, not just for the state and the market, but also families and the many relationships of civil society.

It is primarily the internal resources of communities, such as those of neighbourhood associations, municipal councils, trade unions, small business and more, that facilitate the cultivation of local talents and resources.

Effective governance and aid which provides support for development but recognizes their own limitations are needed in charting a path towards more integral development. The challenge to “humanize” or “civilize” globalization does not necessarily mean more government.

It does demand better government — the rule of law rather than of persons, the development of strong institutions of governance, the restoration of balance between competing interests, the eradication of corruption.

Ethical globalization demands fairer and freer trade, assisting the poor of the world to successfully integrate into a flourishing global economy. And ethical globalization demands of evangelical churches everywhere that we attend to the call to do the truth in love, as we continue to respond to the great commission to "disciple the nations."

The encyclical properly recognizes that states are not relinquishing and should not relinquish their duty to pursue justice and the common good in the global economic order.

We share the document’s concern at the decline of social security systems, the diminishing power of trade unions, and the pressure of socially destructive labour mobility. Yet we also share its fear of the growth of an overweening welfare state, which degrades social and civic pluralism. Thus we agree that subsidiarity and solidarity must be held in tandem, as Caritas in Veritate proposes.

We echo the call for better models of global governance, both financial and political, but hesitate to uncritically endorse the current models in the U.N., I.M.F., World Bank and W.T.O.

A global common good does indeed call forth political action to secure it, but new models of global governance must secure increased participation, transparency and accountability, and help strengthen the nation state relative to the power of global finance.

With Caritas in Veritate, we commit ourselves not to be the “victims” of globalization, but to be its “protagonists”—to work for global solidarity, economic justice, and the common good, as norms that transcend and transform the motives of economic profit and technical progress. We call for serious dialogue among all Christians and with many others to make these goals practical realities.


•Adel Abadeer, Associate Professor of Economics, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Roy Berkenbosch, Director, Micah Center, King's University College (Edmonton, AB)
•Elwil Beukes, Professor of Economics, The King's University College (Edmonton, AB)
•Daniel K. Bourdanné, General Secretary, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (Oxford, UK)
•James Bradley, Professor of Mathematics & Statistics Emeritus, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Paul Brink, Associate Professor of Political Studies, Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
•Joe Carter, Web Editor, First Things (Manassas, VA)
•Jonathan Chaplin, Director, Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (Cambridge, UK)
•J. Daryl Charles, Director and Senior Fellow, Bryan Institute for Critical Thought & Practice (Dayton, TN)
•Richard Cizik, President, The New Evangelicals (Washington, DC)
•Bruce J. Clemenger, President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (Markham, ON)
•Javier Comboni, Jean & E. Floyd Kvamme Professor of Political Economy, Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL)
•Justin D. Cooper, President, Redeemer University College (Ancaster, ON)
•Paul R. Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (Washington, DC)
•Janel Curry, Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social, and Economic Thought, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
lvin B. DeWitt, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
•Brian Dijkema, Labour Activist (Ottawa, ON)
•Joel Edwards, International Director, Micah Challenge (London, UK)
•Jacob P. Ellens, Vice President, Academic, Redeemer University College (Ancaster, ON)
•Bruce Ellis Benson, Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL)
•Janet Epp Buckingham, Director, Laurentian Leadership Centre (Ottawa, ON)
•James Featherby, Fellow, London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (London, UK)
•Harry Fernhout, President, The King's University College (Edmonton, AB)
•Brian T. Fikkert, Associate Professor of Economics & Community Development, Covenant College (Lookout Mountain, GA)
•Richard L. Gathro, Dean, Nyack College (Washington, DC)
•Ivy George, Professor of Sociology and Social Work, Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
•Michael W. Goheen, Geneva Professor of Worldview and Religious Studies, Trinity Western University (Langley, BC)
•Bob Goudzwaard, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Cultural Philosophy, Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
•Andy Hartropp, Research Tutor in Development Studies, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (Oxford, UK)
•Peter S. Heslam, Transforming Business, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
•John Hiemstra, Dean, Faculty of Social Science, The King's University College (Edmonton, AB)
•Roland Hoksbergen, Professor of Economics and International Development, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Dennis Hoover, Vice President for Research and Publications, Institute for Global Engagement (Washington, DC)
•Robert Joustra, Researcher, Cardus (Hamilton, ON)
•Timothy A. Kelly, Director, DePree Center Public Policy Institute (Pasadena, CA)
•David T. Koyzis, Professor of Political Science, Redeemer University College (Ancaster, ON)
•Tracy Kuperus, Associate Professor, International Development Studies, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Jamie McIntosh, Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada (London, ON)
•Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, Assistant Professor of Political Studies, Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
•George N. Monsma, Jr., Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Stephen V. Monsma, Research Fellow, The Henry Institute, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)
•Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA)
•Bryant L. Myers, Professor of International Development, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA)
•David K. Naugle, Professor of Philosophy, Dallas Baptist University (Dallas, TX)
•David Neff, Editor in Chief, Christianity Today (Carol Stream, IL)
•Ray Pennings, Director of Research, Cardus (Calgary, AB)
•Michael Pollitt, Reader in Business Economics, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge (U.K.)
•Dan Postma, Managing Editor, Comment Magazine (Hamilton, ON)
•Vinoth Ramachandra, Author, Subverting Global Myths (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
•Jonathan S. Raymond, President, Trinity Western University (Langley, BC)
•Paul W. Robinson, Director, Human Needs and Global Resources Program, Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL)
•Duncan Roper, Former Professor of Mathematics, University of Western Sydney (now resident of Martinborough, NZ)
•Michael Schluter, Chairman, Relationships Foundation International (Cambridge, UK)
•Chris Seiple, President, Institute for Global Engagement (Washington, DC)
•Timothy Sherratt, Professor of Political Studies, Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
•Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action (Philadelphia, PA)
•James W. Skillen, President, Center for Public Justice (Washington, DC)
•John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture, Regent College (Vancouver, BC)
•Glen Harold Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA)
•Elaine Storkey, President, Tearfund (London, UK)
•Alan Storkey, Economist (Cambridge, UK)
•Gideon Strauss, President (designate), Center for Public Justice (Washington, DC)
•Robert Sweetman, Academic Dean and Acting President, Institute for Christian Studies (Toronto, ON)
•Steven Timmermans, President, Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, IL)
•Michael Van Pelt, President, Cardus (Hamilton, ON)
•Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners (Washington, DC)
•Alissa Wilkinson, Associate Editor, Comment Magazine (Brooklyn, NY)
•Paul Williams, David Brown Family Chair of Marketplace Theology and Leadership, Regent College (Vancouver, BC)



Signatories’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily reflect institutional endorsement.



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Michael Novak, who is on the editorial board of First Things, has also written the most so far about CIV, both in the English and Italian press.

Much of it has been from his ideological viewpoint as a leading Catholic 'neo-con', and is therefore critical of what would seem to be 'leftist' ideas in CIV, starting with its textual reference point, Paul VI's Populorum progressio/. [Catholic liberals have used PP as a rallying standard for their social advocacy issues, as much as they have anathematized Humanae Vitae by the same Pope as the symbol of everything wrong with the Church - while conservatives have taken the two encyclicals in the exact polar opposite sense).

Novak tries to present a more balanced view of CIV in this piece, seeing it as it should be seen - a non-ideological, or supra-ideological, statement - but he still concludes with his now-familiar list of criticisms, and worse, almost accusing the Pope directly of stating 'untruths'. I find his concluding sentences terribly offensive.




Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas
by Michael Novak
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August 17, 2009


It is no secret that in U.S. Catholicism these last twenty or so years there has been an increasingly bitter split between two large factions on matters of political economy.

Some tilt left, some right. Some favor a Reaganomic approach to political economy and rejoiced in the boom that lasted thirty-some years. Others favor Clintonomics (which in practice looked a lot like Reaganomics), while others favor something more robustly state-run and state-centered on the order of Obamanomics.

In his new Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI stressed that the Church should be understood neither as holding a particular ideology about political economy nor as imposing specific practical solutions on individual countries or regions. He does not intend to pronounce upon the disagreements in political economy among Catholics or others.

On the contrary, his aim is to put questions of political economy in a larger context, theological and philosophical, dealing with such questions as the role of caritas in theology, and in philosophy sound concepts of the common good, the human person, and human community.

Moreover, in his concrete discussions about current affairs, almost every time Benedict seems to give a point to the left, rooted usually in Populorum Progressio(1967), he takes it back or qualifies it by drawing on lessons learned in between 1967 and 1991, as recorded in Centesimus Annus [John Paul II's post-Communism social encyclical).

His practice follows his intention. He lets both horses run, and does not himself choose to side with either one.

In some ways, this openness seems to be baffling many readers, and making this particular piece of Benedict XVI’s writing come across as uncharacteristically waffly and opaque. It often seems to go in two directions at once.

[Looking at both sides of an issue is not going in both directions! It is a necessary premise to making a definitive statement about the issue - even if it is to say that 'there is merit on both sides, but consider their faults'.]

Some sentences are almost impossible to parse in practical terms: What on earth does that mean in practice?

[One would think Novak had never ever in his life written any statements that would baffle his readers! Besides, I wonder if he has read CIV in its original German - a language not given to waffling or nebulous expression. Has he ever considered that the passages he finds 'difficult' may be more a question of less-than-optimal translation than it is of fuzzy thinking? Especially on technical matters, it is almost insulting to think that Benedict XVI would ever express himself fuzzily! Besides, even the English translation, awkward as it is in places, appears to be quite clear enough in its principles to any average informed reader who has no ideological biases.

Practical applications that may be cited are necessarily amorphous because the Pope has already said he is not proposing any technical solutions. It is not for him to flesh out the principles he states as he has no direct influence at all on any such practical applications!]


This refusal to indulge in ideology has a great strength that compensates for the above-mentioned weakness. Its strength is that it raises the mind to other dimensions of the truth, and avoids squabbles that belong more to the City of Man than to the City of God.

For instance, this higher perspective enables the Pope to link the gospel of life to the social gospel, so to speak. That makes immense practical sense.

For instance, in the United States about fifty million children have been aborted since 1973. If those girls and boys had been allowed to live, millions of them would now be in the workforce, helping by their social security taxes to close the deficits in our programs for the elderly. Policies regarding the beginning of life profoundly affect the welfare state as the population ages.

Europe, with its failure to keep population at a level of growth, or even bare replacement is condemning its welfare state to accelerating death.

Here is one of my favorite practical passages in this encyclical. The sentences read more like bureaucratic jargon than like Benedict’s usually profound and warm pastoral way of putting things. Still, they reinforce some of the most important gains for Catholic social thought over the past 115 years:

By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.

It is able to take account both of the manifold articulation of plans—and therefore of the plurality of subjects — as well as the coordination of those plans. Hence the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development.

In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together.

Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. This authority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way, if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice. (57

)
[Don't tell me Novak thinks such language is unusual in an encyclical! It's the usual language of Church documents, including those of Vatican II.

Benedict XVI has spoiled us because the two first encyclicals were primarily theological and philosophical, and he could express himself as he usually does - even if passages in Part II of DCE had an institutional tone by the nature of its subject, the Church's institutional charity works.

To reproach him for using institutional language ('bureaucratic jargon') for the more technical passages of CIV should not be taken against him. As it is, he does a good job of seeking to express reciprocity and subsidiarity as principles of good economic practice in a few sentences - seeking to use the very terms that the authorities concerned use. That's not a bad communications rule, either - to speak to those you address in the terms they use about specific concerns.


Within this section, and several other places in the encyclical, a pattern begins to emerge whereby Benedict XVI makes a point important to the political economic left, and then qualifies it in terms important to the political economic center and center-right. [Or vice-versa. And it's elementary common sense to do so, as commented earlier.]

For example, regarding his concern to help the welfare state, the pope first advises that “more economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard.”

He then immediately frames this suggestion within the limits of subsidiarity and personal accountability: “One way of doing so is by reviewing their internal social assistance and welfare policies, applying the principle of subsidiarity and creating better integrated welfare systems, with the active participation of private individuals and civil society.” (60)

As for global government, we see Benedict XVI again call for a true world political authority:

To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.


But he is quick to define this authority in terms of restraint and of adherence to the core principles of Catholic social thought:

Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. (67)


[I fail to see why Novak should place particular merit on the Pope's obvious careful balancing of positions throughout the encyclical. It would have been remarkable - negatively - if he had not done so!]

For myself, though, I love best the starting point in caritas. When I was a young man, I wanted to write a book about the centrality of God’s unique form of love, called caritas rather than the more common, down-to-earth amor, in the architecture of the theology of Thomas Aquinas. I loved his little treatise on charity (the poor English translation of caritas), and often taught seminars on it.
[Perhaps Novak should have mentioned here, even if parentheticallly, that the first translation undertaken by then seminarian Joseph Ratzinger, 19, was precisely that Aquinas treatise on love, as his mentor and prefect of studies at the time, Alfred Laepple, has recalled. Or maybe Novak simply is not aware of it.]

And in recent years, prompted in part by challenges from my friend and sometime sparring partner David Schindler of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, I have been developing the caritas underpinnings of my own understanding of democracy, capitalism, and a Republic of Virtue.

The free society is differentiated into three interdependent systems, the polity, the economy, and the moral/cultural institutions of human life. Each of these different types of freedom (political, cultural, and religious) is needed by the other two, in order to be held to the protection of true freedom. You can find essays of mine on this point beginning from at least 1995 at my website.

I have been trying to steer Catholic social teaching in this direction — beginning with my own thinking — for a long time. So watching Benedict XVI write about caritas so beautifully brings me immense satisfaction.

In all candor, however, if we hold each sentence of Caritas in Veritate up to analysis in the light of empirical truth about events in the field of political economy since 1967, we will find that it is not nearly so full in its veritas as in its caritas.

For instance, the benefits for the poor achieved through the spread of economic enterprise and markets (capitalism is for some too unpleasant a word to use) should be more resoundingly attended to.

[Can one really expect a 130-page encyclical to give equal emphasis on every subject it raises as one would be able to do in a textbook???? It's not as if the benefits of the market economy and globalization were never referred to at all in CIV. As for the use of the word capitalism, isn't 'markets' a more general term? 'For some too unpleasant a word to use" - refers to Benedict XVI as well in CIV, because he avoids using it, clearly to minimize ideological labelling.]

In 1970, for instance, the mortality age of men and women in Bangladesh was 44.6 years old, but by 2005 it had risen to 63. Think what a joy and what vigor such increased longevity means to individual families.

Similarly, infant mortality rate (deaths per 1000 live births) in Bangladesh in 1970 was 152, or 15.2 percent. By 2005 this average had been brought down to just 57.2, or a little less than 6 percent. Again, what pain this lifts from ordinary mothers and fathers, and what joy it brings. There is surely more to do to raise health standards for Bangladeshi. But the progress just in this past thirty years is unprecedented in world history.

There are many more omissions of fact, questionable insinuations, and unintentional errors strewn through this encyclical. The staff work has been rather poor.

[That is petty quibbling. If such omissions, insinuations and errors were so significant, they would bear specific enumeration and rebuttal. If they were so significant, perhaps Novak should devote an article to doing just that, so we can get these bugbears out of the way!]

Every deficiency of veritas injures caritas. That is the beautiful and powerful linkage in this encyclical.


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The start of the new FIRST THINGS symposium on CIV reminded me that I had completely neglected to post here editor Joseph Bottum's 'First Thoughts' about the encyclical, which he ran as a running blog in 11 installments on July 7 and 8.

In hindsight, the idea of doing a running blog on the encyclical while reading it through for the first time was not a good one - it ended up getting mired in real-time rendering of minutiae and out-of-place nitpicking. Indeed, it is almost a deconstruction of the text. I am posting it anyway for the record.




First thoughts on 'Caritas in Veritate'
by Josaph Bottum
Editor
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009


#1
The first thing to ask about Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth, is why the 'in truth'? [One would almost think Bottum chooses to ignore the reference to St. Paul's 'truth in charity'!]

“Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine,” the second paragraph of the new encyclical declares, to no surprise, at all: What else could a Christian account of the social realm possibly take as its theme?

But the in Veritate part, that’s the kicker. Not that any Catholic Pontiff would deny that Christ’s lesson of love — “love one another as I have loved you” — doesn’t occur in a structure of truth.

Leave it to Benedict, however, to move that theme of truth to the center of his account of Christian love in the social order. In this sense, the new encyclical is in line with all of Benedict’s earlier work on relativism and reason.


#2
The role of reason remains central through the opening of the encyclical:

Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.

Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. . . .

In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development.


And yet, Benedict continues,

A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world.

Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis.


This is less clear, perhaps, than it should be. The suggestion that charity can live in any form as “helpful for social cohesion” but without “any real place for God in the world” — surely that is exactly what the anti-Christian atheist believes and desires.

And if it is helpful for social cohesion, then how is it “confined to a narrow field devoid of relations”? Social cohesion is a relation, isn’t it?

[So early in his critique, Bottum is already nitpicking and already confused. He is describing precisely the kind of charity without truth that the Pope finds irrelevant. The charity Bottum describes as 'confined' - even if it may be 'useful for social cohesion' - is charity without truth, because 'devoid of relations', which clearly refers to relations with God, which alone enables our right relation with our fellowmen.]

The argument is probably best understood if we turn the paragraph upside down. [Bottum is proposing to recast the paragraph in question, which he does, but the concept was just as well expressed in the Pope's formulation!]

Begin with the thought that human development appears these days driven entirely by scientific and technological advances (knowledge) as influencing and influenced by economic, political, and social uses of that knowledge (praxis).

Charity doesn’t cease to exist in such a world — but it ceases to have any real place in human development. It becomes simply an indulgence, a sentiment, and a malleable emotion that can be turned to any number of dubious purposes. Love must be the third partner in the dialogue that is human history.


#3
In paragraphs 5 and 6 comes the turn: “Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth. What they need even more is that this truth should be loved and demonstrated.”

We need to see the truth of God’s love in the order of the world, and we need to demonstrate that truth, which is another name for charity. And, with that connection, we’re off to the central concepts necessary to take up the social concerns of the encyclical: justice and the common good.

Charity both demands justice and transcends it. Justice is the first order of truth, and those who fail at upholding truth will fail at justice.

But charity, too, is true: “The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion.”

Here I wish Benedict had devoted more space to the interaction of justice and charity, for that interaction is central to his theme of love and truth. [The concept was well treated already in part 2 of Deus caritas est.]

Abandoning the idea of justice in the name of charity, imagining that love somehow abolishes truth, leaves charity meaningless and ineffective. It is love in truth to which we are called.

The second concept necessary for the encyclical’s argument is the common good: “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.” Benedict continues:

Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly.



Whew. This is a hard saying. ['A hard saying'?] “No less excellent”? The politician wheeling and dealing to pass AIDS legislation is enacting charity as excellently as the nun emptying bedpans at an AIDS hospice?

[I understood the Pope to mean 'institutional' here in terms of Catholic institutions performing charity - like Caritas, etc. - and even genuine philanthropies, not politicians' PR ploys!]

The political path is more important, perhaps, in terms of absolute numbers helped, but it surely seems less heroic — which is to say, in the order of virtue, less excellent.

Now, there is work for everyone in their station, and the politician can do genuine good, manifesting charity in truth, for the social order is real and needs to be shaped by God’s truth. And that, perhaps, is what the encyclical is aiming at. [What an odd comment to make about a papal text!]

But what we have here is the first example of what strikes me throughout the encyclical: a trust in political institutions and even a naiveté about them.

The cause for this wishful hope in institutions quickly appears: “In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations.” [Does a 'cause' for hope need to be found?]

But this, too, risks being naive. The world’s current situation is unique in the sense that every new situation is unique: 1939 was, too, and 1914, and all the rest, each demanding their particular appreciation. [But the Pope is addresssing the unique situation of 2008-2009. He's not referring to other eras!]

But the great boon of Catholicism to the world is that it can also stand outside the ebbs and flows of history to see that human nature —the truth in which love appears — remains unchanged from age to age.
[Gee thanks! Benedict does not see that, does he? ROLLING MY EYEBALLS IN DISBELIEF.]


#4
The surprise of the encyclical is the praise of Paul VI, whose Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered ‘the Rerum Novarum of the present age,’ shedding light upon humanity’s journey towards unity.”

Love in truth, says Benedict, “is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized. The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development.”

Here we find the Pope’s great worry: At precisely the moment for the world’s great evangelization and the great manifestation of love, the devices by which the world has been prepared — economic and technological — are excluding the charity and denying the truth that “judge and direct” human development. [Speaking of clunky language...]

“The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim ‘to interfere in any way in the politics of States,’” the encyclical notes. “She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation.”

The introduction, these first nine paragraphs, have to be taken as the key to reading the encyclical. George Weigel notes the way the bulk of the encyclical exhibits various fragments of Catholics’ differing views of social virtues, but keeping in mind the introduction to the encyclical — remembering that it is not throat-clearing but the key to understanding what follows — may allow the reader to see the Pope’s over-arching intention. [DUH! There's a reason it's called the Introduction.]


#5
In Chapter 1, paragraphs 10 through 20, Benedict takes up Paul VI’s forty-year-old encyclical letter, Populorum Progressio. George Weigel notes the long hunger among some more left-leaning Catholics to revive Paul VI’s work and pit it against the economics implied in John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus.

If so, they got what the wanted with the unstinting praise of Populorum Progressio, but that praise is studded with some passages that act as brakes on too expansive a reading of Benedict’s [Paul VI'S!] work.

The Pope insists, as part of his demand for truth, that the Church “has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities: all the energy she brings to the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity is manifested when she is able to operate in a climate of freedom. In not a few cases, that freedom is impeded by prohibitions and persecutions, or it is limited when the Church’s public presence is reduced to her charitable activities alone.”

And he warns, in the context of reading Populorum Progressio, that

In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity’s right to development.

Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone.

Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development.


Populorum Progressio, the Pope notes, “repeatedly underlines the urgent need for reform, and in the face of great problems of injustice in the development of peoples, it calls for courageous action to be taken without delay.” That’s the segue to Chapter 2 of the encyclical, and it is not as promising as it might be.

Ask yourself this: Was Populorum Progressio a success or a failure? Was “the urgent need for reform” met or disregarded? The encyclical is forty years old, after all. We should know by now what its results were.

On the one hand, world poverty is massively less than it was forty years ago. With the economic improvement for China’s 1 billion people, it could hardly not be, but many other areas of the world have greatly improved as well.

Then, too, the fall of Eastern European communism has occurred in those forty years, again marking a great (if unstable) improvement in freedom and social conditions. So how much of this success came from our following the vision of Populorum Progressio?

On the other hand, in the last forty years, AIDS has devastated Africa. South America and Asia have seen great improvement, but much of that improvement has served only to increase the gap between the rich and the poor — a gap that was already horrifying in Paul VI’s time. And how much of this failure came from our not following the vision of Populorum Progressio?

In Benedict’s account — a correct one, I think — Populorum Progressio was prophetic when it saw that the economic relation need not make a fraternal relation, and that the world needed to recommit itself to the Divine.

But Populorum Progressio was far less prophetic when read as an account of the economic changes the world would undergo over the forty years after its release.

[Not that it was ever intended to do that! It's one thing for a Pope to project a spiritual climate in the foreseeable future, in the light of present conditions, but it is hardly his place to project economic changes that will take place. As we have seen, even economists themselves were unable to forecast the crisis that overwhelmed the world last year!]


#6
And it is precisely to this question of the prophetic power of Populorum Progressio that Benedict turns in Chapter 2, paragraphs 21 through 33: “After so many years, as we observe with concern the developments and perspectives of the succession of crises that afflict the world today, we ask to what extent Paul VI’s expectations have been fulfilled by the model of development adopted in recent decades.”

The conclusion is, interestingly, that Paul did not get it right as he looked ahead: “All this leads us today to reflect on the measures that would be necessary to provide a solution to problems that are not only new in comparison to those addressed by Pope Paul VI, but also, and above all, of decisive impact upon the present and future good of humanity.”

Populorum Progressio “assigned a central, albeit not exclusive, role to ‘public authorities,’” Benedict points out, but the nations have declined in importance since then.

This suggests, he notes, that we should move toward further empowering of authorities: “Once the role of public authorities has been more clearly defined, one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally, that have come about through the activity of organizations operating in civil society.”

The phrasing here is delicate, “one could foresee,” so perhaps we shouldn’t lean on it too much. But how, exactly, does a recognition that national authorities have declined lead us to the conclusion that organizations should increase? [Could, not should! Bottum is not following the logic of the statements made: "Once the role of public authorities is more clearly defined [in the new globalized order], one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation..."]

The hint here is world government, a note that is echoed elsewhere in the document.

We start to see here, as well, the back-and-forth nature of the document.

[I am disturbed that commentators like Michael Novak and Joseph Bottom see this 'back-and-forth' as a questionable device. I see it simply as a prudent accounting of pros and cons for both sides of an argument - 'left' and 'right', if you will, as they insist on seeing it.]

Paragraph 25 is something of a laundry list of typically left-leaning social-justice topics: global markets, outsourced production, downsizing social security, budgetary policies, weakening trade unions, and mobility of labor.

But paragraph 26 tacks in a conservative direction, with its talk of the dangers of cultural relativism and electicism, returning to the theme of truth with which the encyclical began.

And then paragraph 27 tacks back toward leftist economics, with its talk of “eliminating the structural causes” and its hints of debt forgiveness and farming that is somehow both “respectful of the environment and attentive to the needs of the most deprived peoples.”

But then paragraph 28 tacks suddenly back to the right with its powerful attack on abortion and on the “non-governmental organizations” that “work actively to spread abortion.”

From paragraph 29 to paragraph 31, Benedict returns to his central theme of love in truth: the necessity of charity to keep human development alive, and the necessity that such charity appear in a context of truth.

The point is philosophically profound and worth the investigation that Benedict gives it — but why does the encyclical follow it with such goo as “The significant new elements in the picture of the development of peoples today in many cases demand new solutions”? (Those are the text’s own italics, which makes it even gooier: not just new solutions but new solutions!)

[I must admit I am perplexed by the choice of some of the sentences italicized for emphasis in the original text.]

Benedict is willing to condemn the African thugocracies: “grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence.” [He already did so in more specific terms during his trip to Africa.]

But he returns at the chapter’s end — as he does again and again throughout the encyclical — to the dangers posed by what he considers the radically new nature of globalization.

The more central question that Chapter 2 leaves us, however, comes from the chapter’s back-and-forth movement. Can a cultural conservatism and an economic leftism actually be joined into a coherent system? Philosophically, they are miles apart — but that’s nothing compared to the light-years they are apart at the level of political practice.

[But brushing aside any attempt at synthesis is thinking exclusively in terms of ideological bias, when the Pope's obvious direction is supra-ideological, transcending these artificial divisions - admittedly a quixotic aspiration, given what human nature is, but nonetheless legitimate in terms of Christian aspirations.]

And, unfortunately for the document’s likely effect, it is precisely on the level of political practice that Benedict hopes to move us.

[I don't know that Popes think their encyclicals will necessarily 'move' political practices one way or the other! Encyclicals are teaching documents that enunciate general principles, above all - documenting, as it were, a contemporary restatement of a specific aspect of Christian doctrine, setting it down for the record.

Since most national and international authorities who are in a position to do anything practical in the grand scheme of things are not even all Christian, it is a stretch to think that Popes - least of all someone who knows the world as well as Benedict XVI has shown he has - really expect their encyclicals to lead to some immediate practical results!

The strength of an encyclical is in the power of its core ideas - what it will be remembered for. Benedict XVI has been very astute in his choice of titles for his encyclicals so that they state his core message.

Rerum novarum (Of new things), Populorum progressio (On the progress of peoples), Sollicitudo rei socialis (Concern for social issues), Centesimus annus (On the 100th year) - these are all simply descriptive titles that do not spell out the message of the encyclicals named.

Benedict's encyclical titles spell out his message up front - God is love, Hope saves, Love in truth. And if the lasting message from his third encyclical is the inseparable complementarity of love and truth, then that is achievement enough, as encyclicals go.]


If that combination — a more socialist economics and a more traditional culture — is possible, then we need more explanation than Chapter 2 gave us, and, not surprisingly, it is with an explanation that Chapter 3 opens.

The intellectual problem that Benedict has set himself is a thorny one: The encyclical has to discern and present a higher unity of philosophically and practically disparate elements, and it promises to do so not with philosophy and recommendations for practice, but with theology.

Let’s admit, as well, that this is a tough literary problem for the encyclical. John Paul II, the greatest papal writing talent of modern times [REALLY??? Without meaning any disrespect for JPII, I think this is the first time I've read anyone referring to him in these terms!] divided the topics when he produced two of the best-constructed modern encyclicals: Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae.

If commentators are stumbling over what seems the inconsistency Caritas in Veritate, the first cause may be that, regardless of the success or failure of Benedict’s higher-order theological solution, the encyclical’s topics simply cannot be developed side-by-side in sufficient detail to make them feel coherent.

An email from a judicial clerk yesterday complained that Caritas in Veritate reads “like what you get when a three-judge panel that fundamentally doesn’t agree decides to write an unanimous opinion that rides a few of each judge’s hobbyhorses.”

Reactions like this, heard over and over again from across the ideological spectrum, suggest that, whatever he’s accomplished, Benedict didn’t manage to solve the literary problem of the encyclical.

In paragraphs 34 and 35, opening the chapter, Benedict points to the concept of gift as the key, writing, “sometimes modern man is wrongly convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life and society. This is a presumption that follows from being selfishly closed in upon himself, and it is a consequence — to express it in faith terms — of original sin.”

I can’t say I care much for that interjected “to express it in faith terms.” What other terms is a Pope supposed to use, and, for that matter, what other terms are there for the concept? Maybe Kant’s “crooked timber of humanity,” or something, but it all goes back to the idea of original sin, anyway.

[Bottum is quibbling unnecessarily. Modern encyclicals are now addressed to 'all men of good will', not just to Catholics. The qualification is harmless, and even necessary, for the wider audience that the encyclical hopes to reach.]

Still, the point here is that charity is necessary because the world is fallen, and though humanity is open by nature to the gift of grace, the world needs the concept of givenness [givenness???] and original sin to provide a horizon of hope for human activity.

Amen. Exactly right. Benedict then applies the point: “The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”

To which one wants to say: Yes, but . . . Yes, but Adam Smith’s ideas and the subsequent American economic system were predicated, to a large degree, on that concept of original sin. [???] These are perhaps open to the accusation that they did not guarantee a place for grace, and thus, in their long working out, they can dissolve the virtues that made them possible. This is, to use the old phrase, the cultural contradiction of capitalism.

[I think Bottum is complicating a situation that is basically simple and clearcut! Classical economics and everything that came after it have never been proposed in conjunction with a moral code - they have been proposed precisely as systems 'autonomous' of moral influences, as the Pope points out. Any moral/ethical considerations in working out economic systems have been contributed by individuals within the system who live by moral and ethical considerations and apply them to whatever they do. Others simply allow the markets to take their course, and since markets are impersonal, they have no morals.]

The accusation can be turned around, however, to any socialist economic vision — which is exactly what the religious neo-conservatives did, in a line of argument echoed in Centesimus Annus.

A mandated, market-making command economy may guarantee a place for grace, but it closes down the idea of fallen human nature. The system might work, if the commanders of that economy were angels, but — to express it in faith terms — they, too, suffer from original sin, and so they operate as humans do: out of self-interest and self-delusion, and in this case, without any chance of correction by the countervailing force of the market choices of free citizens.

[But that is to assume that all men who have anything to do with the economy are necessarily evil and greedy. There are good men and evil men everywhere. Human nature may be inherently flawed by original sin, but it has not been corrupted across the board!]

Benedict sees the cultural contradiction of capitalism: “Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function.”

And in paragraph 35 he takes the line that the market is an economic good, but a good that needs the virtue-creating horizon of faith in God: “It must draw its moral energies from other subjects that are capable of generating them.” Richard John Neuhaus would have said the same thing.

Indeed, “economy and finance, as instruments, can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends,” Benedict writes. “But it is man’s darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument per se. Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.” Michael Novak would have said the same thing. [Not just Michael Novak, but any Christian with common sense!]

So where, then, does paragraph 40 come from, declaring, “Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise. (As an aside, the italics in the English text of the encyclical are embarrassing. Will they be in the official Latin? As applied in the English, they seem to mark out the most hackneyed and spiritless lines.)

If the market fails because of individuals failing in the conscience and their responsibility, why do we need a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise?

[Bottum ignores the rest of the long 'paragraph' in which the other italicized sentence says "Business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors [including stockholders], but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business" (identified earlier in the paragraph as 'the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society').

The examples the encyclical gives — transfer of capital abroad (a concern of Paul VI’s) and speculative use of financial resources (meaning derivatives?) — seem to be instances of investors behaving immorally rather than business needing to be redefined. [But those are objectionable business practices that do need to be redefined!] The question raised here remains unanswered in Chapter Three.

Benedict wisely sees the continuing role of the nation states: “Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the current crisis, the State’s role seems destined to grow, as it regains many of its competences.”

And the absence of a coherent state makes matters very bad, as Benedict notes in yet another swipe at the African thugocracies: “The focus of international aid, within a solidarity-based plan to resolve today’s economic problems, should rather be on consolidating constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that do not yet fully enjoy these goods. Alongside economic aid, there needs to be aid directed towards reinforcing the guarantees proper to the State of law: a system of public order and effective imprisonment that respects human rights, truly democratic institutions.”

But he returns to globalization at the chapter’s end, quoting John Paul II: “Despite some of its structural elements, which should neither be denied nor exaggerated, ‘globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it.’”

The conclusion is just: “The transition inherent in the process of globalization presents great difficulties and dangers that can only be overcome if we are able to appropriate the underlying anthropological and ethical spirit that drives globalization towards the humanizing goal of solidarity. Unfortunately this spirit is often overwhelmed or suppressed by ethical and cultural considerations of an individualistic and utilitarian nature.”

Who could disagree? [Just because some things are self-evident does not mean they never have to be re-stated!]


#8
The title of Chapter 4, paragraphs 43 through 52, promises that the text will take up the topic of the environment. But the chapter opens with an attack on the idea of rights as divorced from duties: “An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties.”
[Excuse me, the title of the chapter is, after all, "The Development of People, Rights and Duties, The Environment".]

Pieces of several arguments seem to be packed together in only a single paragraph, leaving the particular complaint a little unclear, but the general claim is a familiar one and hard to argue against: “The sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.”

The jump from there to population growth is not what one would expect — for this is a place where, according to opponents of Church teaching, duties to the environment obviously trump the rights of parents.

Benedict’s tack here is to reject claims that population growth causes poverty, which he does ably, while calling for state policies that respect the centrality of marriage.

What’s unclear, however, is what the argument is doing here — while mentioning nothing about the environmental implications of population or the clash of rights and duties? This is one of the paragraphs that most clearly shows the piecemeal construction of the document.

['What the argument is doing here'? It is central to the chapter! You cannot proceed to speak about rights and duties in the development of people until you lay the premise that since all social activity is for the benefit of persons, individual and in community, then, 'a very important aspect of authentic development concerns the inalienable values of life and the family'.

Defense of life in the Christian sense inevitably raises the question of population growth, 'responsible procreation' (an intriguing expression that seems to have escaped most commentators) and 'morally responsible openness to life'. All of this Bottum seems to ignore in a curious fixation on why Benedict does not follow through with the environmental implications of population growth - which is disturbingly Malthusian!]


As is the turn to ethical business in the next paragraphs, 45 to 47. Benedict praises businesses in the “third sector,” standing between for-profit and non-profit companies: “they steer the system towards a clearer and more complete assumption of duties on the part of economic subjects.”

And he calls for development programs in poorer countries, driven by international aid — while calling on international organizations to practise greater transparency. Note that it is here, in paragraph 47, that the word subsidiarity makes its first appearance.

That’s a little late, for those who want to read the encyclical as primarily a full-throated defence of subsidiarity (though there is plenty more to come in the next chapter). [But it is the first opportunity in the encylical to bring it up in context!]

In the remaining paragraphs, the environment takes center stage. [As indicated in the chapter title!]

“Nature expresses a design of love and truth,” Benedict insists, returning to the theme that had lain dormant for some while in the text. [And where is it written that the theme of the encyclical must be explicitly re-stated and spelled out at every point of the text????]

The argument switches back and forth between a demand for responsible stewardship and an attack on elevations of nature [????I think he means 'nature worship']: “It is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism — human salvation cannot come from nature alone.”

And, with all this, paragraph 51 gives us a brilliant and biting statement of Catholic thinking:

It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.




#9
And on we go to Chapter 5, paragraphs 53 through 67. Poverty is caused by isolation, Benedict insists: isolation from other humans, and isolation from the foundation that is God. Is that right? Maybe. Okay, I guess so. In a certain sense. But the text here in the opening of Chapter 5 is very muddy.

Though I can’t quite put my finger on it, there’s something question-begging in the claim that isolation causes poverty: The rich can suffer serious isolation, too — and that’s one of the “the other kinds of poverty,” because well, poverty is isolation, and isolation is poverty. [Is Bottum Jesuit by any chance? This is such Jesuitic hairsplitting!]

[Bottoms's criticism of the opening paragraph of Chapter 5 again ignores the context in which the premise is laid. "One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation" is the first sentence of a chapter that is entitled "The cooperation of the human family'.

Thus, the statement that other kinds of poverty, including material, arise "from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love" leads to "The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family, working together in true communion..."

The paragraph may not be felicitously expressed, but it has its internal logic.]


Benedict quotes the great line from Paul V: “The world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking.” But the conclusion that he draws from it is that we need “a new trajectory of thinking, . . . a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.”

The note here about metaphysics and theology — the transcendental reaches of thought — suggests that this is the place where we need the Pope’s deep thought about what the lack of a metaphysical and theological horizon does for the modern world.

And that is, to some degree, what we get, though the metaphor of the Trinity, applied to humans with the awkward nonce (?) phrase “inclusion-in-relation” is not as clear as it could be.

[I suppose I did not find this section elliptical at all because in previous, even recent, texts, Benedict XVI has spoken about the concept of humanity as a relationship - i.e., man cannot be considered in isolation from his fellowmen - just as the Trinitarian God is a relationship of the closest kind because it is an interpenetration of identities. A perspective I would never have thought about on my own!]

This section of the encyclical, paragraphs 54 through 57, is the most serious — and, at the same time, the most compressed. While trying to unpack it, my frustration was this wasn’t the subject of the entire text — if only so that we could understand Benedict’s thinking more clearly. [Perhaps Bottum should pay closer attention to the Pope's daily Magisterium, and not just the major texts!]

With paragraph 58, we get the reintroduction of the topic of subsidiarity. A hodgepodge of topics appear over the next paragraphs: international aid, agriculture, allocation of taxes, sex tourism, migration, the dignity of work, trade unions, micro-finance, consumerism.

The problem here is literary, in a certain sense: These examples occur at such differing levels of importance, abstraction, and praxis that it’s hard to fold them together into anything coherent.

One point, though, is the even in the midst of the Pope’s call for subsidarity, the assumption is always that the highest levels will be the creators and enforcers of that subsidiarity.

Elsewhere in the encyclical, the family was perceived as pre-existing the high structures of power and pushing up against them to maintain subsidiarity. In these paragraphs in Chapter 5, the plaint is that subsidiarity has declined, and thus the job of the high and mighty is to restore it, forcing subsidiarity down the chain of power.

In that context, the call for a “true world political authority” appears in paragraph 67: “a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.”

To understand this, I think, we have to read it in the light of a call for universal empire, which has been in the Catholic lexicon for a long, long time. The counter-theme of individual sovereign states has been in the Catholic lexicon for a while, too, and the encyclical might have entered here into an interesting discussion of that disagreement in modern Catholic thought. But, as things stand, I can’t imagine a worse time simply to demand universal empire without explanation, or a worse body than the United Nations to entrust with it.

The first naiveté, in Benedict’s version, is the notion that the UN could somehow be “regulated by law” when it itself would be the law, once it had eliminated the individual states (against which the encyclical sets itself when it complains of the UN weakened by “the balance of power among the strongest nations”). [!]

[Ach! More wrong-headed quibbling. The encyclical implicitly protests the undue weight of the strongest nations in the UN but does not set itself against individual states as states!

I have never been a fan of the United Nations but it is the only available mechanism right now for any international regulation, unsatisfactory and seriously flawed as it is.

And because the Church cannot isolate itself from the secular world, I can understand that the diplomacy of the Holy See postulates a degree of trust in the United Nations for its potential to promote good things - though this is often thwarted - and icnreasingly so - by a bureaucracy that can skew regulations and enforcement ideologically (and most ironically, usually to promote policies that do great violence to the most sacrosanct of Catholic doctrines).

The Pope does not, by any means advocate 'eliminating individual states' nor is that, as Bottum implies, the necessary outcome of a world super-authority, which would, like the UN [or as a more appropriate version of the UN], be constituted by and of existing sovereign states. However, it's as quixotic a suggestion as when John XXIII first made it.

Insofar as the financial-economic crisis, such super-regulation may be effected through existing sector-responsible UN agencies, like the IMF, the World Bank and the various UN development programs with appropriate reforms (such as a new Bretton Woods convention) and a coordinating mechanism among these agencies that now operate in complete autonomy of each other.]


The second naiveté is about the Church, which, in medieval and Renaissance calls for empire, stood as the extra-governmental institution that balanced the state.

Now and for the foreseeable future, the Church is detested by the bureaucrats of the UN empire [and the European Union]. It’s crazy of Benedict to think that international organization won’t move, with its power, to abolish as much of the Church as it can.

[On this point, I agree with Bottum. It does appear uncharacteristically, inexplicably naive on the part of Benedict XVI not to indicate awareness of this very real risk - which is simply the rampant secularization he sees so critically, ratcheted up almost by a quantum factor!]
Let’s see, how about a universal right to abortion? [And gay marriage and euthanasia!] How about hate laws that count against Catholics but somehow few others? [These have been attempted in some form or other in recent years.]

Here’s a simple and, in fact, quite likely one: How about the great cathedrals all declared “Artistic Property of Mankind,” with ownership and “use oversight” given to UNESCO? [It hasn't happened yet and is unlikely to. UNESCO has declared a number of world heritage sites - including dozens of Church monuments, starting with the Vatican itself - but the juridical rights remain with the juridical owners.]

Does Benedict really think that world government would give us “the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order”? Perhaps so. [Most likely, Benedict the practical man does not, but Benedict the Pope feels called upon to express the hope!]


#10
Chapter 7 begins with a complex analogy: As no one builds himself without the initial gift from God and influence from other persons, so no people or culture builds itself. The sheer assertion would probably have been better here.

(A general rule of thumb for editors: If the metaphor is more complicated than the metaphorand — if the explanatory device is more intricate than the thing you’re trying to explain with it — then eliminate the metaphor.)

[Oh, please, spare us the superfluous lecture! No metaphor was used, to begin with. And the analogy is by no means complex, as there is a one-on-one correspondence between the analogs (the individual and the community). Though I must admit the Pope has expressed this concept in more elegant language in his homilies.]

All of this is aimed at setting up the chapter’s discussion of technology — particularly biotechnology, though the references are scattered throughout the chapter.

Benedict writes, “technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations towards development, it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations. Technology, in this sense, is a response to God’s command to till and to keep the land.”

A nice point, but I’m not sure what he means, or who he is answering, when he adds, “Even peace can run the risk of being considered a technical product, merely the outcome of agreements between governments or of initiatives aimed at ensuring effective economic aid.”

[First of all, the section about peace as a technical product comes three paragraphs after his general considerations on technology. Second, he is using technology not in its limited sense as concrete applications of new scientific knowledge to day-to-day experience, but in a more general sense, as the practice or employment of any technique or method.

In that context, he sees peace being treated as a 'technical product' - technical, not technological - of negotiated formulas that are necessarily a compromise and may not always appropriately reflect 'the voice of the peoples affected'.]


Apart from a rather tattered political-theory thesis that democracies don’t go to war, I can’t think of anything even close to the proposition that Benedict is rejecting. [The Pope is rejecting reliance on the merely technical to arrive at solutions that impact on the lives of peoples. One has to have a built-in negativity to the encyclical to fuss as much as Bottum does about ideas that seem pretty straightforward!]

Again, a powerful comment: “One aspect of the contemporary technological mindset is the tendency to consider the problems and emotions of the interior life from a purely psychological point of view, even to the point of neurological reductionism. In this way man’s interiority is emptied of its meaning and gradually our awareness of the human soul’s ontological depths, as probed by the saints, is lost. The question of development is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul.” [This is out of place here - it comes in Section 76, and the subsequent comments refer to earlier paragraphs.}

I don’t quite grasp, on a first reading, what Benedict is after with his discussion of the technology of the means of social communications. [Again, Bottoms's problem is that he may not have been reading Benedict's recent discourses and messages on social communications, including an entire message for World Social Communications Day - about which he has had a lot to say that do not bear repetition in the encyclical, where he can only devote a paragraph to each of the areas of technology that he covers.]

It’s too short for a meaningful critique of, say Twitter and YouTube [Can we have a sense of proportion, please? This is an encyclical!], but the general ethical claims made are strong and unobjectionable.

And the chapter’s material on biotechnology — on technology, in general — seems a solid and helpful statement of Catholic principles. [As I commented from the start, an encyclical cannot be more than a re-statement in contemporary terms of those principles. Mons. Crepaldi had the right answer to a newsman who was quibbling about the lack of discussion on a particular subject: "It's an encyclical, not an encyclopedia!"]

At last we reach the Conclusion, paragraphs 78 and 79: “Without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is.”

The move here is the important one of promoting rationality and true rationality’s recognition of something beyond itself: “The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism.” And for that, we need charity properly grounded in truth.

[Oh dear. Mr Bottum's exhaustion shows. That has to be the lamest account I have seen so far of Paragraph 78, and the most abrupt cut-off to what has been till now a leisurely ramble!]


Conclusion
All right, I’ve finished, at last, a serious read through the new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, recording — for my own edification, though probably no one else’s — the first thoughts that occurred to me along the way.

Time now for me to try some second thoughts. What does the encyclical move me to consider that I had failed to consider before? What does respect for Joseph Ratzinger’s great theological mind force me to rethink? What does respect for Pope Benedict XVI’s papal authority demand that I rephrase and reform? What is new in Caritas in Veritate? And how must I, as a result of its promulgation, change my life?

This, by the way, is how I think encyclicals should be read. If you don’t engage the text, determining exactly where it strains you as a reader and believer and thinker, then assent is meaningless. [But how condescending. As if no one else has the sense to know how to read any text appropriately!]

Much of the commentary — sliding, alas, down the greasy and typical old lines of liberals vs. conservatives and quick to shout at its opponents — has failed, I think, to read the text seriously.

But there it is: The division between left and right is real, and it won’t be overcome merely by saying that it shouldn’t exist. At a quick glance, I’d say that the tendency to politicize the text has been much worse on the left than the right: Among the many who’ve decided this is an occasion to swipe at economic and social conservatives, where is any admission that part of the material in the text forces them to rethink some of their own commitments?

Maybe I’m wrong — I’d welcome correction on the point — but it looks as though, in the innumerable comments that say there’s something in the encyclical to displease both conservatives and liberals, the turn is always then to say that therefore conservatives were wrong and must change. I’ve seen nothing saying that therefore liberals must also change.

Ah, well, the claim that we should rise above politics occurs in a political context, and, whatever the beyondists say, there’s no easy way out of that. Witness my own inability to avoid snarling back here against those who’ve snarled at me about this encyclical.

Anyway, coming soon: Second Thoughts on Caritas in Veritate.


OK. As someone who has indulged myself, though on a far more minor scale, in first thoughts upon reading Benedict's encyclicals and JESUS OF NAZARETH, I can understand the temptation - even compulsion - to record one's first impressions.

But when the impressions are expressed as summary judgments, I think it is incumbent on anyone who publishes such impressions to review those judgments first and see whether they were fairly made rather than just the result of rash, fleeting impression (and indicate any resulting change of mind).

I agree the language of the encyclical's middle sections leaves much to be desired, but the general thrust of the encyclical was always clear and consistent even in those sections. Knowing beforehand that many cooks had thrown their bits into the stew, I was also prepared for its literary 'incoherence' and built that consideration into my reading, so that any annoyance occasioned by awkward language and apparent non sequiturs did not get in the way of my getting the message intended.

Perhaps Bottum himself realizes now it was a foolish and pointless enterprise to do a running - and consequently lengthy - blog on his first reading of a significant text, thinking perhaps that he would thereby outdo all first commentaries in his detailed approach.

I think he might have been attempting a line-by-line annotation but found that impossible with this kind of text, and could not even manage to do it paragraph by paragraph, nonetheless still mostly missing the forest for the trees.



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Posted earlier in the BENEDICT NEWS thread:


Is Benedict in favor of world government?:
A more careful look at what he wrote in CIV

by Douglas A. Sylva
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August 20, 2009


From the FIRST THINGS symposium this week on CIV - a much-needed corrective to prevailing snap interpretations. Douglas A. Sylva is Senior Fellow at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.


As observers continue to decipher the meaning of Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, all appear to agree that the passage of note, the passage that may prove historic in its implications, is the one that is already becoming known as the “world political authority” paragraph:

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.

One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making.

This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity.

To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority. . . .


Could Benedict be in favor of world government, as many now believe?

Taken in the context of papal writings since the dawn of the UN, as well as Benedict’s own opinions, recorded both before and after his election as pope, the passage gains another meaning.

It is in reality a profound challenge to the UN, and the other international organizations, to make themselves worthy of authority, of the authority that they already possess, and worthy of the expansion of authority that appears to be necessary in light of the accelerated pace of globalization.

It is true that Benedict believes that a transnational organization must be empowered to address transnational problems. But so has every Pope since John XXIII, who wrote in 1963:

Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are worldwide in their dimensions; problems, therefore, which cannot be solved except by a public authority with power, organization, and means coextensive with these problems, and with a worldwide sphere of activity. Consequently the moral order itself demands the establishment of some such form of public authority.


But such an authority has been established, and we have lived with it since 1948, and in many ways it has disappointed.

So Benedict turns John XXIII’s formulation on its head: Morality no longer simply demands a global social order; now Benedict underscores that this existing social order must operate in accord with morality.

He ends his own passage on world authority by stating that “The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order. . . .” Note the phrase “at last.”

What went wrong? According to Benedict, a world authority worthy of this authority would need “to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth.” The obvious implication is that the current UN has not made this commitment.

To understand how the UN has failed, we must delve into the rest of the encyclical. According to Benedict, the goal of all international institutions must be “authentic integral human development.” This human development must be inspired by truth, in this case, the truth about humanity.

Pursuit of this truth reveals that each human being possesses absolute worth; therefore, authentic human development is predicated on a radical defense of life.

This link is made repeatedly in Caritas in Veritate.

Openness to life is at the center of true development. . . . The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help. . . . They can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and individual.


To some, it must seem startling how often Benedict comes back to life in an encyclical ostensibly dedicated to economics and globalization.

But this must be understood as Benedict’s effort to humanize globalization. It can be seen as the global application of John Paul II’s own encyclical on life, Evengelium Vitae.

Without this understanding of the primacy of life, international development is bound to fail:

Who could measure the negative effects of this kind of mentality for development? How can we be surprised by the indifference shown towards situations of human degradation, when such indifference extends even to our attitude towards what is and is not human?


Throughout the encyclical, Benedict is unsparing in the ways in which the current international order contributes to this failure; no major front in the war over life is left unmentioned, from population control, to bioethics, to euthanasia.

But none of this should come as a surprise. Since at least as far back as the UN’s major conferences of the 1990s — Cairo and Beijing —Benedict has known that the UN has adopted a model of development conformed to the culture of death. He no doubt assisted John Paul II in his successful efforts to stop these conferences from establishing an international right to abortion-on-demand.

At the time, Benedict said, “Today there is no longer a ‘philosophy of love’ but only a ‘philosophy of selfishness.’ It is precisely here that people are deceived. In fact, at the moment they are advised not to love, they are advised, in the final analysis, not to be human. For this reason, at this stage of the development of the new image of the new world, Christians . . . have a duty to protest.”

Now, in his teaching role as Pope, Benedict is not simply protesting but offering the Christian alternative, the full exposition of authentic human development.

Whether or not the UN can meet the philosophical challenges necessary to promote this true development remains uncertain. But it should not be assumed that Benedict is sanguine; after all, he begins his purported embrace of world government with a call for UN “reform,” not expansion.



This one was an eye-opener for me on 'Catholic economics' in the context of the secular economics I was taught in university college (the two years of humanities and liberal arts that underpin the basic university education even for those who pursue a science degree).



A return to Augustinian economics
by John D. Mueller
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August 20, 2009


John D. Mueller is director of the Economics and Ethics Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and president of LBMC LLC, an economic and financial market forecasting firm, both in Washington, DC.


Despite belonging to an organization that recently celebrated its founder’s two thousandth birthday, some American Catholics exhibit the attention span of fruit flies when their faith impinges on their politics.

Recent responses to Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate closely parallel those that greeted the last economic encyclicals: John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis (On the Church’s cocial concern) and Centesimus Annus (On the hundredth anniversary) [of Leo XIII’ Rerum Novarum].

Caritas in Veritate was originally intended for 2007, the fortieth anniversary of Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio(The development of peoples), which first noted that “the social question has become worldwide” (PP, 3).

John Paul II promulgated Sollicitudo rei socialis in 1987, the twentieth anniversary of PP. Partisan contention about John Paul’s encyclical crystallized around a single paragraph: “The Church’s social doctrine is not a ‘third way’ between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: Rather, it constitutes a category of its own” (SRS, 41).

Catholics on both the left and the right have analyzed Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical with the same dichotomous logic they applied to SRS: The Church says there is no Third Way. If not, we must choose between the First Way of Adam Smith and the Second Way of Karl Marx.

But, by emphasizing in his new encyclical the central role of gifts in the divine economy of creation and salvation, as well as in personal, domestic, and political economy, Benedict XVI (like John Paul II before him) poses a very different choice.

Following that neglected economic realist St. Augustine (whom the Pope has called “my great master”) and Augustine’s contemporaries the Cappadocian Fathers, Benedict XVI says the choice is among the same three world views that confronted one another in the marketplace of Athens when the Apostle Paul (probably in a.d. 51) prefaced his proclamation of the gospel with a biblically orthodox adaptation of Greco-Roman natural law and “some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him” (Acts 17:18).

As Benedict XVI succinctly summarizes, “For believers, the world derives neither from blind chance, nor from strict necessity, but from God’s plan . . . living as a family under the Creator’s watchful eye” (CV, 57).

The First Way of biblically orthodox natural law is irreconcilable with the Second Way of pantheist Stoic necessity and the Third Way of Epicurean “matter and chance” because the latter two exclude Creation.

Yet this natural-theological difference also has important economic consequences, because the three worldviews are expressed in scholastic, classical, and neoclassical economics, respectively.

In both his earlier Deus caritas est (God is Love) and Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI employs scholastic economic theory, following the pattern set by Leo XIII.

In scholastic natural law, economics is a theory of rational providence that describes how creatures who are “rational,” “matrimonial,” and “political” animals choose both persons as “ends” (expressed by our personal and collective gifts) and scarce means that are used (consumed) by or for those persons, which we make real through production and exchange.

Thomas Aquinas was the first to integrate these four key elements of scholastic economic theory: Aristotle’s theories of production and justice-in-exchange, Augustine’s theory of utility (which describes consumption), and the scholastic theory of distribution (which comprises Augustine’s theory of personal distribution — gifts and their opposite, crimes, and Aristotle’s theory of domestic and political distributive justice).

By emphasizing the last element, therefore, Benedict isn’t inventing something new. Scholastic economics was taught at the highest university level for more than five centuries before Adam Smith effectively dismantled it.

Its adherents included all major Catholic and (after the Reformation) Protestant thinkers, notably the Lutheran Samuel Pufendorf. It was Pufendorf’s Protestant version that was taught to Smith, widely circulated in the American colonies, and recommended by Alexander Hamilton, who penned two-thirds of The Federalist.

Smith “de-Augustinized” economics by dropping both distribution and utility, launching classical economics with production and exchange alone. In effect, Smith was reverting to Stoic pantheism, which views the universe “to be itself a Divinity, an Animal” (as Smith put it in an early but posthumously published essay) and conceives of God as the immanent World Soul, manipulating humans as puppets who choose neither their ends nor means rationally, since every individual . . . intends only his own gain . . . and is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

Liberal capitalism as described by Smith and Marx’s communism are thus obverse sides of Stoic pantheism. The main difference is that Smith tries to reduce all justice to justice-in-exchange while Marx tries to reduce it to political distributive justice.

Neoclassical economics superseded classical economics by reinventing Augustine’s theory of utility in the early 1870s. But by stopping there it expressed the Epicurean materialism that claims humans evolved by chance in an uncreated world as semi-rational or merely clever animals, highly adept at calculating means but having no choice of ends but self-gratification, since “reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions,” as Smith’s friend David Hume put it.

Because Augustine placed the fact of scarcity squarely at the center of moral decision-making, Catholic claims from the left (and fears from the right) that Caritas in Veritate portends some utopian global political scheme or endorsement of President Obama’s economic policies are likely to prove equally unfounded.

In the American context, the issue most likely to quiet those claims and fears is the combined impact of legal abortion and vastly expanded social benefits, which has been the recipe for “demographic winter” throughout Europe and Asia, but now advocated by President Barack Obama for this country.

In Latin bene dictus means “well spoken” and benedictus, ”a blessing.”

Especially if it helps America avoid its own “demographic winter,” Benedict XVI’s Augustinian “Charity in Truth” will prove to be both.



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Here is a nuts-and-bolts commentary on CIV that actually projects a practical application of ethics in economics which resonates very much with people like me who have worked directly on 'development projects' on a human scale and at a micro-level in the Third World....

Front Porch Republic (FPR) is a commentary site opened by a group of like-minded Americans, generally political conservatives and mostly academics, when the world economic crisis emerged full-blown last year.



Closing the circle:
An economy of values,
and where to look for it

By Adam K. Webb
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17 August 2009


It is no surprise that many of us connected with FPR welcomed the release in mid July of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

As John Médaille and Patrick Deneen have both noted, it touches on many of the concerns about the ethical dimension of modern economic life that animate our discussions. The encyclical affirmed that “every economic decision has a moral consequence.”

It identified a fiction behind many of the ills of today’s society: that production and exchange can be treated as “ethically neutral,” with decency, charity, and friendship divorced from the hard-headed logic of commerce.

The general tenor of the encyclical follows in a long line of Catholic and traditionalist social thought. It sets the contours of ethical economic life in contrast to both capitalism and socialism. Given “man’s darkened reason,” a pure free market descends into the perversity of merely contractual relationships of exploitation, of “giving in order to acquire.”

In much the same way, the socialist strategy of using the state to temper economic Darwinism ends with top-heavy bureaucracy. In the kingdom of edicts without ethics, charity yields to the folly of “giving through duty,” via compulsory taxes and the like. Either way, something of human responsibility for one’s fellows gets lost.

Perhaps the most distinctive new proposal in this encyclical, and one that has attracted the attention of many of us who think about economic alternatives, involves Benedict XVI’s praise for a new type of enterprise.

“Space also needs to be created within the market,” he suggests, “for economic activity carried out by subjects who freely choose to act according to principles other than those of pure profit.”

This new type of business enterprise would be economically efficient while taking a broader view of its activities than the conventional bottom line.

Beyond a rather vague gesture to religiously inspired experiments that have proved the viability of such a model, the encyclical leaves undeveloped the details of this new space that would straddle the market and civil society.

The idea of a more multidimensional economy is attractive for obvious reasons. By focusing on the spirit of economic decisionmaking rather than top-heavy regulation, it promises to avoid many of the rigidities from which socialism suffered.

It also challenges head-on the orthodoxy of economic theory over the last generation. It has become conventional wisdom — and the gospel behind some nefarious policymaking — that the market can admit no ethical colouring. Any more humane aspirations pertain to politics or to private charity.

Merely affirming the possibility of doing things differently is going to grab the attention of many of us. The hope of broadening economic decisionmaking also crops up beyond those familiar with Catholic social thought.

In much the same vein, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank, proposed in his Nobel Prize speech a couple of years ago that the best weapon against poverty would be a new type of “social business,” oriented to the common good rather than mere profitability. The appeal runs both deeply and widely.

[I had hoped before CIV came out that the Pope was going to mention Yunus's extremely successful low-tech small-loans, no-collateral rural banks that has been replicated in other places in Asia besides Bangladesh. In fact, I believe Cardinal Sepe, using his own personal donation as seed money, has started something similar in Naples.

These small loans help the urban poor set up a modest neighborhood enterprise and country poor to start a small vegetable garden, poultry or piggery - and even if they are on the micro end of the economy, they can lead to productivity of otherwise idle persons,some measure of self-sufficiency, and even the start of an enterprise that could grow beyond the micro scale.

Growing up in the Philippines, I have a deep appreciation of what 'little people' can do with a modicum of assistance and guidance, having had experience with developing self reliance and self-sufficiency in my own home and with my family's tenants and dependents, and as as adult, with actual community development work on an intimate scale.]


Once one thinks more about it, however, some problems of execution come to light. None of these proposals go into the nitty gritty of how multidimensional businesses can really fit into the broader economy. They might help relieve poverty, and some of them might even be able to stay afloat.

But the pressures of the broader economy of lucre-lust favour a race to the bottom. I have yet to see any compelling account of how such alternative businesses could redefine the global economic landscape, as their advocates obviously wish for them to do.

This gap, I suspect, is because shifting that landscape inherently requires outgrowing one’s rivals and conquering some of their territory.

To outgrow one-dimensional capitalism is no easy matter. It is like putting a normal person and a tidiness fanatic in adjacent rooms, and expecting the former’s room to be tidier than the latter’s.

However tormented the tidiness fanatic might be, and however much he might drive others up the wall, in any measurable sense he will always triumph in the sphere of his own obsession.

A further shortcoming of these proposals, beyond their vagueness as to design and strategy, is a certain inattention to historical context. As an alternative to the excesses of the last two centuries, the idea of a multidimensional economy would be much more complete if it could fit into a narrative of history and cultural change.

Simply putting it forth as a way to counteract some excesses in our own time runs the risk of leaving us blind to how we got here. More importantly, it overlooks where we might find concrete inspiration and a living example of how more humane economies work.

Those who have read my earlier postings know that I have spent some time in villages in the developing world, and even more time thinking about them. I believe that severe rural poverty creates both demand for a real alternative to global capitalism, and space for experimentation.

I also believe that these communities, neglected and dismissed though they usually are, can offer us some useful lessons for how to humanise the global economy at large.

In short, I do urge a turning upside down of the usual narrative of progress. Inspiration need not flow only one way, from the modern to the traditional. We might be better off with the reverse.

Here is the crux of the issue. We tend to admire much of the spirit of traditional life, and to welcome any efforts to ensure its survival. Thus we see defences of local crafts, small family farms, and the like.

We also want to humanise the modern economy so it can take a wider range of values and aspirations into account, or at least not work so relentlessly against them.

That is why we condemn companies that ruin the livelihoods of thousands for a trivial increment in their quarterly balance sheets. I want to argue here for the best way to close the circle, to connect these two sentiments.

We must think about how lessons from traditional economies can help flesh out the design of a different mode of economic decisionmaking, as favoured by Benedict XVI, Muhammad Yunus, and other voices of our time.

One thing that has always struck me in traditional communities is the widely held view that economic life is about more than just making a buck. Small shopkeepers or middlemen who forget the small decencies of loyalty, generosity, and friendship are swiftly cut down to size.

[The 'honor system' that operates in traditional societies is sacrosanct. Your neighborhood store will give you credit whenever you can't pay for what you need at the moment, because the storekeeper knows you are in temporary straits and will pay him back; and you will pay him back as and when you can because it's a matter of honor, good conduct, and gratitude.]

And peasants often have a well-founded image of modern, urban life as rather too cutthroat for their tastes. This sentiment is recognised in a long line of writing by thinkers who challenge the homo economicus model of orthodox economists — and who are usually dismissed as anathema by them as a result.

One of the best known such thinkers, Karl Polanyi, insisted that “man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships.” A peasant might be quite calculating about how to advance his social prestige, but he would rarely treat profit as an end in itself that should trump all others.

Any broad view of modern economic history and cultural change must see the vanishing of this multidimensionality — this unleashing of the profit motive to run amok — as central.

Polanyi himself said that the theory of a self-regulating market, divorced from society, wrought havoc in the nineteenth century when translated into policy. Millions suffered “social exposure” as they were torn loose from their villages and thrust into factories to live hand to mouth.

Jürgen Habermas observed that much of modernisation has involved splitting the market off from a traditional universe of social norms, so that it can follow its own relentless logic. A conversation about values gives way to the soulless prodding of money and administrators.

And Karl Marx traced the collapse of traditional society, with all its entangling of norms, status, and class, into the “icy bath” of pure profit-seeking. There is, he averred, nothing so powerful in remaking society as the pressure of a low price.

If we step back from these time-tested observations, however, we see a gap that still needs bridging. The world once had economies with a built-in broader view of their purposes, and of how profitability and human flourishing should interact.

Some patches of the world still have residues of this old 'commonwealth', even though the leviathan is bearing down on them. And we aspire to correct the excesses of modern capitalism by taking a broader view of economic life once again.

How these fairly obvious facts might link up with one another, and inspire an alternative capable of gaining ground in our own time, is rather less clear.

Three kinds of solutions seem on offer. The debate seems likely in this century to crystallise around them.

First, socialists and social democrats rely on using the state to regulate economic life, smooth its rough edges, and redistribute resources from rich to poor. Without saying as much, they buy into the notion that the market per se is irredeemable.

Rather than acting directly on the motives of those who make economic decisions, they think it simplest to confine those economic decisions within certain politically imposed limits. At the same time, they insulate some consumption needs from the ravages of what the market, in the aggregate, brings about.

Some goods like medical care and education are taken out of the market, or purchasing power for them is evened out. As critics hasten to point out, this approach has led in recent decades to top-heavy bureaucracy and inefficiencies.

It also tends to be morally debilitating, by empowering administrators and disempowering precisely the same plain folk who often desire a more humane economy in the first place.

Second, many economic traditionalists take a quite different tack. This camp includes many of the readers of FPR and the thinkers who resonate with them. They see the best buffer against both market and stage as economic localism, a defence of place and limits.

The themes of subsidiarity and direct participation show, I think, a deeper appreciation of what humane living requires than we get from the socialists. The emphasis on local self-reliance also shows an astuteness about the dangers posed by the present global economy and its technocratic masters, and a plausible strategy for protecting oneself from them.

It has obvious shortcomings, however. I noted a couple of weeks ago that it sacrifices real and necessary economies of scale. It has little prospect of remaking the global economic landscape, simply because it cannot outgrow mainstream capitalism enough to displace it.

And, in a deeper sense, focusing on scale — and, in some versions, specific forms of traditional economic life — rather than the content of the economic virtues can limit one’s creative energy and ability to adapt how they are expressed.

Third is what the encyclical and other proposals for a multidimensional economy are hinting at but not developing sufficiently.

They do not just want to move the boundary between market and state, or confine the market within smaller units in the hope that smallness will humanise. Rather, this approach inclines to fling open the energies of economic life, but at the same time act directly on the motives that channel them.

I think a useful analogy for what this looks like is what I call “the virtuous millionaire.”

She is a millionaire because we must recognise that some undertakings require larger concentrations and flows of capital than an economy made up only of small proprietors can offer.

She is virtuous in the sense of wanting a decent return on investment, but also to promote worthy social purposes. And because we are dealing with a mind in which these goals merge, decisionmaking is quite seamless.

Our virtuous millionaire might choose to invest in the more ethically run of two equally profitable enterprises; or to accept a lower rate of return to support a worthy cause; or to mix support of some very profitable and ethically adequate enterprises with others that merely break even while bringing impressive social benefits.

In a society with many such virtuous millionaires, moreover, one would have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, capital would be allocated in ethically conscious ways. On the other hand, the economy would benefit from the dynamism of many independent decisionmakers, with complementary knowledge of the market and not overly bound by regulations from above.

Despite everything else with which we might disagree in the writings of F.A. von Hayek, he was right in noting the advantages of the market in pulling together the dispersed knowledge of many independent actors.

This image of the virtuous millionaires is not merely an abstraction. A glance into history reveals many examples of something quite like them.

The owners of large traditional estates, while often responsible for exploitation that should be named and blamed as such, also were somewhat confined by religious and customary norms of stewardship. [The benign and beneficial paternalistic nature of many so-called 'feudal' arrangements is often overlooked or ignored, but it is very real in the Third World.] They took a broader view of economic decisionmaking than does a modern investment banker with a spreadsheet.

Premodern societies also had collective versions of the virtuous millionaire. The monasteries of mediæval Europe and the waqf endowments of the Islamic world oversaw large concentrations of wealth for the public benefit.

And before the enclosure movement of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries broke up and sold off the village commons, whole communities had large reservoirs of wealth that were used in accord with local norms rather than only to increase the bottom line.

This aspect of capital ownership and allocation is, I suspect, the missing dimension of what an ethical economic alternative will look like.

Put capital in the hands of the mercenary or those who are pressed by necessity into shortsightedness, and capital will behave in a mercenary or shortsighted way. (It will also tend to flow out of the hands of the necessarily shortsighted and into the hands of the mercenary, by the time the dust settles.)

Put capital in the hands of something like the virtuous millionaire —most often, this would be something like community-based endowments, or ethically driven investment funds — and you will get something rather different, without the top-heaviness, rigidities, or high walls of the other ways to temper capitalism.

It is an “economy of values” in many senses: it has dynamic flows and its own equilibrium, and it merges multiple priorities into a relatively seamless and decentralised model of decisionmaking.

This way of shaping behaviour is rather like dealing with a stadium of people, some of whom are intoning poetry while others shriek profanity.

We might take the heavyhanded approach and simply ban certain speech or speakers. Or we can give megaphones to the poets and turn up the volume for the most inspiring ones.

In the same way, allocating capital preferentially to more ethical enterprises has a way of amplifying their good deeds in the long run. By rewarding good habits, it also subtly reshapes behaviour. Because performance and decency are seamlessly woven together, as for the virtuous millionaire, it is more likely the desired norms will be internalised by economic actors.

The cultural terrain would shift over a generation or two. Let us tweak the psychology of the investment bankers and CEOs directly.

As a project of restoration, this model would make quite clear that it sees the one-dimensional economy of the last two centuries as an aberration in history.

In closing the circle between a respect for traditional decency and our present day economic hopes, we also have to take seriously what remains of a multidimensional economy.

The old commonwealth survives most fully in rural communities in poorer regions of the world. Where we can build on their lived experience, and mobilise what remains of their “unenclosed” wealth in this way, we might have the kernel of an experiment.

[YES!!! I have seen so many examples of developing self-reliance' in small communities, rural and urban, having worked for years with government projects concerned with assuring them of 'basic human needs' - homes, food, drinkable water, livelihood, health care, education, religious and cultural opportunities.

Government never has enough to do it for all the villages and neighborhoods in the country, but you target the neediest communities first and help them be a model for the area where they are located, and in many cases, they do have a multiplier effect. It's too bad subsequent governments in the Philippines did not pursue the vision of that Ministry of Human Settlements and the inspiration and faith of the lady who made it possible.]


We could weave among these communities networks of cooperation and circuits of an alternative capital market. At the same time that this offers the economies of scale that I argued were indispensable in an earlier posting, it could build a practical example of something like what Benedict XVI and Muhammad Yunus are proposing.

Severe poverty and a shortage of capital also offer the advantage, ironically, of a high enough growth rate in the medium term for such an experiment to outgrow the established global economy and reconquer some space from it. There are both social and strategic advantages to focusing here.

This is, of course, only a very broad outline of some pressure points that I think are worth probing further. I detail some more nuts and bolts of how such an experiment on the ground might work in my recent book on the Andes.

But most importantly, I want to underline the importance of this fundamental debate. What if any historical antecedents might we point out as inspiration for our efforts today? What is our narrative of what went wrong over the last two centuries? What are the key pressure points that might reshape the economic terrain? Are they matters of scale, regulation, dispersal of ownership, or, as I have suggested, of how capital is allocated? And where might we look for fertile ground in our own time?

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Posted earlier in the BENEDICT XVI NEWS thread:


The sixth essay in FIRST THINGS's online symposium on CIV is one of those rare 'internalizations' of the encyclical hat go beyond a surface reading of the encyclical.


Benedict XVI, Economist
by Ivan Kenneally
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August 21, 2009


Benedict XVI recently issued his third and greatly anticipated encyclical Caritas in Veritate and it was immediately parsed by political analysts and operatives for partisan evidence of their Catholic bona fides.

Liberals were generally pleased that the Pope criticized the excesses of capitalism and globalization, extolled the virtues or property redistribution [I don't think Benedict XVI has ever used the term 'property redistribution' which is outright socialistic - he is always careful to say 'equitable distribution of the world's resources", Note 'equitable' not 'equal'!], and defended the claims [not the 'claims' - the 'rights'!] of labor unions.

Even better, they were dizzy with enthusiasm regarding his call for the creation of a “true world political authority” to protect the disenfranchised from systemic poverty.

It’s easy to forget that only a few years ago the Pope was roundly criticized by liberals for his anachronistic attachment to conservative values and tradition; now with one encyclical he has become fully rehabilitated and, in the grand tradition of Jeremiah Wright, is an important spiritual advisor to President Obama. To hear the liberal embrace of the latest encyclical’s economic recommendations, one would think it was co-authored by Larry Summers.

However, liberals who scrutinize the document with the care it deserves will find their celebration has been premature.

First of all, the encyclical is not an economic policy paper with the primary intention of advocating any particular institutional program.

Benedict goes to great pains to stress from the beginning that the Catholic Church “does not have technical solutions to offer” and that its central concern is not economic development per se but “integral human development,” or the understanding of true human progress as a “vocation.”

For Benedict, a proper understanding of the challenges to our moral development “requires further and deeper reflection on the economy and its goals” but this is only a first step towards bringing about a “profound cultural renewal” that could not legitimately be captured by the technical language or categories of academic economics.

In fact, the entire encyclical is marked by a principled skepticism regarding any political or institutional response to a set of problems that “are not primarily of the material order.”

Generally speaking, “institutions by themselves are not enough” partly because, like individuals, they are vulnerable to corruption and partly because any genuine moral progress “involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity by everyone” that is negated by excessive state coercion.

More specifically, Caritas in veritate is devoted to the virtue of charity understood in light of the “commitment to the common good” which has “greater worth than a merely secular or political stand would have.”

According to Benedict, true charity is an individual vocation that can only be properly practiced by a free and responsible person — its exercise surely has political implications but is not first and foremost a political virtue.

While charity “demands justice” it also “transcends justice” —authentic charity is not reducible to some technocratic mechanism or easily encouraged by bureaucratic regulation. Rather than a duty of the state, it is an obligation of the soul.

The “great challenge” that confronts us is today is the apparently irrepressible fact of globalization or what the Pope calls an “explosion of worldwide interdependence.”

In itself, globalization is neither good nor bad — if “suitably understood and directed” it can function as an engine of economic growth, opportunity, and prosperity and, if “badly directed,” can lead to unprecedented levels of poverty and oppression.

The political problem of globalization, according to Benedict, is that the “new context of international trade and finance” which corresponds to the “increasing mobility of financial capital and means of production” exposes and strains the limitations to the sovereignty of the modern state.

In other words, the world of finance continues to become more fluid and truly international while the moral stewardship of international exchange is still largely conducted by compartmentalized states, some of which are incapable of properly competing and others who are shamefully predatory.

This is not intended as a justification for simply dismissing sovereignty (a conclusion the Pope calls “precipitous”) — it should be the case that that increased access to the global marketplace and increased wealth and economic self-sufficiency will produce greater and stronger opportunities for national self-determination.

Nevertheless, the pope’s abiding fear is that globalization has the potential to “undermine the foundations of democracy” and disguise economic warfare as collaboration.

So while the Pope does recommend the establishment of a “true world political authority” this shouldn’t be thoughtlessly conflated with something akin to Al Gore’s recent call for “global governance.”

Benedict is careful to point out that any international institution must be authentically democratic and devoted to the fostering of democracy among its members and that any centralization of power must be appropriately deferential to the “involvement of local communities in choices and decisions” that ultimately affect their own economic fate.

While he wants to protect poorer countries from abuse and destitution he also recognizes that they are often to blame for their economic failures and that it is imperative any such federation work toward “sustaining the productive capacities of rich countries.”

Benedict never argues that profit is evil or that free markets are inherently immoral — his argument is that “without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function.”

In fact, what he most deeply pines for is the opportunity for individuals to “freely choose to act according to principles other than pure profit, without sacrificing the production of economic value in the process.”

This is not a condemnation of free markets as immoral but rather a reflection on the dangers posed to both freedom and markets when economic activity is completely delinked from “fully human outcomes.”

Today, the advocacy for greater and more centralized regulation is almost always attached to an ideologically dogmatic dismissal of capitalism and free markets.

Sadly, the recognition of the moral and political limitations (as well as economic) of an excessively “consumerist” and “hedonistic” approach to economics usually brings with it the unwelcome baggage of socialistic paternalism.

At the heart of this updated Marxism is the pregnant expectation of a post-political triumph that finally discovers technocratic solutions to what has traditionally been considered permanent political problems.

Benedict distinguishes himself from these fantasies by reflecting on the “danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions” that hastily dismiss political reality thereby placing its “ethical and human dimension in jeopardy.”

Whatever the ultimate promise of globalization may be, there are limits to the kind of human community we can build for ourselves—we are rightfully animated “to some degree by an anticipation and prefiguration of the undivided city of God,” but we never “overcome every division and become a truly universal community.”

Original sin — the fact of our “wounded natures” — will always express itself in the necessary imperfection of every human arrangement. So, for all of Benedict’s discussion of a world political authority, only “God is the guarantor of true human development.”

For Benedict, globalization is not merely the result of blind and impersonal Historical forces but rather the organic outgrowth of our deep longing for spiritual unity.

While the family, and by extension the local community, are the most natural stages for moral flourishing, we are “constitutionally oriented towards ‘being more,’” always striving to further approximate the image of God in which we are made.

This basic and intestinal inclination towards transcendence expresses itself in the technological dimension of our freedom as well, evidenced by our ceaseless attempts to conquer and control the forces of nature by our own efforts.

The grave danger, what the Benedict identifies as the “cultural and moral crisis of man,” is that by “idealizing” either economic or technological progress as the ultimate human goals we detach them both from moral evaluation and detach ourselves from moral responsibility.

Both of these idealizations produce the intoxicating sensation of our own self-sufficient “autonomy” or “absolute freedom” that “seeks to prescind from the limits inherent in things.”

Our freedom, the Pope argues, must always be understood in conjunction with our moral responsibility, rooted in a recognition of that which limits us. [Ah, but those who relativize everything because they claim there can be no absolute truth, do in fact claim that freedom must be absolute, i.e., not bound to any responsibility, moral or otherwise, only to its total and unbounded expression!]

Our gravitational pull towards “being more” should never be confused with the possibility of “being anything” — the pernicious and radically un-conservative pretense that our being is the product of ex nihilo self-construction has the paradoxical consequence of reducing our existence to “being nothing.”

The Church has no intention of simply opposing globalization precisely because its deepest causes are to be found in the spiritual composition of man.

In fact, our moral desire for solidarity is a temporal expression of our desire to find communion with the whole of humanity in the Kingdom of God and the “recognition that the human race is a single family.”

Following Paul, Benedict XVI affirms that the Church can be seen as an authority on globalization largely because of its “characteristic attribute: a global vision of man and the human race.”

Because of the insuperable limitations on political life, however, the “principle of solidarity” must always be counterbalanced by the “principle of subsidiarity” or the “expression of inalienable human freedom.”

The combination of these allows the Church to navigate between the two excesses of unfettered “social privatism” and an unwieldy “paternalistic social assistance.”

It is precisely this balance that allows Benedict to distinguish his view from “various forms of totalitarianism” which, unlike Christianity, attempt to “absorb” the individual, effectively “annihilating his autonomy.”

The statist argument typical of the American left — that economic activity must be politically managed by a bureaucratic elite for a collective moral end — has been so decisively discredited that it has made it difficult for conservatives to criticize the real moral inadequacies of free market capitalism.

A moral criticism of mercenary economic activity, especially with respect to the stress and dislocation it can visit upon the family, is deeply conservative in spirit.

The reflexive distancing evident in so many otherwise conservative quarters from the encyclical’s moral teaching is powerful evidence that conservatism today is often overrun by its libertarian wing, especially when it comes to matters of the market.

Still, what could be more conservative than the argument that while freedom certainly demands its proper due, it is the requisite condition of virtue rather than the whole of it?

In the narrow sense, Benedict is not so much concerned with globalization as an economic phenomenon but rather the “underlying anthropological and ethical spirit” of globalization and its “theological dimension.”

It could be argued that this is economics in the grand sense as understood by the founder of capitalism, Adam Smith — that it is a subdivision of moral philosophy.

This is what the Pope seems to mean when he contends that “every economic decision has a moral consequence.” Benedict’s economics respects the promise of free markets and also recognizes their failings — pervasive globalization both threatensand supports the “inviolable dignity of the human person.”

This means that the central “social question has become a radically anthropological question” and that economics must become part of a “truly integral humanism” that respects not only profit but the moral condition of those who pursue it. This should be a conclusion that conservatives can happily embrace.


Ivan Kenneally, assistant professor of political science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is currently writing a book on American politics and the problem of technocracy. He blogs at Postmodern Conservative.
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Another early commentary on CIV that I failed to see - and it's from John Waters, who wrote one of those rare informed reactions to the AIDS-and-condoms brouhaha that attended a statement of fact by Pope Benedict XVI last March.

It confirms the excellent opinion I have formed about his good sense and apparently orthodox Catholicism on the basis of a few articles.

Besides a rather masterful brief summary of the encyclical's main points, Waters also offers a reflection on the post-modern attitude towards Christ and Christianity.



Core truth of encyclical
gets 'lost in translation'


The breadth and originality of the Pope’s message
is distorted by contemporary blinkers about Christianity


by JOHN WATERS
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July 10, 2009



IN RECENT days I have read a number of reports about the third encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, all of which treated the Pope as they would a philosopher, or political leader, who had delivered a warning to society about the need to mend itself.

Inevitably, perhaps, reports of the encyclical’s contents tended to suggest the Pope had “attacked” this or that – materialism, capitalism, ideology.

Nowhere in the reportage I encountered did the meaning of the title, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), come across.

One problem is that the entity at the heart of the Pope’s reflections is not treated as a rational phenomenon in our culture. It is all but impossible, therefore, for anything relating to Christianity to be accurately communicated because the language required to do so has been shunted into a siding.

To write or talk about what the Pope has actually written, and in a manner faithful to his intentions, is necessarily to invoke a language which immediately signals itself as the language of irrationality and superstition.

And anyway, our societies do not recognise anything as true except what is politically and “scientifically” arrived at.

In this culture, the story of Christ may to a degree be respected as vaguely historical, but is regarded somewhat differently to “factual” history. Journalistically, Christ is treated with a mix of scepticism and pluralism-inspired “tolerance”.

Reports concerning Christianity therefore almost always implicitly separate questions of the content of Christian culture from its originating phenomenon.

No journalist wants to risk isolation or worse by referring in an implicitly affirmative way to beliefs that are, by common consent in modern society, to be “tolerated” at most.

Everything of Christianity is predicated on the idea that Christ, the Son of God, died to save mankind, rose again on the third day, and continues to exist as a presence in earthly reality. If we do not accept this, why bother reporting what the Pope says at all?

If we report what the Pope says and leave out the bits where he refers to this core meaning of Christianity, how can any of it make sense?

In this encyclical, the Pope demonstrates his extraordinary clarity on a range of counts. He has interesting things to say about markets and how they might be harnessed to a moral energy in the common good.

Markets are not intrinsically bad, he says, but can be made so by ideology. He stresses that charity cannot be separated from justice, which it complements and transcends. It is not sufficient to give someone what is “mine” if I have prevented him having what is rightly “his”.

Christians have a responsibility to the common good, and in a global society this means the good of all humanity. The Church does not offer technical solutions, but seeks to draw attention to the nature and structure of man, the truth of the human condition.

Development must include spiritual alongside material growth. You cannot have Christianity without Christ. Christian charity is the face of Christ, the only truth there is. Love is not in our gift but is given when we open to it. There is no love, no hope, without Christ.

The Christian proposal presents Christ not as a story from history, but a fact of the present moment. He is here, now, and knowledge of this, yes, fact is what frees us to do what is “right”. His presence renders love safe. If we deny Him, all we have is sentiment, sanctimony and self-interest. There is no alternative route to conscience.

“A Christianity of charity without truth,” writes the Pope, “would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world.”

There is a danger in digesting the contents of this complex encyclical by the logic of a culture which sees Christ, at best, as a teacher of social philosophy.

Just as true Christianity liberates Christ from the sentimentalism and moralism that pursues social control rather than truth, the Pope warns that charity not founded in Christ is defined by an “emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content”.

To put this another way: only by venerating the Truth in our culture do we enable true charity to prosper. Without it there is only moral pressure, obligation and guilt.

The Holy Father warns: “Without . . . trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present.” This is a succinct description of our situation.

Unhitched from truth, faith is reduced to ethics, which unravel when disconnected from their source.

“Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is,” the Pope tells us. The problem is that, in our culture now, this is liable to be heard as an opinion or a warning, rather than a simple statement of fact.


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I really should check the Irish Times more regularly. For instance, here's one article from last year - which is now available only on subscriber archives! And look at the little that we are shown about it:


Radicalism at the heart of this brilliant Pope's reign
April 25, 2008

Benedict's whispering of ancient truths through the megaphone of his enemies is invaluable to the modern age, writes John Waters

IF WE care to contemplate the irrelevance of chronological age, let us consider that last week marked the 81st birthday of the most radical voice in modern Europe. Benedict XVI, now three years into his papacy, has already confounded his enemies and delighted his admirers in a....



Or this one by the Times correspondent in Rome about Cardinal Ratzinger's election:


How the kingmaker became king
April 23, 2005

The progressive camp in the conclave never stood a chance against Cardinal Ratzinger's experienced band of brothers, writes Paddy Agnew in Rome

In the end, the election of Pope Benedict XVI was not so much an electoral contest as a walkover.

What had been billed by many, present company included, as a "highly uncertain" conclave turned out to be quick and relatively straightforward. Of the nine...



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Posted earlier in the BENEDICT XVI NEWS thread:


I find this a brief but incisive commentary on CIV from a most unexpected site: that of the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG), based in Montreal, which describes itself as "an independent research organization and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists established in Sept. 2001. It publishes news articles, commentary, background research and analysis on a broad range of issues, focussing on social, economic, strategic and environmental processes.



Benedict XVI on economics:
Like Jesus chasing out the money-changers

by Richard Cook
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August 26, 2009


Life is a gift bestowed by God upon man.

Therefore each of us must adopt an attitude of giving in relation to all other men. This attitude must include activities involving the economic life of individuals, nations, and the world.

Economics is not just a search for efficiency or profits.

Such are among the lessons to be derived from Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, Caritas In Veritate, "Charity in Truth."

The Pope writes, "Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift. Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension."

This remarkable document, which should be studied by every caring person, was published in JuLY 2009. It has not been reviewed nearly as widely as it should, no doubt because most commentators regard it as a Catholic document of interest only to those within the Catholic Church. This is a profound mistake.

In recent decades, the Catholic Popes, especially Pope John (1958-1963) and Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), have boldly taken on the role of providing spiritual guidance to the entire world that includes matters pertaining to economics.

True, the Catholic Church has often not taken a sufficient stand for economic and social justice to satisfy many critics [most of whom remember only the negative facts associated with the Church but ignore teh rest of its entire 2000-year history], but the fact is that the Church's position has generally been one in favor of economic democracy, fairer distribution of the earth's bounty, and an ethical dimension to political and economic decisions.

This is in stark contrast to the wantonness whereby the world's richest people, institutions, and nations have increasingly lorded it over everyone else as the reach of globalism has accelerated.

Pope Benedict's Caritas In Veritate is in the modern tradition of Catholic social commentary. It is long - about 30,000 words. It must be read slowly and carefully. It lack specifics about the reforms the Pope says are needed. But it contains truth.

It points out that man does not live by bread alone - that economic imperatives must take second place to what the Pope calls "integral human development."

Returning to the concept of life as a gift, the Pope writes that "Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift."

Thus to become fully human requires man to be cognizant of his relationship to the source of Truth. This is the Absolute - God. This realization must be reflected in the world through a deep and abiding sense of responsibility of human beings toward each other. It leads to what the Pope calls "solidarity" among people, including relations between developed and underdeveloped nations and among social groupings within particular nations.

Pope Benedict also points out that where globalization has shattered the ability and will power of nations to regulate economic life for the common good, a resurgence of such efforts at the level of the nation-state can and must be made.

He does not view globalization as replacing nations or eliminating democracy, a word he uses favorably numerous times.

Caritas In Veritate is a vitally important contribution to making the world in the technological age a fit vehicle for human development, with technology being more than just a toy which disguises its ability to be abused as a weapon for further economic exploitation.

Here is another excerpt:

Love in truth — caritas in veritate — is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized.

The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development.

Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.

The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.”



The Pope speaks of the Church, but what he is saying contains a message for all of mankind. If taken seriously, the encyclical is potentially revolutionary. Its message is diametrically opposite to that of the "New World Order" espoused by the international financial elite as their primary method of enslaving mankind to a secular ideology of materialism.

The Pope implies, by stating that "the environment is God's gift to everyone," that the materialistic ideology is rooted in the evil of the privatization of resources that really should belong to the public commons.

He also mentions the traditional Catholic position on debt by stating that, "The weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury," though he does not get specific enough to question the fact that the world monetary system is collapsing because it is based on the creation of money through bank lending.

Some conservative Catholic commentators in the U.S. are very upset about the publication of the encyclical due to its progressive tenor. For them, as well as many Protestant fundamentalists, religion seems almost an excuse for the ongoing Western military crusade for world conquest so evident in the Middle East.

Some go so far as to ridicule the encyclical as really being a product of a liberal faction in Rome's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and therefore subject to dismissal in its entirety as a fantasy of dreamers.

After all, Pope Benedict, formerly head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor organization to the Inquisition, was himself supposed to be a theological conservative.

On the other hand, perhaps theological conservatism and economic justice really are inter-related. [More than inter-related, they are intrinsic to each other. Theological conservatism upholds Christ's message as he gave it - and one only has to think of the Sermon on the Mount to know that his message was always of love and compassion and sharing for those who have less in life.] Perhaps theological conservatism is not the same thing as Western militaristic ethno-centrism.

Perhaps Pope Benedict means what he says, and that he and the Church intend to be separating themselves as clearly as the encyclical seems to do from the prevailing trends of world events in the age of globalism.

Could the encyclical even be a sign that "Old Europe" is decisively separating itself from the face the Anglo-American military-financial-intelligence colossus has presented to the world over the past decade - with its wars, invasions, and threats against such nations as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and even Russia?

Only time will tell. As it reads, Caritas In Veritate sounds a lot like Jesus chasing the money changers from the temple.



Richard C. Cook is author of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform. His website is at www.richardccook.com



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The seventh essay in the FIRST THINGS symposium on CIV:


War, progress, and 'Caritas'
by R.R. Reno
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August 26, 2009

R.R. Reno is features editor of First Things and professor of theology at Creighton University.


The recent encyclical on social doctrine, Caritas in Veritate, has raised interesting questions about international cooperation and development. I’ve certainly had some good conversations.

But I’ve been struck by a fairly widespread lack of acquaintance with War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ by Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900). It’s a book that is worth knowing, not the least because it bears directly on a central theme of Caritas in Veritate: “humanity’s journey towards unity.”

Solovyov was a confidante of Dostoevsky, and some speculate that the young Solovyov was the model for one of Dostoevsky’s memorable fictional characters, Alyosha Karamazov.

He certainly shared Dostoevsky’s conviction that modern secular culture was careening toward a soulless anti-humanism that puts on the mask of philanthropy.

Indeed, War, Progress, and the End of History should be read as a rich elaboration of the main thrust of Dostoevsky’s more famous tale of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov.

War, Progress, and the End of History features three conversations among elite Russians who have repaired to the French Riviera for relaxation.

One is a retired General, another an eminent diplomat whom Solovyov dubs “the Politician,” and still another a young Prince, an enthusiastic follower of Tolstoy’s pacifism and idealistic morality.

The group is rounded out by a mysterious “Mr. Z,” the clearest representative of Solovyov’s own views, and a middle-aged lady who often intervenes to keep the conversation focused on the main topic: the true meaning of war and peace.

Provoked by a pacifist newspaper article, the General dominates the first conversation. Against the presumption that war is inherently evil, the General pronounces the Russian army “a glorious band of Christ-loving warriors.”

The Prince, of course, is horrified by this intimate association of Christianity with warfare. “Christianity,” he observes, “absolutely condemns war.” Christ came to bring peace.

With this sharp juxtaposition of characters, Solovyov dramatizes two moral intuitions. On the one hand, most of us can identify some wars and uses of violence that are commendable rather than condemnable.

Solovyov’s characters give examples of the sort that show up in ethics textbooks: a father defending his daughter against a vicious attacker, a battalion of soldiers defeating an enemy force bent on genocide.

Yet, at the same time, it seems obvious that human beings were made for peace, not war. So, which shall it be? Is war holy or profane?

For the most part, we are trained to form our divided intuitions in terms of a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate uses of force. This allows us to distinguish between just and unjust wars.

Solovyov adverts to this approach, but sets it aside. He recognizes that the modern tendency to view war as profane does not arise out of new conclusions drawn from traditional modes of moral reflection. Instead, as Solovyov shows, deeper assumptions about human history and progress play a decisive role.

As the conversation evolves, Solovyov draws attention to the fact that modern pacifism has difficulty accounting for its own novelty. Why have nearly all men and women in all previous ages endorsed some uses of violence?

In the character of the Prince, Solovyov rehearses Tolstoy’s answer, which turns out to be the answer given by most modern moral idealists. “My conscience,” the Prince reports, “has progressed beyond this elementary stage.”

The true content of Christianity is now coming to the fore. For the first time in human history, authentic discipleship is a real possibility. [?????]

In the second conversation, the Politician holds the floor. At first, he seems very different from the Prince. A modern man of science and reason, the Politician dismisses the Prince’s dreamy idealism. Yet, when it comes to war, he also believes in progress. War and conflict, he argues, have no usefulness in our complex, interconnected world.

Much like theorists in the 1990s who predicted that globalization would create economic disincentives for conflict, the Politician observes that war had become impractical.

“The military period of history,” he announces, “is over.” In our new circumstances, “peaceful politics is a criterion and symptom of cultural progress.”

In the third conversation, Mr. Z rotates to the center of attention, and it turns out that he also sees a link between war and progress. Unlike the Prince and Politician, however, Mr. Z articulates an apocalyptic vision of history, quoting a striking passage from the Gospel of Luke in which the Prince of Peace says, “Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (12:51). History is progressing toward its appointed end - a division between good and evil, and their final conflict.

Solovyov does a brilliant job drawing together a number of theological threads. In the main body of the third conversation, Mr. Z engages the Prince in a debate about the resurrection.

Over and against the Prince’s ethic of non-resistance, the pugnacious, aggressive character of Nicene doctrine [surely figurative, not intended to be taken in a literal way!] comes into view.

Mr. Z points out that the Risen Christ wins the decisive battle in God’s war against the Kingdom of Death. This war defines human history and it the engine of its true progress.

By contrast, the accommodating, revisionist impulse in liberal Christianity reflects our desire to soften this conflict and broker a false peace that reconciles us to death.

The third conversation ends with Mr. Z recounting a fanciful and often amusing story of the anti-Christ.

In this tale, the anti-Christ begins as a progressive modern intellectual who writes books on biblical criticism, world peace, and the unity of religions, and who eventually becomes a world leader - a figure that contemporary readers might imagine as a composite of Marcus Borg, Thomas Friedman, John Hick, and Al Gore.

His great promise is peace and prosperity, which he eventually provides as head of a global empire. Against him only a small group of believers remains, a remnant of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox now unified by the final persecution.

The stage is set for the final triumph. The peace of Christ embodied in the small but finally united spiritual witness of the church overcomes the world government ruled by the anti-Christ.

To a great extent, Caritas in Veritate cuts against the dark vision of conflict that dominates Solovyov’s vision of history. The recent encyclical encourages us to give sympathetic consideration to the development of global institutions capable of solving the world’s problems.

Yet, in his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict takes a more cautionary view. In his exegesis of the temptations of Jesus, Benedict cites War, Progress, and the End of History.

In his use of Solovyov in Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict draws attention to the fact that the promise of progress turns out to have its dangers. When the devil takes Jesus to a high mountaintop and offers him dominion over the entire world, Benedict’s interpretation follows the main lines of Solovyov’s vision of the anti-Christ.

Jesus is tempted by the philanthropic promise of a politically unified globe. It is the tempting vision, as Benedict observes, of “one great kingdom of peace and well-being.” And it is a vision very much alive today.

The problem, as Benedict points out, is spiritual. To believe in global institutions as the source of true peace lead us to “the worship of well-being and rational planning.” We end up believing in a false gospel of Peace and Prosperity. This is not the gospel Christ brings.

[But Benedict is hardly arguing for depending on such 'world institutions' alone! All throughout, he argues the necessary and complementary principle of subsidiarity - solve problems at the local level and by local means before resorting to higher authority.]

God turns out to be much more ambitious. Our true peace is fellowship with him, and with others in him. As Solovyov’s story of the Anti-Christ reminds us - and the story is an imaginative interpretation of the Book of Revelation - progress toward Christ’s peace will not be conflict-free. [How can it be? Lucifer's rebellion and Adam's fall brought conflict to the world, and it will be good vs evil to the end of time!]

Humanity will not happily converge upon a harmonious end of history. Indeed, the promise of happy convergence may be the last and most powerful weapon of evil.

As I said, Caritas in Veritate raises interesting questions. No one can doubt that our world is drawing toward a much greater degree of economic, cultural, and political integration. But how are we to read the signs of the times? How does Pope Benedict read them?

Caritas in Veritate points in one direction; his entirely sympathetic use of War, Progress and the End of History points in another. Perhaps this should not surprise us. The signs of our times aren’t easy to decipher.


Prof. Reno's concluding juxtaposition seems to me fallacious. As a simple reader, I do not see the ambivalence that many intellectual commentators have ascribed to CIV.

Benedict XVI is a supreme realist. He sees things for what they are and says so. He states the realities as he sses them, and then proposes the Christian approach for dealing with such realities. It is what he consistently does in CIV. That is not ambivalence nor contradiction.

I don't think he has any illusions that the Christian way will necessarily prevail, nor right away. Almost always, he reminds us that Christians are often counter-current, the 'sign of contradiction' that Jesus said they would and should be.

He can only guide, exhort and pray. It is up to the Christian faithful who heed his words, to apply the Christian approach to the problems of human development and progress - to the extent that they can, and according to the role they have in society: the humble ones on the local 'subsidiary' level, the more powerful ones in ways that can actually impact on the larger society.


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