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7/10/2009 3:53 AM
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In the BENEDICT news thread, I singled out Fr. Schall's contribution to the CWR round table on CIV, as well as to a smaller symposium on The Catholic Thing. Here are all the contributions to the CWR round table:

J. Brian Benestad
Professor of Theology
University of Scranton

In 1986 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation under the signature of its prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The Instruction says that Catholic social doctrine (CSD) had to emerge from the practice of the Christian faith.

“The Church’s social teaching is born of the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands (summarized in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbor in justice) with the problems emanating from the life of society” (no. 72).

CSD helps people to know what love and justice require in the various circumstances of life, knowledge that would escape many without instruction.

In his book on the morals of the Catholic Church St. Augustine had underscored the difficulty of carrying out the commandment to love’s one’s neighbor:"From this commandment are the duties pertaining to human society, about which it is difficult not to err."

In other words, it is easy for human beings to love one another badly both in personal encounters and in devising proposals for the common good of society.

Pope Benedict’s new encyclical builds on the earlier CDF Instruction by emphasizing that love has to be guided by truth: “‘Caritas in veritate’ is the principle around which the Church’s social doctrine turns.”

If society’s work for justice (“the minimum measure” of love) were guided by truth, argues the Pope, society would not permit abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, the priority of rights over duties, and the exclusion of religion from the public square. Love of neighbor is not compatible with these practices.

The 1986 Instruction also sheds light on the different levels of teaching found in Caritas in Veritate. by distinguishing between permanently valid principles and “contingent judgments” in CSD (no. 72).

Unlike Pope Benedict’s two previous encyclicals this one contains a number of contingent judgments aimed at overcoming the current economic crisis, such as the argument for a “true world political authority.”

Drawing upon Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, Pope Benedict offers the world a vision of development that is richer and more complete than the common understanding.

He reminds us of Paul VI’s teaching that “life in Christ is the first and principal factor in development.” This means development should aim at the “greatest possible perfection” for every single person, in addition to overcoming poverty, disease, unemployment, ignorance, etc.

By way of conclusion, I would simply say that Caritas in Veritate is proposing a Christian humanism to improve the productivity, ethics, and dignity of the economic life of nations.

The practice of the virtues by all participants in modern economies, the Pope argues, is more important for a functioning market than any set of structures devised by policy makers.

Francis J. Beckwith
Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies
Resident Scholar in the Institute for the Studies of Religion
Baylor University

That theological anthropology is the proper starting point in discovering the good for which human beings were designed is the animating principle behind Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (or “Charity in Truth”).

For without true knowledge of the human person, one cannot know how to properly direct one’s love (or “charity”) to one’s fellow human being.

As Benedict writes, “Without truth, 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 globalized society at difficult times like the present” (5).

For Benedict, who and what we are, the question of theological anthropology, is the key to a proper understanding of our relationship to one another, our economic progress and regress, the nature of the family and marriage, humanity’s stewardship for the environment, the rule of law, intergenerational justice, as well as our openness to human life at its outset, its end, and the time in between.

Yes, Caritas in Veritate mentions all these topics as well as several others. But the answer to the question of what constitutes integral human development — i.e., what are we and what is the good for us as individuals and as a whole? — is the unifying principle that connects them all.

The categories that dominate our public discourse in the United States — left, right, liberal, conservative, etc. — play no role in illuminating the message of Caritas in Veritate.

This is why it is a fool’s errand to attempt to artificially divide Catholic social teachings into its left and right wings, as if the Church’s rejection of economic libertarianism and proclamation of the principles of subsidiary and solidarity is a call to socialism or the government ownership of the means of production, or that the Church’s embracing of the exclusivity of male-female marriage and its defense of the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death means that the Church does not believe in individual liberty.

This “binary model,” as Benedict calls it (41), unnaturally limits our vision of the multilayered and interdependent goods that lead to integral human development, and thus, results in true freedom for the individual to pursue the good.

According to the Pope, if we believe that our faith and all that it entails for theological anthropology and the good life is true, we can coherently claim that liberty, rightly understood, prohibits us from rejecting certain unassailable truths about ourselves without which liberty loses its point.

For the Church, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from “Honor thy Father and Mother,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not steal.”

This is not a seamless garment. For it is not an artifice constructed by our wills. It is a living organism, made by God, whose parts work in concert for the benefit of the whole.

Thus, the “justice” in social justice refers to a rightly ordered polity, not to the outcomes and/or processes advocated by the ideologies of a Ludwig Von Mises or a Karl Marx. In Christian theology, you can gain the whole world and lose your own soul (Luke 9:25). To paraphrase St. Paul, that’s a stumbling block to the Austrians and foolishness to the Marxists.

Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Editor, Ignatius Press
Publisher, Catholic World Report

Pope Benedict has something for everyone in Caritas in Veritate — from praising profit (21) to defending the environment (48). But in these cases, as in all the others, he calls for a discernment and a purification by faith and reason (56) that should temper immoderate and one-sided enthusiasms.

Once again Pope Benedict shows himself to be a theologian of synthesis and fundamental principles. In the titles of his three encyclicals he has used only five nouns: God, Love, Hope, Salvation, and Truth — the most fundamental of realities.

And in the opening greeting of this encyclical he succinctly describes the contents: “on integral human development in charity and truth.”

Note that from this very greeting Pope Benedict has changed the whole framework of the debate on “the social question.” This was expected to be — and is — his encyclical on “social justice.” And indeed “justice” and “rights” find their proper place in a larger synthesis. But the priority is established from the outset, the foundation is laid, with “charity” and “truth.” ...

(Fr. Fessio's full article, first carried in Ignatius Insight, was in an earlier post.]

Richard Garnett
Professor of Law, Notre Dame University

It was predictable, but is nevertheless regrettable, that many pundits and partisans would respond to Caritas in Veritate not so much by engaging Pope Benedict’s profoundly Christian humanism but instead by hunting through the text for quotations they could deploy in support of their own pet policies.

(The Pope, for his part, urged “all people of good will” to “liberate [themselves] from ideologies, which often oversimplify reality in artificial ways.”)

Rather than reflecting carefully on the Pope’s central proposal, namely, that “fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development,” commentators who might ordinarily roll their eyes at policy suggestions from the Bishop of Rome are happy to uproot from the encyclical’s inspiring, challenging vision a few talking points about environmental stewardship, trade unionism, or the redistribution of wealth.

Caritas in Veritate is not, however, merely a papal reflection on the current economic crisis or the implications of globalization. In keeping with the Catholic social teaching tradition, and with the work of his predecessor, the letter is about the person — about who we are and why it matters.

Beneath, and supporting, the various statements and suggestions regarding specific policy questions is the bedrock of Christian moral anthropology, of the good news about the dignity, vocation, and destiny of man.

To content oneself with harvesting talking points in support of this or that policy is to miss the point, and the promise, of the letter.

We cannot, however high-sounding our stated intentions, expect to achieve true human flourishing through a politics that does not care about or denies the truth — and there is a truth — about the person, namely, that by creating us in his image, God has “establish[ed] the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds [our] innate yearning to ‘be more.’

Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God’s creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved.” “And now,” the Pope is challenging us to ask, “what follows?”

Thomas S. Hibbs
Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Culture
Dean of the Honors College, Baylor University

“Democracy in good faith no longer has any essential reproach to make against the church. From now on it can hear the question the Church poses, that it alone poses, the question, Quid sit homo? — What is man?”

The French political philosopher Pierre Manent frames in quite dramatic terms the situation of the Church in the democratic era.

Amid the shallow media debates over whether the latest papal encyclical, Pope Bendict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, leans left or right, there is a good chance that readers will miss the central philosophical claim of the document: “the social question has become a radically anthropological question” (italics in the original text).

By subordinating all economic systems to the question of the common good, understood as integral human flourishing, the document opposes reductionism, whether in theory or practice, in liberal or conservative forms.

There is a lot of talk already about the document’s dizzying capaciousness, the way it seems to want to discuss everything and embrace almost everything, even things that seem on the surface incompatible.

It is easy enough to affirm the Pope’s affirmation of both subsidiarity and globalism, but the document, largely because it does not say enough about the nature of the common good, leaves us guessing a bit as to the principles needed to spell out the relationship.

Further reflection about these matters would have to begin, not just from the question, “What is man?”, but also from the queries such as, “What does it mean for human persons to hold things in common?” and “What are the peculiar forms of social life in which human persons now hold — and can learn how better to hold — things in common?”

Even to raise these questions is to sense how distant we are from the world of contemporary political discourse, where the tendency is toward the privatization, not just of religion, but of questions concerning the good, individual and communal.

Indeed, a pressing question for a document such as Caritas in Veritate is this: why is it so easily ignored by the wider society, both by the media, political leaders, and ordinary citizens?

Catholics fawning over Obama will quickly retort that he has embraced Catholic social thought, especially in the form of Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment.”

Aside from the fact that he ignores Bernardin’s insistence on the non-negotiable priority of the sanctity of human life, as well as Benedict’s claim that “openness to life is at the center of true development,” Obama seems to need instruction in the dictionary definition of “seamless.”

For Manent, democracy — increasingly defined by the pursuit of a freedom unfettered by any external restraint, authority, or law —“neither wants to nor can respond” to the questions raised above.

The Pope is not quite so despairing, but his own document gives us reason to think that its teaching will at best be distorted when not smugly dismissed.

Benedict makes, as some in the media have noticed, numerous references to the current economic crisis, but he also speaks of other crises, including the one arising from a Promethean spirit of technological mastery, the will to remake both human life and the natural environment according to our unrestrained desires.

Benedict astutely points to numerous signs of the fraying of the project of mastery. Our task, as sympathetic readers, is to communicate the teaching of Caritas in Veritate so that others can become better able to articulate the hopes and fears of our time, a time in which the very meaning of humanity is very in doubt.

Paul Kengor
Professor of Political Science
Grove City College, Pennsylvania

The truth will set you free, and the Truth is Jesus Christ. In this encyclical, the Holy Father is reminding us, exhorting us, to link charity to truth — to Christ. Doing so gives meaning not only to human charity but to human life and human development.

As the Holy Father states in his opening, this linking of charity to Truth, to God — not to emotionalism, not to politics, not to purely selfish impulses — ought to be “the principle driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.”

Or, to the contrary, as the Holy Father states in his closing, “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.”

The timing for this encyclical is crucial, as the global economy suffers, and, by extension, as charitable giving suffers. Of course, suffering didn’t prevent Jesus Christ from offering the ultimate expression of charity, one that was human as well as divine.

We who call ourselves Christians, or followers of Christ, need to emulate Christ and the cross he bore, during tough times as well as easy times.

Already, some are misinterpreting this encyclical in how it weighs the state versus the market. I personally see what I’ve always seen in the Church’s encyclicals: a healthy balance.

In section 38, Pope Benedict warns of seeking “profit as an end in itself.” This is hardly controversial. As Christians, we must have charity, as we must have faith, and we must be mindful of a charitable purpose in our lives, sharing our economic blessings in a way that serves human dignity and the human family — a recurring theme of Caritas in Veritate.

That is especially imperative in a modern society of unspeakable prosperity.

Charity needs to be coupled always to Christ. As the Holy Father says, it “needs Christians.” The message of this encyclical couldn’t be timelier.

George Neumayr
Editor, Catholic World Report

Woe to those who call good evil and evil good, says Holy Scripture. Modern political life largely revolves around this kind of lying. We witness daily the routine corruption of language in public life: a blizzard of noble-sounding words — among them, “hope,” “progress,” “development,” “the common good,” “rights,” “solidarity” — grossly disconnected from the God-determined realities to which they are supposed to refer.

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI says in effect: Woe to those who call degradation “development,” selfishness “charity,” regress “progress,” and wrongs “rights.”

His encylical letter is a sustained debunking of modern liberalism’s most complacent claims and habitual abuse of words.

How, he asks for example, can the “developed” nations of the world profess to be charitable when they don’t even aspire to basic justice?

Treating human beings fairly — not aborting them, not killing them in old age or disability, not corrupting them in their youth, not exploiting them for science, etc. — is the “minimum measure” of charity, writes Pope Benedict, drawing upon Pope Paul VI’s phrase.

In his deluded sentimentality, modern man somehow thinks he can leapfrog over justice and get to charity. Not so. Are “social justice” liberals in the Church who support a right to abortion listening?

How, Pope Benedict also asks, can the modern world claim to respect nature when it doesn’t even respect human nature? How can it plausibly demand discipline and sacrifice for the “purity” of nature in future ages while encouraging impurities in human nature in the present one?

Modern life’s hedonism, he notes, cuts against its environmentalism: humans who degrade themselves will also degrade nature, no matter how many conservation bills are passed.

This is the age of rhetoric without results, a world elite that speaks of “empowering” the poor while impoverishing them, solving the “population problem” while creating a real one (underpopulation), and advancing “humanitarianism” while killing humans.

Caritas in Veritate upends their tired and destructive assumptions, drawing the world’s attention back to the organizing principle of all true charity and development: that man’s good can only be secured if we consult and obey the God who designed it.

Joseph Pearce
Writer-in-residence and
Associate Professor of Literature
Ave Maria University

Caritas in Veritate is food for the soul, nourishing us with the wisdom we need to make sense of the crazy, accelerating times in which we live.

With his usual profundity and eloquence, the Holy Father diagnoses the major crises afflicting our wayward world and prescribes the solutions.

Rooting his diagnosis and cure in the “charity in truth” which “is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine,” Pope Benedict analyzes a plethora of modern problems with the succinct brilliance to which we have become accustomed.

Commenting on the global financial crisis, the Holy Father is forthright in his condemnation of the destructive consequences of immoral investment practices and candid in his exposé of the naiveté of free market libertarians. He sees the crisis as “an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future.”

The Pope’s “new vision” is, however, inseparable from the timeless and magisterial vision of the Church down the ages, the marriage of the ever ancient and ever new, and Benedict, as always, builds his arguments on those of his illustrious forebears. And yet this ancient wisdom cuts through the cant of modernity with unerring incisiveness.

Thus, to take but a few salient examples, subsidiarity is seen as the solution to development in poor countries, openness to life is placed “at the center of true development,” and “the right to religious freedom” is seen as integral to authentic human growth.

In consequence, the economic imperialism of macro-corporations and international financial institutions is condemned as running rough-shod over the rights to subsidiarity in poor countries, the culture of death is seen as fostering the hedonism that leads to societal and ecological breakdown, and secular fundamentalism is stunting humanity’s growth through its efforts to exclude religion from the public sphere.

Toward the end of his breathtakingly brilliant encyclical, Pope Benedict tells us that true development “needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer.”

Having read Caritas in Veritate we should all raise our arms toward God to thank him for sending us such a sagacious Pontiff.

Tracey Rowland
Dean, John Paul II Institute
Melbourne, Australia

The intellectual center of this encyclical is that “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.” It rests a notion of authentic human development upon the principle enshrined in Gaudium et Spes 22, that the human person only has self-understanding to the extent that he or she knows Christ and participates in the Trinitarian communion of love.

As the Pope says, “Life in Christ is the first and principle factor of development.”

The whole document is a plea to understand the limitations of a secularist notion of development. Behind secularism lies the error of Pelagius which in contemporary times takes the form of trust in education and institutions without reference to God or the interior dynamics of the human soul.

A purely secularist notion of development reduces the human person to a kind of economic machine somehow designed for the accumulation of wealth.

Such a truncated concept of development has fostered government policies hostile to the more spiritual elements of human life, including relationships of reciprocal self-giving in love.

Abortion is encouraged, couples are persecuted for having more than one child, and international aid is linked to the acceptance of contraceptives.

The questions covered in Humanae Vitae are thus not merely those of purely individual morality, but indicate a strong link between life ethics and social ethics. The concept which links the two is that of a “human ecology.”

Secularist notions of development also fail to comprehend the root cause of drug addiction and depression which is the malnutrition of the human soul, made for communion with God but imprisoned within a materialist universe.

When cultures no longer serve the deepest needs of human nature and actually narrow the spiritual horizons of people, people don’t know who they are and feel depressed.

The remedy for this pandemic in contemporary Western culture is to grasp the fact that truth is something which is given to us as a gift: “In every cognitive process, truth is not something that we produce, it is always found, or better, received. Truth, like love, ‘is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings’” (34).

Caritas in Veritate is a masterful synthesis of the Trinitarian anthropology of Gaudium et Spes and the subsequent insights of Paul VI and John Paul II, applied to the contemporary context. The core theological ideas were all present in Ratzinger’s essay on the notion of human dignity in Gaudium et Spes, written in the late 1960s.

At the more practical level this encyclical is exciting in that it calls for a reform of the United Nations and the economic institutions of international finance.

It is clear that the general tendency of such institutions to equate human development with the success of capitalism and democracy or material progress is utterly inadequate when measured against the Gospel’s standard.

James V. Schall, S.J
Professor of Government
Georgetown University

This new encyclical contains 79 substantial paragraphs, all numbered. It is 44 pages in manuscript format plus footnotes. It is quite readable, but it is also very carefully and intelligently written.

It is a “social” encyclical, that is, one that deliberately follows in the tradition of Catholic social thinking beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum of 1891 through all subsequent popes.

Christian social doctrine professes to state how the understanding of man in the Christian view exists in the public order for the good of that order.

The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions.

The Church’s social doctrine came into being in order to claim “citizenship status” for the Christian religion. Denying the right to profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development (#56).

This is not an argument that the Church should become a political entity. The encyclical recognizes the state as a natural and necessary human phenomenon. But to exclude in principle the duty to state and to live the faith in the public order means to reduce religion to a merely private and insignificant affair as if the proper understanding of what man is had nothing to do with how he is to live.

The document is addressed to “bishops, priests, men and women religious, the lay faithful, and all people of good will.” I presume it is also directed to those of “bad” will, just so they won’t feel discriminated against. I

ts subject matter is the “integral human development in charity and truth.” The word “development” goes back at least to Newman in theology.

But the word “development” is immediately taken from Paul VI’s 1969 encyclical, Populorum Progressio, which was famously devoted to the notion that the new word for social thought is “development.”

This word implies, no doubt, that there are both undeveloped and mis-developed things. We have babies who are fine but not yet developed. We have “monsters” who are improperly developed but who are fully grown. Here the word means every aspect of what it is to be human, including his soul, is what it should be.

Benedict XVI is, happily, incapable of dealing with something unless he deals with everything. Journalists will rapidly read this documents looking for items that are “news-worthy,” that is, ones that criticize business, the government, the media, or the Church. They will not concentrate on the overall scope of what Benedict is about here.

The encyclical is wide-ranging and seeks to say something about everything. It is known to be a document initially prepared by others from various disciplines and sectors of the Church and curia, but finally organized by the Pope, no mean feat. Benedict’s first two encyclicals were composed mostly by himself.

The difference is telling in reading this document. The document has a kind of “touch on everything” feeling about it. However, what it does consider at some depth, things such as business, profit, life, and the relation of politics to metaphysics and revelation, are very good.

Benedict sets this encyclical within a broader framework so that we can see the limited but important status that public life has. The whole document is concerned with our relation to each other, especially to the poor and weak.

It is stronger on what the rich owe to the poor than in what the poor must themselves do if they are to be not poor. The discussion of the other religions in their relation to issues of development is quite frank.

The Pope understands that many of their basic beliefs and attitudes are incompatible with a more developed human life. But this criticism is not taken to mean that allowing freedom of religion is not the basic human duty of the state.

This encyclical, moreover, does something that I have been concerned about for many years. It is very careful how it uses the term “rights.”

The Pope clearly spells how “rights” and “democracy” in their modern meanings can lead to a violation of human dignity if they are grounded in no standard or understanding of human nature, including fallen human nature.

But the great insight is that all reality is gift-oriented. The very title of the encyclical has to do with the fact that we cannot call “charity” something that is not rooted in the truth of what man is. The terms “mercy” or “compassion” have often lent themselves to a process whereby they overturned what was objectively true in the man.

The encyclical is finally cast in the context of the Trinity, of the relationships in which we are created. The person is not “rights”-oriented but duty- and gift-oriented.

The encyclical is a great document that puts things together, metaphysical things, natural law things, revelational things, political things, economic things; all things are seen in relation to each man’s relation to God, to his transcendent destiny which, as is stated in Spe Salvi, is already social.

Caritas in Veritate is thus a continuation of Deus Caritas Est, and Spe Salvi. Deus Caritas est. Deus Logos est. Deus Trinitas est.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico:
President and Co-Founder, Acton Institute

In the first social encyclical of his pontificate, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI insists on a close relationship between morality and the economy in order to promote a “holistic understanding and a new humanistic synthesis.”

This new document is focused not on specific systems of economics but rather on areas of morality and the theological underpinnings of culture.

The background for this new encyclical is the global economic crisis that has taken place within a moral vacuum bare of truth and rampant with materialism. While the Pope does not offer any detailed analysis of the cause or solution to the crisis, he nonetheless urges that the crisis become “an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future” (no. 21).

Never employing either the word “greed” or “capitalism” in the over 30,000 word document (despite some media hype), the crisis itself he attributes to “badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing” without naming the specific institutions that made this possible.

The market, Benedict says, “is shaped by the cultural configurations which define it and give it direction. Economy and finance, as instruments, can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends.”

Those who prophesied that this would be Benedict’s opportunity to “overthrow” capitalism, or that conservatives would be “shocked and disappointed,” must themselves be rather sad today.

While it is explicitly not the purpose of the document to offer strict structural models that nations should adopt (no. 9), the principle of subsidiarity — which prefers proximate and private action of the state — a preference for trade over government-to-government aid for developing countries, and a rightly understood globalization are all affirmed.

This is a complex and rich document that will require much study and thought in the years ahead. What is clear and non-negotiable from Benedict’s perspective is that to understand the challenges facing the world economy it is first necessary to understand the august nature of the human person who must always be at the center of economic decisions.

Caritas in Veritate enables us to see, at a new depth, the way in which the whole of the human reality must be taken into consideration in order to construct social institutions worthy of man.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2009 4:07 PM]
7/10/2009 1:20 PM
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Just keeping up with the various 'first editions' and giveawey versions of Caritas in Veritate is a minor news beat in itself! I have to research whether papal encyclicals were ever in popular demand before Benedict XVI came along wtih Deus caritas est. I think not,

The give-away editions:

Left to right, with L'Osservatore Romano, with Famiglia Cristiana, and with L'Espresso. (This last surprised me - this magazine is sort of like the Italian version of TIME, and why a secular publication would be giving away the Pope's encyclical is historic in its own way!)

More commercial 'first editions:

Left to right, a LEV commerical edition (Italian), and two English editions.

Avvenire plugs its own giveaway (similar to the OR giveaway- which is the unadorned LEV text):

And Famiglia Cristiana, Italy's most widely-circulated magazine, promotes its CIV supplement.

This issue has a couple of excellent review articles of CIV - I hope I can translate them.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/10/2009 1:26 PM]
7/10/2009 1:26 PM
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The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Michael Novak

Just after Vatican Council II, Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) joined others in founding a school of thought called "Communio Theology." The inner life of the Revealed God is a Trinity, a Communion of Persons. So should be the inner life of every image of God, every human person.

Thus, the four main ideas in the new Encyclical Caritas in Veritate are communion, gift, caritas, and truth. Undoubtedly, this is the most theological, most specifically Catholic, of all social encyclicals since 1891. Its aim is to show the divine context of political economy and the drama of its upward-leaping tongues of fire: its inspiration, its aspiration.

As Abraham Lincoln pointed out, slavery in the United States could not be overcome by a Lockean fear or self-interest alone, but must be married to a larger and more generous grasp of the reality of the other. Progress and human development always depend upon an upward pull.

Benedict XVI sees political economy today caught in a worldwide updraft, whose possibilities we must read accurately. The world's peoples are becoming ever more pushed together, misunderstanding each other, rubbing against each other. They are called to be one. More and more often, they learn from each other ideas of human rights, protest, free association, free speech, justice, fairness.

The world, in short, groans for inner communion. And some of the most important secrets of human communion spring from the realities of Person and Communion in the free, gratuitous Creator of all. Persons, even in communion with one another, subsist in their uniqueness.

In the distinctively Catholic view of the cosmos, everything begins in the inner personal, communal life of the Godhead. This tallies with our own personal experience that the two most "divine" experiences in our lives, the two that are most God-like, are the kind of love that is perfect communion with another, and the sweet sense of self-control and personal responsibility in moments of great stress. ("Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.")

From this, the Catholic vision concludes that "Everything we look upon is gift." Creation itself flows from a superabundant gift.

A shopkeeper who moves into a neighborhood to bake fresh bread and sweets in the morning brings a great gift to one's life. Those who spend their lives bringing such goods to one another bear gifts, especially if their human manner in so doing is kind and considerate.

The Pope asks us to look at economic life in the light of gift-giving, even when it is conducted according to conventions of exchange and price. It is the human generosity of the thing – the human dimension of commerce – that should not be lost sight of, if the world is to remain (or to become) more human.

James V. Schall, S. J.

After reading Caritas in Veritate, I said to myself that the general Catholic and world population has no idea of the brilliance of this pope. Of course, I said that when I finished Spe Salvi, Deus Caritas Est, Jesus of Nazareth, and about a zillion other writings by Pope Ratzinger.

God must be amused that the brightest man of our time is the Pope of Rome.

Though I have always admired him, I have considered Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio to be the most nearly ideological of all papal social encyclicals. Caritas in Veritate, which commemorates Paul VI’s document forty years later, I must confess, regards it as one of the best.

Aside from not touching on labor union corruption or the potential totalitarian nature of the ecology movement, this latest encyclical is simply great. While noting obvious problems, it is amazingly positive about business, its potential, varieties, and openness to ethics.

The proposal about a better world international institution goes back to Robert Maynard Hutchins and Jacques Maritain, to the Hague Conventions, to the League of Nations, and even the Holy Roman Empire.

The Pope defines the need for authority at a higher level, but with sufficient restrictions to prevent it from being either a world government or a tyranny.

The American Founding Fathers probably were more concerned with the dangers of tyranny, as was Augustine. Our experience with how easy it is for international institutions to become ideological instruments needs great structural attention, especially if this international authority is armed to enforce itself.

But the heart of this encyclical is something else. It is a concise re-presentation of what a human person is in his relation to God, the earth, to another person, to the family, to what it is we are meant for, both in this world and in our eternal destiny.

Everything belongs together, but in a coherent order. Catholicism remains quietly committed to doing what can be morally and ethically done at every level, even in the worst situations.

Benedict is eloquent on the defects of modernity, but also on its potential. Like Spe Salvi, which I think is a greater document, it places man within this world in such a way that he is not imprisoned within it.

I particularly loved Benedict’s initial reminder that everything about us is gift-oriented. As he already indicated in Deus Caritas Est, every political and economic institution needs to be both just and open to what is more than justice.

The Trinitarian and relational understanding of being in this encyclical shows the relation between our head and our deeds. Thinking properly is a precondition to acting properly. Of course, Aquinas said this long ago, but it is nice to see it here. And this Pope is a God-oriented person. He knows that what lies behind all our aberrations is what we think of God.

The genius of this document appears in its very title. No “charity” exists without “truth,” All truth leads to putting love in our being and in our world, but in the right order.

“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” (#4). It needed to be said.

Joseph Wood

After its beautiful opening paragraphs, the latest encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI can be difficult to read. Capable theologians and philosophers, as well as experts in business, economics, and government, may find points that are unclear or ill-reasoned.

The encyclical is striking in its address of a wide range of current policy concerns, from the financial crisis to bioethics. Its success in doing so varies. But it splendidly succeeds in reiterating some critically important themes of this pontificate.

Begin with the title, Caritas in Veritate. The first word returns to the Pope’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. Love is “the force that has its origin in God.” Here the focus is on love in truth, and what that love has to say about how we order our efforts to bring about true human development, or human flourishing in our full potential as the image of God.

The pope points to the sequence “Veritas in caritate,” or “truth in love” in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He then inverts the sequence to find his title and reminds us “charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed, and practiced in the light of truth.”

Over and over, the Pope speaks to us of the necessity of integral, true human development. In an age of thoroughly disintegrated personalities, lacking an understanding of divine love and thus incapable of integration in that love, as we see at every level of society and often celebrated in the media, this message of integrity is important.

Pope Benedict returns to his assault on relativism and his promotion of cultural dialogue (instead of traditional efforts at religious dialogue). He rejects “cultural eclecticism that is assumed uncritically [whereby] cultures are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable. This easily yields to a cultural relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue.”

Likewise, he rejects the opposite danger of “cultural leveling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles.” Both these failures “have in common. . .the separation of culture and human nature.”

The Pope is thinking in decades and centuries of human development. But this could be an interesting point of discussion during his meeting next week with President Obama, who seems to seek leveling of outcomes as his primary goal at home and abroad, with the moral equivalence of different perspectives as the foundation for such leveling.

In almost all of the current social issues treated in the encyclical, there is an “on the one hand, on the other” sequence that suggests that any human trend or endeavor can be good or bad.

International tourism can promote economic development, or degradation. Using the earth’s resources can be good for development, or bad. Globalization is neither inherently good nor bad; same for technology; same for the consumer economy.

Is the Pope caught in the middle on all these issues, wringing his hands? No. What is common to all is that anything that is open to, and includes, God’s love in truth will aid integral development. Anything without that love destroys such development. This is the central message.

This “on the one hand, on the other” cadence at first resembles a typical speech by President Obama. The middle point of the just way forward, framed between two or more sides of unfairness, works out to be the President himself.

In the Pope’s view, the just, integral way forward is always the way of love in truth, the way that points to God. He decries the “types of messianism which give promises but create illusions,” for “these always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal.”

Finally, he highlights again the crucial marriage of faith and reason. The “one hand/other hand” approach does so implicitly by noting that reason without faith produces ineffective or counterproductive means towards development. He emphasizes explicitly that “reason always stands in need of being purified by faith,” while “religion always needs to be purified by reason.”

There are oddities in the text. I had never associated microfinance with pawnbroking, for example. But for whatever faults it has, Caritas in Veritate reprises the great themes of Pope Benedict XVI, and it is thus a gift to be used by all.

Joseph Wood is a former White House official who worked on foreign policy, including Vatican affairs.

Robert Royal

Charity is a much used word in the Catholic tradition. After 2000 years, you would think that virtually everything that could be said about it has been. But that would be to judge by mere human standards, and to underestimate the Holy Spirit – and Papa Ratzinger.

If there has been a more pointed and simultaneously expansive treatment of Christian love in the encyclical tradition of the last century or so than we find in the first few pages of Caritas in Veritate, I have not stumbled across it. As we have come to expect from this Pope, brilliant aperçus appear as he goes about his business, seemingly without effort:

•“Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.”
•“Truth , in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion.”
•“Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral 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.”

These few sentences light up so much of the landscape that Benedict wants to explore, that they come close to encapsulating, in themselves, this entire encyclical.

You do not need to be a literary critic, however, to notice a change in voice as the encyclical turns from charity to more strictly social concerns.

Indeed, it’s clear that there are several voices in that part of the text, sometimes working at cross purposes, sometimes almost impossible to decipher – very odd in a document by a man with such a powerful and synthesizing intellect (and unusual even for the typically dense language of an encyclical).

Professional Vatican watchers have already begun to parse out which passages may be traced to which of a number of more or less acknowledged consultants. It’s an important pastime, because anything that seems to be the voice of the Successor of Peter bears serious consideration.

But despite the sometimes irritating fits and starts, assertions, qualifications, doubtful formulas, and doubling back, perhaps ultimately all that is not so very important.

Because Benedict has put on the table a wide range of questions – wider than any other world figure possibly could – that will have to be worked through in the coming years. And just to raise certain questions already enriches the conversation on several current crises.

To be clear, it would be a great mistake to approach this encyclical in terms of left versus right, as has often been the reductive, politicized way of reading social encyclicals.

Though Benedict says that Populorum Progressio, a controversial encyclical written at an inopportune moment in the 1960s, is the “new Rerum Novarum,” his own encyclical is not at all ideological.

Don’t believe anyone who simply tells you the Pope has endorsed some political position. A Pope has to be the Pope of everyone, and he of all the public figures on the world stage must reflect the legitimate concerns of workers and employers, developed and developing nations, industries and environmentalists, and many others.

The Church is not some uber-school of business, sociology, economics, or political science And previous popes as well as this one are quick to point out that the Church has no technical solutions to propose.

It has some general principles – ultimately the overarching perspective that everything begins and ends in charity – that it seeks to introduce into every nook and cranny of the questions that emerge in our wayward pilgrimage through this life.

When you consider the alternatives – the cold perspective of scientific materialism, the sad narrowness of homo economicus, the grey pragmatism of modern politics, the weightless inconsequence of cultural relativism – even a Pope groping around for how to speak about love, God’s love, in every dimension of life, with an unshakeable faith that it’s there, waiting, why, it’s almost enough to give you hope.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.

7/11/2009 1:46 AM
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The Pope on 'Love in Truth':
Anyone seeking a repudiation
of the market economy
will be disappointed

President and Co-Founder, Acton Institute

July 10, 2009

In his much anticipated third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth), Pope Benedict XVI does not focus on specific systems of economics -- he is not attempting to shore up anyone's political agenda. He is rather concerned with morality and the theological foundation of culture.

The context is of course a global economic crisis -- a crisis that's taken place in a moral vacuum, where the love of truth has been abandoned in favor of a crude materialism. The Pope urges that this crisis become "an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future."

Yet his encyclical contains no talk of seeking a third way between markets and socialism. Words like greed and capitalism make no appearance here, despite press headlines following the publication of the encyclical earlier this week.

People seeking a blueprint for the political restructuring of the world economy won't find it here. But if they look to this document as a means for the moral reconstruction of the world's cultures and societies, which in turn influence economic events, they will find much to reflect upon.

Caritas in Veritate is an eloquent restatement of old truths casually dismissed in modern times. The Pope is pointing to a path neglected in all the talk of economic stimulus, namely a global embrace of truth-filled charity.

Benedict rightly attributes the crisis itself to "badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing." But he resists the current fashion of blaming all existing world problems on the market economy.

"The Church," he writes, "has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society." Further: "Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations."

The market is rather shaped by culture.

"Economy and finance . . . can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends. Instruments that are good in themselves can thereby be transformed into harmful ones. 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."

The Pope does not reject globalization: "Blind opposition would be a mistaken and prejudiced attitude, incapable of recognizing the positive aspects of the process, with the consequent risk of missing the chance to take advantage of its many opportunities for development."

He says that "the world-wide diffusions of prosperity should not . . . be held up by projects that are protectionist."

More, not less, trade is needed: "the principal form of assistance needed by developing countries is that of allowing and encouraging the gradual penetration of their products into international markets."

The encyclical doesn't attack capitalism or offer models for nations to adopt.

"The Church does not have technical solutions to offer," the Pope firmly states, "and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States.' She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance . . ."

Benedict is profoundly aware that economic science has much to contribute to human betterment. The Church's role is not to dictate the path of research but to focus its goals.

"Economic science tells us that structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources. . . . Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs."

He constantly returns to two practical applications of the principle of truth in charity.

First, this principle takes us beyond earthly demands of justice, defined by rights and duties, and introduces essential moral priorities of generosity, mercy and communion -- priorities which provide salvific and theological value.

Second, truth in charity is always focused on the common good, defined as an extension of the good of individuals who live in society and have broad social responsibilities.

As for issues of population, he can't be clearer: "To consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view."

Several commentators have worried about his frequent calls for wealth redistribution. Benedict does see a role for the state here, but much of the needed redistribution is the result of every voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange. To understand such passages fully and accurately, we do well to put our political biases on the shelf.

This encyclical is a theological version of his predecessor's more philosophical effort to anchor the free economy's ethical foundation. Much of it stands squarely with a long tradition of writings of a certain "classical liberal" tradition, one centered on the moral foundation of economics, from St. Thomas Aquinas and his disciples, Frederic Bastiat in the 19th century, Wilhelm Roepke, and even the secular F.A. Hayek in the 20th century. It also clearly resonates with some European Christian democratic thought.

Caritas in Veritate is a reminder that we cannot understand ourselves as a human community if we do not understand ourselves as something more than the sum or our material parts; if we do not understand our capacity for sin; and if we do not understand the principle of communion rooted in the gratuitousness of God's grace.

Simply put, to this Pope's mind, there is no just or moral system without just and moral people

Another regular in the Acton stable had this earlier commentary on CIV:

Caritas in Veritate:
Why truth matters

by Samuel Gregg

July 8, 2009

Relativists beware. Whether you like it or not, truth matters – even in the economy. That’s the core message of Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has hammered home a quartet of currently-unpopular ideas into the humus of human civilization
- that there is truth;
- that it is not simply of the scientific variety;
- that it is knowable through faith and reason; and
- that it is not whatever you want or “feel” it to be.

Throughout his entire life, Benedict XVI has underscored these themes, precisely because much of the world, including many Christians, has lost sight of their importance.

Perhaps Caritas in Veritate’s most important truth-claim about economic life is that the market economy cannot be based on just any value-system.

Against all relativists on the left and the right, Benedict maintains that market economies must be underpinned by commitments to particular basic moral goods and a certain vision of the human person if it is to serve rather than undermine humanity’s common good: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred” (CV no.45).

“Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust,” the Pope writes, “the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function” (CV no. 35).

This surely has been amply confirmed by the recent financial crisis. America’s subprime-mortgage market collapse was at least partly attributable to the fact that literally thousands of people lied on their mortgage application forms. [With the active encouragement of those in government who said everyone should buy a house even if they can't afford to pay for it - so deliberate deception and lies were the very self-destructing actions behind the collapse of the banks that lent all that money unsecured.]

Should we be surprised that mass violation of the moral prohibition against lying has devastating economic consequences?

“The economic sphere”, the Pope reminds us, “is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner” (CV no.36).

Contrary to the pre-encyclical hype of certain American commentators and the ever-unreliable British press, predictions of papal anathemas against “global capitalism” have – as usual – been found dead wrong.

In economic terms, the Pope describes as “erroneous” the tired notion that the developed countries’ wealth is predicated on poor nations’ poverty (CV no.35) that one hears customarily from the likes of Hugo Chavez and whatever’s left of the dwindling band of aging liberation theologians. That’s a pontifical body-blow to a central working assumption of many professional social justice “activists”.

Nor will they be happy with the Pope’s concerns about the ways in which foreign aid can produce situations of dependency (CV no.58), not to mention Benedict’s strictures against protectionism (CV no.42) as well as his stress that no amount of structural change can possibly compensate for people freely choosing the good: “Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility” (CV no.17).

Nor does Benedict regard the market as morally problematic in itself. “In and of itself,” the Pope states, “the market is not... the place where the strong subdue the weak. Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations” (CV no.36). What matters, Benedict claims, is the moral culture in which markets exists.

At the heart of the economy are human beings. People whose minds are dominated by crassly hedonistic cultures will make crassly hedonistic economic choices.

“Therefore”, Benedict comments, “it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals” (CV no.36).

The implications of truth for economic life do not, however, stop here. For Benedict, it is a lens through which to assess ideas such as “business ethics”, “ethical investing” and “corporate social responsibility.”

The notion that investment and business choices have a moral dimension is hardly new. What matters for Benedict is the understanding of morality underlying these schemes. Merely labeling an investment scheme as “ethical”, Benedict notes, hardly tells us whether it is moral (CV no.45).

A second major truth underscored by Benedict is the indispensability of a strong civil society for both undergirding and limiting the market and the state.

By this, he does not mean a plethora of government-funded NGOs, many of whom Benedict identifies as intent upon imposing some of the very worst aspects of Western lifestyle-libertarianism upon developing nations (CV no.28).

Certainly, Benedict believes, there is a need to re-evaluate (CV no.24) how the state regulates different parts of the economy. Ultimately, however, Benedict stresses that the virtue of solidarity, he argues, is about people concretely loving their neighbour; it “cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State” (CV no.38).

This is reminiscent of Alexis de Tocqueville’s attention to the manner in which the habit of free association both limits the size of government while also discouraging people from retreating into their own little bubbles.

The economist John Maynard Keynes is famous for many things, including the saying that “in the long run, we’re all dead.” The horizon of Benedict XVI’s perspective on economic life is rather different.

The Pope asks people to live their economic lives in the short, medium, and long-term as if living in the truth is eternally important, not to mention eternally relevant to their soul’s salvation.

That’s change we can all believe in.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2009 4:14 PM]
7/11/2009 2:49 PM
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Will this encyclical take root?
Only time will tell

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON, July 10 (CNS) -- Now that Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), has been released, a key question arises: Will the pope's call to reform economic and social systems so they encompass broader moral values while focusing on human development be taken seriously by the world's decision-makers?

It just may happen, said several Catholic business leaders, social justice advocates and those involved with developing social policy.

Certainly, they concluded, there is no better time than the present -- as the world struggles to overcome its deepest economic recession in nearly 80 years -- to give ethical concerns greater consideration in policy decisions.

"This (the encyclical) is a message people are open to," said John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The idea that business as usual, that economics as usual, that economics divorced from ethics is the way forward has taken a huge hit.

"I think almost everybody understands that what we have here is not only an economic failure but a moral failure," Carr added.

Carr's analysis is one shared across a broad cross section of American political, academic and justice networks that have conducted countless studies into how the crisis developed. Segments of the business community, particularly the financial sector, might agree, but their observations have been guarded.

Overall, however, not many professionals will admit that their actions led to the massive financial failures in what author Chuck Collins described to Catholic News Service as "a bubble economy based on casino capitalism."

"We've moved to an extreme," explained Collins, a Catholic, who co-wrote The Moral Measure of the Economy, published in 2007 by Orbis Books. "You have a value of regard for life over a focus on consumption and material happiness," he said. "We've reached this kind of zenith of a value imbalance."

Collins said he expects that Pope Benedict's message, based on common values that people around the world hold, will lead to new regulations on business practices to prevent recent abuses in the financial markets from occurring again.

"Most people are hungry to live in a society that places values above individual greed and want to live in communities where human life and opportunity flourish," he said.

Catholic business owner Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO of the Fedeli Group, one of Ohio's largest insurance brokerage firms, was more outspoken in his comments. He said the business world can learn much from the recession that started in December 2007.

"If we treated people like we were our brother's keeper and we were more men and women for others, then we would have probably avoided a big part of this economic crisis, which has been an unfortunate moral crisis," Fedeli told CNS from his office in suburban Cleveland.

"I do business the way I want to be treated," said Fedeli, a lifelong Catholic. "You treat your associates like they're an extension of your family. You treat your customers and clients like they're your best friends. You treat your business partners and associates as a member of your extended family.

"If you do this, you wouldn't have to compromise."

Steve Hayes, senior partner and founder of the Human Capital Group Inc., a Nashville, Tenn., executive placement and leadership consulting firm, went a step further, saying that business leaders would do well to adopt Christ's example of being a servant leader.

"As a business leader, it's such a paradox because we're wired to put ourselves first and others second," he explained. "But Christ modeled that that's not the successful path.

"Until we as individuals and as leaders of families and employees and leaders of businesses really get what Christ is teaching us, I think we're always going to have the issues the Pope's talking about," Hayes said.

Hayes' 9-year-old company has worked to uphold the strictest ethical standards. His firm has expanded to four other cities in Florida, Georgia and Ohio and had revenues of $2.3 million in 2008, placing it among the top 25 percent of executive placement firms in the country. He attributed his success to adhering to ethical business principles and to following the "paradox of the cross."

"That's what the Pope is trying to challenge us to be, to not be me-centered, but to be other-centered," he said.

While Hayes and Fedeli have found success running their companies based on strong ethical practices, Carr acknowledged that the moral framework for a just society offered by Pope Benedict in the encyclical will not be easy to implement.

But that does not mean people should ever stop trying. Just ask Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, which for 38 years has promoted legislation and policies in Congress to ensure a more equitable world.

"(The encyclical) is not a call to religious conversion," Sister Simone, a Sister of Social Service, told CNS. "It's a call to economic reality. ... It's a very pragmatic, eyes-wide-open approach that gives it greater resonance in the public forum."

In the real world, the Pope's call to action can lead to needed steps that most people can agree upon, said author Collins, who also directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

He called for new measures to gauge human progress, much like the Dow Jones industrial average measures the ups and downs of the economy.

"We have to have indicators that actually measure the flourishing of human life and this should be as important as the Dow Jones," he said.

People of faith, led by the hope that God promises, can lead the way in such reforms, the USCCB's Carr said.

"The crisis has created a moment that could lead to conversion," he said. "And we're in the conversion business. We're in the persuasion business.

"It is a countercultural message. And guess what? The culture we got isn't working, so maybe we're onto something."

7/11/2009 3:15 PM
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ZENIT has been posting a number of commentaries on CIV, and I haven't had time to look through what's been posted in languages other than English, but ther's more than enough to begin with.

I choose to begin with this because it starts with something obvious that most commentators have missed so far:

Encyclical connects
life ethics with social ethics

By Father Robert Barron

Father Barron is the Francis Cardinal George Chair of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He is also the founder of Word on Fire Ministries and is currently producing a 10-part documentary series called The Catholicism Project.

SKOKIE, Illinois, JULY 8, 2009 ( I've just finished a first reading of Benedict XVI's new encyclical Caritas in Veritate. It is a dense and complex text, deeply in continuity with the mainstream of the Catholic social teaching tradition, but also fresh, filled with new ideas and proposals.

Let me highlight just a few of the major themes. Very much in line with his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI insists on the tight connection between love and truth.

In a telling phrase, the Pope says that love without truth devolves into sentimentality, and truth without love becomes cold and calculating. The coming together of the two, which is the structuring logic of the Church's social teaching, is grounded in the God who is, simultaneously, Agape (love) and Logos (reason).

A real innovation of this letter is the connection that Benedict XVI makes between "social ethics" and "life ethics." He argues that Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio -- whose 40th anniversary Caritas in Veritate celebrates -- is best read in tandem with that Pope's controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae.

[Very few of the commentaries I've read so far picked up how crucial and fundamental this element is in the Pope's exposition of his theme - and I had actually set aside two items in Italian that saw this clearly in the initial flood of commentary - one of them from Sandro Magister, which I will translate to go with Fr. Barron's piece.]

The radical openness to life, which Paul VI defended in Humanae Vitae, should be the inspiration for the Church's social doctrine, which is intended to foster the full flourishing of communal life at all levels.

Benedict XVI makes this point even clearer when he comments that societies that de-emphasize life, even to the point of fostering artificial contraception and abortion, suffer quite practical economic hardships.

Another "novum" in this remarkable text is the Pope's insistence that, alongside of the contractual logic of the marketplace (one gives in order to receive), and the legal logic of the political realm (one gives because one is obliged to give), there must be the logic of sheer gratuity (one gives simply because it is good to do so). Without this third element, both the economic and political devolve into something less than fully human.

As many have already commented, Benedict XVI places special emphasis on the obligation to care for the environment. In fact, nowhere else in Catholic social teaching is there such an extended discussion of this issue.

He makes the helpful clarification that, as believers in creation, we must avoid both an idolization of nature and an exploitation of it. As created, the world is not divine, but it is a kind of sacrament of God; hence it shouldn't be seen as absolute, but it should be cared for in a spirit of stewardship.

What might prove most controversial in the encyclical is Benedict XVI's call for a kind of world government, a truly international political entity with the requisite power to preside over world political and economic affairs.

In saying so, he echoes Pope John XXIII's praise of the United Nations in Pacem in Terris. One might be forgiven for suspecting that this proposal, given political realities on the ground, might be a bit utopian.

A final note concerning style. I must say that much of Caritas in Veritate didn't "sound" like Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger is a very gracious writer, and his style is marked by a deep Scriptural and patristic sensibility. I must say I found this literary and theological élan missing in large sections of this letter.

Nonetheless, there is much to learn from this wonderful text -- a worthy addition to the impressive collection of papal letters that constitute the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

A synthesis of old and new
By Matthew Bunson

Matthew Bunson, who has a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation, is a senior fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is the author of more than 35 books, including We Have a Pope, Benedict XVI, The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, and Papal Wisdom, Words of Hope and Inspiration from Pope John Paul II.

FORT WAYNE, Indiana, JULY 9, 2009 ( Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate eloquently reiterates the coherence of Catholic social teaching, but it likewise makes manifest the essential links between truth and charity and the real world.

For the Holy Father, charity and truth are not abstract concepts, but must be seen for what they are, "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity" (No. 1). In this concern, the Holy Father offers a remarkably bold reminder that human life must be at the center of that development.

Caritas in Veritate is splendidly faithful to all of the Church's social teachings on the human person's inviolable dignity as well as the transcendent value of natural moral norms.

By quoting from every social encyclical since Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Pontiff refutes any misinterpretations of Catholic social teaching that there are two functional typologies, one pre-conciliar and one post-conciliar.

Rather, he quotes Pope John Paul II when he states firmly, "there is a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 3). Expressing that sense of newness,

Caritas in Veritate also offers considerable innovation in its prescription for the present global financial crises by highlighting the right to life in relation to genuine progress.

The Holy Father notes that economic development and humanitarian aid from the West are too often accompanied by the imposition of dehumanizing programs and exploitation of labor and natural resources, but they can also entail an obligation to embrace the same toxic reproductive and technological policies that are creating a demographic catastrophe in the first world.

Benedict XVI argues that not only does the culture of death inherently trample upon the dignity of the human person and responsible human freedom, it is bad economics because of the strains it places on social welfare systems and labor resources, not to mention the wider impoverishment of culture. The Pope writes, "Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource" (No. 28).

The encyclical makes the link "between life ethics and social ethics" (No. 15), especially in its tribute to the late Pope Paul VI's prophetic encyclicals Populorum Progressio (1967) and Humanae Vitae (1968).

In Populorum Progressio, Paul VI anticipated the problems that have attended globalization, and in "Humanae Vitae," he predicted with searing accuracy the long-term social effects of a contraceptive culture.

Reflecting on both of these earlier documents, Caritas in Veritate proclaims that true development must encompass the rights of all human persons, including the unborn.

In his elegant synthesis of Catholic social thought and Catholic moral teachings, Benedict XVI has given the world a profound assessment of authentic human development. Part of that is fostering the culture of life.

As Benedict XVI teaches, "Openness to life is at the center of true development. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good" (No. 28).

This is a significant moment in Catholic social teaching, and the encyclical will be the source of fruitful reflection for many years to come.

Actually, one of the presentors of the encylical last July 8 also emphasized the encyclical's emphasis on the essential basis that the right to life and religious freedom provide for development.

What's new about
the Pope's new encyclical

ROME, JULY 8, 2009 ( 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.

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."

Archbishop Crepaldi also reflected on another novelty of this social encyclical: focus on 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."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2009 4:22 PM]
7/12/2009 10:41 PM
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Thank you for all the interesting posts all over this web site, Teresa. May I ask if something can be done on this specific thread to simplify reading the posts? On my PC they appear as mile long sentences from left to right and I have to constantly scroll laterally to read the articles. It takes up so much time that I have decided to skip them, but I don't want to! Just asking. Probably only my PC. No problems with the other thread here. Thanks again.

Dear Crotchet -

I am sorry you are having problems with the line length, but I cannot figure out why - especially since, as you say, it only happens with this thread, and that's too bad because this is devoted to commentaries and discussions on CIV.

Ever since I realized early enough that the line length on a page is determined by the largest image width posted on that page, I have made it a point not to post any picture wider than 9 inches, and so I've never had that problem again.

[On those that had the problem - I remember it occured most annoyingly when I was doing the 'reconstruction' of the April 2005 news reports on the Conclave - I then went in and reduced any oversize photos, so the posts went back to having normal line lengths.]

I hope your glitch works otu soon. Meanwhile, I'll continue trying to figure out why.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/13/2009 7:11 PM]
7/14/2009 12:48 AM
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Teresa, you must have whispered some magic words because this thread is perfect again, after four days. This is a relief and thank you very much. [SM=g9433]

Well, thank God (not me!) the glitch straightened itself out. Happy reading. Though I am so behind - it's hard to keep up with the commentaries. First, one has to read them to determine priorities, especially in translation....


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/14/2009 1:51 AM]
7/14/2009 3:57 AM
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I would not forgive myself if I put off this translation any longer. I found it one of the most perceptive first reactions upon the release of CIV. It resonates with my own reception of Benedict XVI's message that the sacredness of life underpins every discussion one can have about development and progress.

It is a message that quite a few commentators have since written on - especially those who have previously shown with objective facts that declining birth rate is a brake to progress. The first three I posted earlier from ZENIT are in that class. I hope I can put together more articles soon.

Meanwhile, Magister's blog is a good way to start and a helpful exercise in correlation.

For Cardinal Martini,
Paul VI's 'Humanae Vitae' is a dead branch,
but Benedict XVI makes it flower again!

Translated from

July 7, 2009

In the encyclical Caritas in veritate released today, Benedict XVI dedicates an entire chapter to Populorum progressio, the great social encyclical from Paul VI, published in 1967.

And surprisingly - but not to those who follow the Pope's thinking - he also praised alongside it the other famous encyclical by Paul VI, Humanae vitae, saying it, too, is highly important for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes." [Italicized in the original text).

The encyclical Humanae Vitae, Benedict XVI explains in Paragraph 15 of Caritas in veritate, "indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new era of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's encyclical Evangelioum Vitae.

"The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations, when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized'".

As a gloss to this passage in Caritas in veritate, it must be recalled that Paul VI himself was supremely convinced of the indissoluble link between Populorum progressio and Humanae Vitae. On June 18, 1978, the last year of his life, he brought it to light this way, in a homily which was almost like an accounting of his Pontificate:

We consider the defense of human life indispensable. The Second Vatican Council recalled with the most serious words that "God, patron of life, has entrusted to men the highest mission of protecting life" (Gaudium et Spes, 51).

And we, who consider absolute fidelity to the teachings of the Council as our assigned task, have made the defense of life - in all the forms in which it can be threatened, disturbed or outright suppressed - as the program of our Pontificate.

Let us recall the most significant points that attest to this intention. First of all, we underscored the duty to favor the technical and material promotion of peoples in the process of development, with the encyclical Populorum progressio on March 26, 1967.

But the defense of life should begin from the sources of human existence itself. This was one of the clear and grave teachings of the Council, which in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes. admonished that 'life, once conceived, should be protected with the maximum care; and abortion, like infanticide, is an abominable crime" (51).

All we did was to hand down this teaching when, 10 years later, we promulgated the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Inspired by the intangible Biblical and evangelical teachings, which validate the norms of natural law and the irrepressible dictates of conscience about respect for life, whose transmission is entrusted to responsible fatherhood and motherhood, that document has become today a renewed and more urgent reality in view of the wounds (vulnere) inflicted by public legislation on the indissoluble sanctity of the matrimonial bond and the untouchability of human life from the time it is in the mother's womb.

This is the reason for the repeated affirmations of the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the sad reality and truly painful effects of divorce adn abortion, as contained in the ordinary Magisterium as well as in specific documents of the competent congregation.

We express all this, impelled only by the supreme responsibility of being teacher and universal pastor, and for the good of the human race.

Another gloss: As we know, Humanae Vitae was publicly disputed by a great number of cardinals, bishops, religious, theologians and faithful, especially in the rich nations, while in the Third World, its social validity was acknowledged and appreciated.

That opulent front of rejection is still active today. Its latest kindling was the book Nocturnal conversations in Jerusalem by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

[Magister then refers to his November 2008 article on Martini
Il Gesù del cardinale Martini non avrebbe mai scritto la “Humanae Vitae“
[Cardinal Martini's Jesus would never have written 'Humanae Vitae']
which I translated and posted in the Papa Ratzinger Forum
under the title

The latest broadside from the cardinal who presents himself as the 'ante-Pope'

Since Magister made Martini the premise of his title for this blog, it's only fair to present here what it was that Martini wrote about Humanae Vitae, as Magister presented it in his earlier article. I still cannot believe that a cardinal once thought to be a possible pope can think the way Martini does - and get away with it.

I suspect primarily because of his age, neither OR nor Avvenire have commented on Martini's book at all!


In one chapter of the book, the explicit target is Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae on marriage and procreation. Martini accuses it of causing "serious damage" by prohibiting artificial contraception: "many people have withdrawn from the Church, and the Church from people."

Martini accuses Paul VI of deliberately concealing the truth, leaving it to theologians and pastors to fix things by adapting precepts to practice:

"I knew Paul VI well. With the encyclical, he wanted to express consideration for human life. He explained his intention to some of his friends by using a comparison: although one must not lie, sometimes it is not possible to do otherwise; it may be necessary to conceal the truth, or it may be unavoidable to tell a lie. It is up to the moralists to explain where sin begins, especially in the cases in which there is a higher duty than the transmission of life."

And in what way exactly was Paul VI 'concealing the truth' in Humanae Vitae? On the contrary, the document is a frank no-holds-barred statement of Catholic principle on the sanctity of life and God's intrinsic design for procreation.

Paul VI bucked a commission of advisers who recommended that articial contraception may be sanctioned - and I suppose that is because how can a Pope defend such a stand on the basis of Scripture and Tradition?

In effect, the cardinal continues, "after the encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Austrian and German bishops, and many other bishops, with their statements of concern followed a path along which we can continue today." [So, Paul VI should have accommodated the Austrians and Germans then rather than Catholic teaching????]

It is a stance that expresses "a new culture of tenderness and an approach to sexuality that is more free from prejudice." [It is also a willfully selfish and indlugent path which completely ignores natural birth control which only calls for a few days of 'sacrifice' each month for women of reproductive age!]

But after Paul VI came John Paul II, who "followed the path of rigorous application" of the prohibitions in the encyclical. "He didn't want there to be any doubts on this point. It seems that he even considered a declaration that would enjoy the privilege of papal infallibility."

And after John Paul II came Benedict XVI. Martini does not name him, and does not seem to have much confidence in him, but he hazards this prediction:

"Probably the Pope will not revoke the encyclical, but he might write one that would be its continuation. I am firmly convinced that the Church can point out a better way than it did with Humanae Vitae. Being able to admit one's mistakes and the limitations of one's previous viewpoints is a sign of greatness of soul and of confidence. The Church would regain credibility and competence."

That's Martini's view. But those who read only his latest book will learn nothing of the letter, much less the spirit, of that highly controversial encyclical. [Thank God we had much material for informative reading during the recent 40th anniversary of the encyclical.]

Much more instructive, from this point of view, is the address that Papa Ratzinger dedicated to Humanae Vitae on May 10 of this year. Illustrating its contents, he affirmed that "forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/14/2009 4:33 AM]
7/14/2009 3:19 PM
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Let me just add here the last two posts on CIV that I thought should go on the main BENEIDTC XVI NEWS thread too.

This one takes a shot at the mindless ideological reflexes - and they are mindless because they are reflexive, robotic responses - with which political-minded people have reacted to the encyclical.

The audacity of the Pope
Op-Ed Columnist

Published: July 12, 2009

Papal encyclicals are supposed to be written with one eye on two millenniums of Catholic teaching, and the other on eternity. But Americans, as a rule, have rather narrower horizons.

As soon as the media have finished scanning a Vatican document for references to sex, the debate begins in earnest: Is it good for the left, or for the right? For Democrats, or for Republicans?

This was true in the 1950s, when the young William F. Buckley Jr. famously feuded with liberals over how much respect he owed to papal pronouncements on economic matters.

It was true in the 1990s, when conservatives eagerly cited John Paul II’s condemnations of abortion and euthanasia, while liberals countered by noting his criticisms of the death penalty.

And it’s especially true today, when a document like Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), the third encyclical of Benedict XVI’s papacy — whose release, last Tuesday, was slightly overshadowed by a celebrity funeral of some sort — can be wrangled over endlessly within hours of showing up online.

These arguments never seem to go anywhere. When a Pope criticizes legalized abortion, liberal Catholics nod and say that yes, they agree, it’s a terrible tragedy ... but of course they can’t impose their religious values on a secular society. [No, it's worse than that! They actually share the secular view of abortion as a fundamental human right!!

When a Pope endorses the redistribution of wealth, conservative Catholics stroke their chins and say that yes, they agree, society needs a safety net ... but of course they’re duty-bound to oppose the tyranny of big government.

And when the debate isn’t going their way, left and right both fall back on flaccid rhetoric about how the papal message “transcends politics,” and shouldn’t be turned to any partisan purpose.

Caritas in Veritate has been no exception. It’s a “social” encyclical, in the Church’s parlance, covering issues ranging from globalization and the environment to unions and the welfare state.

Inevitably, liberal Catholics spent the past week touting its relevance to the Democratic Party’s policy positions. (A representative blast e-mail: “Pope’s Encyclical on Global Economy Supports the Principles of the Employee Free Choice Act.”)

Just as inevitably, conservative Catholics hastened to explain that the encyclical “is not a political document” — to quote a statement co-authored by the House minority leader, John Boehner — and shouldn’t be read as “an endorsement of any political or economic agenda.”

Boehner is half right. The Pope is not a Democrat or a Republican, and his vision doesn’t fit the normal categories of American politics.

But Benedict’s encyclical is nothing if not political. Caritas in Veritate promotes a vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism. It links the dignity of labor to the sanctity of marriage. It praises the redistribution of wealth while emphasizing the importance of decentralized governance. It connects the despoiling of the environment to the mass destruction of human embryos.

This is not a message you’re likely to hear in Barack Obama’s next State of the Union, or in the Republican Party’s response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.

But that’s precisely what makes it so relevant and challenging — for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

We’re passing through the worst economic dislocation of the past 80 years. Our politics are polarized; our institutions gridlocked. The governing party is mistrusted, the minority party despised.

Yet there’s remarkably little radical thinking taking place. The Republican Party is retrenching, falling back on Reagan-era verities. His promises of post-partisan change notwithstanding, Barack Obama’s agenda looks like the same old Democratic laundry list, rewritten in a sleeker, Internet-era font.

[It may be sleek, but not sleek enough to hide its general outlines, for those who are not self-blinded to see. The audacity of power, one might call it, is fearsome, to say the least, and it threatens American soceity as we have known it. Obama's big government wants to step in and take over every aspect of individual life in a Fascist-like grap for power that does not care if its ambitious take-over programs are burying future generations in debt - and they've only been six months in power!]

This doesn’t mean that America needs a third party with Caritas in Veritate as its platform. The Church is not a think tank, and there’s room for wide disagreement about how to put its social teaching into practice.

But Catholics are obliged to take seriously the underlying provocation of the papal message — namely, that our present political alignments are not the only ones imaginable, and that truth may not be served by perfect ideological conformity.

So should all people of good will. For liberals and conservatives alike, Caritas in Veritate is an invitation to think anew about their alliances and litmus tests.

Why should being pro-environment preclude being pro-life? Why can’t Republicans worry about economic inequality, and Democrats consider devolving more power to localities and states? Does opposing the Iraq war mean that you have to endorse an anything-goes approach to bioethics? Does supporting free trade require supporting the death penalty?

[But all these imagined 'mutual exclusivities' are nothing but expressions of rigid ideology which governs every thought that ideologues make. One can argue that leftist ideologues in the United States are far more rabid about barking out their Pavlov-dog ideological reflexes than their counterparts on the right.]

These questions, and many others like them, are the kind that a healthy political system would allow voters and politicians to explore.

But for now, at least, you’re more likely to find them being raised in Benedict XVI’s Vatican than in Barack Obama’s Washington.

[About which few in the media are brave enough to say the emperor has no clothes - after all the blatantly shameless and widespread disregard for the Emperor-Messiah's own repeated promises of transparency and no lobbying and no new taxes and pie-in-the-sky for everyone.

What administration can have any moral authority when the President insists that Congress pass its bills as fast as they can to get it to his desk by his deadline, without even having a complete bill to present to the members before they vote on it, and whose major bills so far - the stimulus package, notoriously - were passed with most of the members of Congress matter-of-factly admitting they had not read the bill at all, or only parts of it?

I wonder if the Pope was aware of this blatantly immoral open secret in Washington which the media is not at all condemning, or at least protesting?]

7/14/2009 3:20 PM
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Here's the second cross-over from the BENEDICT NEWS thread. It's an excellent one from Il Foglio. After I read it, I had to Google who the writer is - and from the very first entry that popped up - in English - it was not hard to see why he writes the way he does. His credentials are sterling!

His synthesis is masterful in quoting key statements from different parts of the encyclical - many of them those that are italicized in the original text (and italicized accordingly in this post, and bolded) - and putting them together in a coherent and cohesive way to present his argument, which starts with an original premise.

Ecce dono (Behold the gift!):
Benedict XVI rewrites 'Populorum progressio '
in a natalist sense

Translated from

July 12, 2009

To understand in depth the significance of Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in veritate, one must situate oneself within a debate that has traversed Catholic thinking for over a century.

The problem began around the middle of the 19th century with the emergence of the so-called 'social question' and with, it a series of new doctrines, such as liberalism and socialism.

The 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (Of new things), by Leo XIII, which was considered the first Catholic response to the challenge, was actually the object of a wide-ranging debate which pitted two schools of Christian economics and sociology against one another.

The first maintained that the social question must be faced in the light of the primacy of the theological virtue, love; whereas the second insists on the primacy of the moral virtue of justice.

Inevitable consequences came from the existence of these divergent thoughts.

The primacy of justice leads to stressing the role of the state as a subject called upon to regulate public life by attributing to everyone what is due him.

The primacy of charity, on the other hand, underscores the role of the individual as the decisive actor in any social relationship.

What results from the first case (primacy of justice) is the centrally-planned state, tending to be socialist. From the second, protection of the market, of private property, and of free enterprise.

The surest solution, foreshadowed in Rerum Novarum, is a synthesis of justice and charity, with the latter prevailing, as in the beautiful formula expressed by Giuseppe Toniolo: "He who can do more, ought to do more; he who can do less, ought to receive more."

Charity is essentially giving onself and what one possesses: it has its origin in the spirit of renunciation and sacrifice that is proper to Christianity.

In 1967, Paul VI's Populorum progressio, overturned the tradition that had until then delineated the thinking of the Church by proclaiming the primacy of justice over charity. [This is a point that tends to be missed!]

The encyclical formulated a negative judgment of liberal capitalism (No. 24), criticized 'free exchange' (Mo. 58), advocated central programming and planning (No. 33), anticipated a limitation on private property and the redistribution of incomes (Nos. 23-24), proclaimed a cult of progress, work, and 'world solidarity (Nos. 58-59).

Benedict XVI's document re-proposes traditional doctrine in new terms, developing Paragraphs 26-31 of his first encyclical Deus caritas est concerning precisely the relationship between justice and charity.

It is interesting to compare the 'incipit' (start) of the encyclicals by Benedict XVI and Paul VI.

Caritas in veritate affirms that "Charity in truth is the principal driving for behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity (No. 1) and constitutes "the heart of the Church's social doctrine" (No. 2).

"It is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups), but also macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones) (No. 2).

On the other hand, Populorum progressio launches from the very start an appeal for the liberation of peoples "from the yoke of hunger, of poverty, of endemic diseases, of ignorance" (No. 1), re-echoing post-conciliar utopias, according to which it was possible to assure peace and wellbeing to the entire society.

'Justice and peace' was the program proposed by Papa Montini for 'the integral development of man and the fraternal development of mankind" (No. 5).

It is important to note how the charity that Benedict XVI invokes is rooted in truth, because "a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful social cohesion but of little relevance" (no. 4). ['kumbaya' charity, we might say - in which the objective seems to be, above all, for the 'charitable' person to feel good about doing good or the intention to do good]

The social doctrine of the Church is therefore 'caritas in veritate in re sociali'(love in truth, in social matters) - announcing the truth of Christ's love in society. This doctrine is a service to charity, but its locus is truth.(No. 5)

"Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way in a culture without truth. 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" (No.3).

Justice is present, of course, in the pontifical document. "Not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity" (No. 6)

Nonetheless, "charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving", "to offer what is 'mine' to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is 'his', what is due him by reason of his being or his acting" (No, 6).

In this sense, the concept of charity is linked to that of 'gift'. "Charity is love received and given" (No. 5). In justice, we give our neighbor what is his, while in charity, we give him what is ours.

With respect to his predecessor's encyclical, Benedict XVI has a position analogous to that which he takes to the Second Vatican Council: it must be interpreted in the light of Tradition.

The Pope underscores how Populorum progressio can still speak to us, only if it is "situated within the great current of Tradition" (No. 12).

To understand the significance and the the role of the development that Paul VI wrote about, "the correct viewpoint is that of the Tradition of apostolic faith, a patrimony both ancient and new, outside of which Populorum progressio would be a document without roots - and issues concerning development would be reduced to merely sociological data" (No. 10).

Benedict XVI openly refers to Humanae Vitae (1968) by Paul VI to say that the problems dealt with by this important document are not just about "purely individual morality, but concern "the strong links between life ethics and social ethics" (No. 15).

The Pope is aware that population growth does not produce poverty bur wealth. "Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource" (No. 44) and is 'at the centre of true development" (No. 28).

Therefore, "states are called on to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family, founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society" (No. 44).

Benedict XVI underscores the positive value of the market and of enterprise, which must, however. be strongly anchored in ethics. It is certainly true that "the market can be a negative force" because a certain ideology can make it so, but this is not its nature (No. 36).

The market is an instrument: "it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility" (No. 36).

"Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly - not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centered" (No. 45).

For many economists, the defense of economic freedom is coupled with absolute freedom in the moral field. Among liberals, for example, many are in favor of liberalizing drugs, of abortion, of every experimentation in the area of bioethics.

On this point, Benedict XVI affirms that "the social question has become a radically anthropological question, in the sense that it concerns not just how life is conceived but also how it is manipulated" by genetic techniques and the pro-euthanasia mindset. (No. 75).

He makes an an affirmation rich with profound consequences: God should have "a place in the public realm. specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly, its political dimensions" (No. 56).

Indeed, "without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is" (No. 78)

The entire encyclical is in this line and is, perhaps, the nucleus of Benedict XVI's entire Magisterium.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/19/2009 1:49 PM]
7/14/2009 3:21 PM
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I am posting two items from Jimmy Akin, a Catholic blogger I have not visited as often as I should (his main interest is Catholic apologetics), who has very sensible things to say about CIV.

First, he engages George Weigel's strongly worded article - which I felt was colored by his personal biases and was far from his usual standard of clear-minded objectivity.

Akins begins by agreeing on certain obvious points: that it is easy to see which parts of the encyclical are Benedict's direct input and which ones he has adopted from his consultants (including the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace [PCJP, as Akins refers to it] that Weigel anathematizes so much for supposedly trying to force their leftwing positions on John Paul II and now, Benedict XVI); and also, that some of the latter views are expressed in language that has nothing of Benedict XVI's characteristic clarity.

This is the second part of Akins's commentary, which expands on my own initial reaction to Weigel's NRO article (posted in Page 1 of this thread).

Reacting to George Weigel's
critique of CIV

by Jimmy Akin
July 13, 2009

... So far Weigel's take on the encyclical is on course. There is the kind of tension between different viewpoints at the Vatican, including the one that predominates at the PCJP, the encyclical is a fusion of ideas of Benedict's and the standard PCJP positions, and there was a big unhappy behind the scenes process for this encyclical's production.

It may even be reasonable to say that at a certain point Benedict threw up his hands and let the PCJP have its way on some things even though he wasn't entirely happy with the way they came out.

Benedict might well feel that there is still room for improvement in the encyclical, though he obviously felt it was "good enough" at this point to be released.

And that's where Weigel goes wrong.

Weigel depicts the Pope as allowing the PCJP passage to stay in the encyclical just so Benedict could maintain peace inside the Vatican.


Pope Benedict has no problem telling people "no" or undertaking decisions that leave others at the Vatican absolutely mortified. (Summorum Pontificum, anybody? Lifting of the Lefebvrite excommunications--even apart from the Holocaust-denying tendencies of one of the bishops?)

And then there's the fact that he's apparently been saying "no" to the PCJP about this very encyclical for the last several years.

Maybe they wore him down on a few things that he would have liked to have come out better, but he was entirely capable of saying, "You know, guys, I really appreciate the work you've done here, but given the current state of things, I think it best that we shelve this idea."

That kind of thing happens all the time at the Vatican, and Pope Benedict certainly has the wherewithal to shelve an idea that he thinks isn't working.

Also problematic is Weigel's apparent implication that the "red" passages of the encyclical do not represent Benedict's thought.
[In his article, Weigel says the parts that are clearly Benedict are 'gold' while those of the PCJP are 'red' - as in socialist, maybe?]

I think it's fair to say that they may not always have the same intensity in Benedict's mind as the "gold" passages that he felt needed to be in there and inserted on his own personal initiative.

But even if some of them are of lesser importance to Benedict or even if he isn't happy with the precise way they ended up being worded, surely they correspond to his thought in at least a general way. (And possibly a much, much stronger way than that.)

So I think Weigel is simply mistaken with this implication.

This is not some minor speech that the Pope had 'ghost written' for him, and that he read maybe once before he delivered it in public. In documents such as that, the Pope might, indeed, pass over something by accident that doesn't really reflect his thoughts.

This is an encyclical for crying out loud!

The Pope - and his chosen experts - have been over every single word of this. The Pope has spent years wrestling with this thing and personally critiquing the drafts from the PCJP.

This thing has been scrutinized by the Pope and his chosen experts so thoroughly that anything appearing in the document at this date is something Benedict has made his own.

He or may not be entirely happy with the result, but it's his now, and - to come to the last problem I want to mention with Weigel's essay - it's just insulting to the Pope to suggest that the contents of numerous passages in his encyclical do not, at least in general terms, reflect his own views.

[This was my main objection to Weigel's drift - and the most obvious one, quite apart from Weigel's obvious pique that Benedict XVI chose to make Paul VI's social encycclical his reference point rather than John Paul II's.

There seems to be an obvious reason for Benedict's choice - Populorum progressio is an overall view of the issues of development, whereas Centesimus annus specifically addresses the implications on the economy and society of the collapse of Communism.]

I mean, really.

The PCJP is definitely a dicastery that can be subject to legitimate and forceful critique, but Weigel simply goes too far in making them out as the villain.

In the process he, certainly unintentionally, insults Pope Benedict by portraying him as a man so weak as a Vicar of Christ that he can be bullied by a mid-range dicastery into including in an encyclical (one of the most authoritative papal teaching moments) things that don't even reflect his thought.

Or so it seems from what Weigel wrote.

Perhaps he will clarify.

He's usually very insightful, and I'd love to see him interact more with this encyclical.

[And I hope Weigel has had a chance to re-read what he wrote in what must have been a literal 'blind rage'. We can all live with all his objections to the encyclical, except the 'insult' to Benedict XVI.

He must somehow take back that open insult of assuming that Benedict XVI would simply incorporate thoughts he does not share into an encyclical that will bear his name forever, or that he can be imposed upon by anyone in the Curia! There is no way to read those assumptions except as an insult to the Pope.]

Akins's earlier post on CIV is a far more practical exercise, and equally recommended reading:

Early tentative thoughts
on the new encyclical

by Jimmy Akin

July 8, 2009

A reader writes:

"The Pope recently came out with his position on capitalism. Can you explain his position possibly better than what I have read in the papers? Also, I am hearing secular talk on the radio wondering about Papal infallibility and this economic view. On the surface what he has said appears to me to be even further left of Obama! To me that would be worse for the poor, not better!"

What the reader is querying about is the new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, that Pope Benedict released yesterday.

Actually, the document does not ever use the word "capitalism" or "socialism" - which seems to be by design. The Pope is not trying to comment on particular economic systems but on general principles.

Within that framework, he actually has good things to say about the market. This is not an anti-market encyclical, so beware of the oversimplifications that the mainstream media is going to offer.

Thus far I have read through the encyclical once, but I need to go back and do further reading and digesting.

Because of the pressing news cycle (even stepped on as the encyclical release was by the Michael Jackson funeral), though, here are a few early thoughts:

1) Do not put weight on anything you read in the newspaper or on secular talk radio regarding the encyclical. The mainstream media simply does not "get" religion, and they are too incompetent on matters of religion to report accurately anything that the pope says or does. Sorry, but it's the truth.

2) In particular (and this will be an even greater temptation on talk radio), there is a tendency on the part of the MSM to read everything in terms of a liberal/conservative dichotomy. This political, polarized reading should not be imposed on the encyclical.

When you read it, it quickly becomes clear that it does not fit neatly into either a liberal or a conservative box. It says things that are challenging no matter what one's political persuasion is.

3) Consequently, it is not possible from the encyclical to simply compare the Pope's views to Obama's and say which is in what direction from the other. This is a complex, multi-axis matrix, not something that can be reduced to a simple left/right spectrum.

4) Because of the complexity, it would be possible to pick an item--or several items--out of the encyclical and take them out of context and say, "The Pope sounds to the left of anything Obama has proposed so far." It would be equally possible to do the reverse and say, "The pope sounds to the right of anything Obama has proposed so far."

5) Either of the above would be a mistake. One reason is the multi-axis nature of the document. Another is that the Pope includes important qualifiers that have to be given their full weight. If you lop off the qualifiers then you distort the picture.

6) Yet another reason is that, as the pope points out in the encyclical, the Church does not have specific, technical solutions to propose.

Figuring those out are the task of the laity, and it is precisely in this area where most politics is generated. In other words, "left" and "right" are often agreed upon the goals that need to be achieved (full employment, combatting poverty, helping families thrive, making sure children are educated, etc.).

The point of dispute is how these things are to be done, and that is the point that the Church tries to leave to the laity.

7) It therefore simply is not productive to engage in Pope/President political comparisons. So don't.

8) That being said, there are points in the encyclical where, at least in general terms, the Pope seems to go beyond his stated intention not to offer technical solutions and to make proposals that at least point in the direction of particular solutions.

There is a blurry line here between theory and application, and pastoral concern for human well-being will always present churchmen with a temptation to cross that blurry line and at least recommend particular applications that seem right to them.

9) When that happens we need to take seriously what they say, particularly in the case of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ.

At the same time, we must not put greater weight on what they say than what they themselves do, and thus we must remember that they are not teaching infallibly.

In the new encyclical, Benedict XVI does not even remotely come close to using the kind of language that popes use when signalling that they are speaking infallibly.

There simply is no attempt on the part of Benedict XVI to engage his charism of infallibility here, and so anything the reader has heard on talk radio regarding the encyclical calling infallibility into question is just nonsense. See point #1, above.

10) Because the document is not proposing anything infallibly, it is in principle open to revision in the future. This is particularly so because by its very subject matter it is an intervention of a prudential nature, seeking to apply general principles to a particular set of socio-economic problems in the world today.

In describing documents of this nature, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then-headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), wrote:

When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies.

Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question.

But it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church's Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission.

In fact, the theologian, who cannot pursue his discipline well without a certain competence in history, is aware of the filtering which occurs with the passage of time. This is not to be understood in the sense of a relativization of the tenets of the faith.

The theologian knows that some judgments of the Magisterium could be justified at the time in which they were made, because while the pronouncements contained true assertions and others which were not sure, both types were inextricably connected.

Only time has permitted discernment and, after deeper study, the attainment of true doctrinal progress (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian 24).

11) It is quite likely that a person reading the encyclical will find himself challenged at various points, no matter what his native political instincts are. This is part of the Pope's intention.

He wants to challenge everybody and shake them out of the uncritical political orbits that people find themselves sliding into.

One should therefore avoid two mistakes in reading the document:
(a) One should not casually dismiss things that seem to conflict with one's previous views; this is the Vicar of Christ talking, and we need to take what he says seriously.

(b) One should not simply seize on things that seem to confirm one's prior views and absolutize them.

There is a very substantial element of nuance to what the pope says, he is deliberately leaving room for legitimate diversity of opinion even as he makes certain proposals, and he is not attempting to engage his infallibility and thus is deliberately leaving much of what he says open to future revision.

12) The most constructive course is not to rush to conclusions regarding the encyclical but to read it, meditate on it, take a willing, open perspective, and allow oneself to be challenged by what it has to say, regardless of where one is coming from.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/19/2009 1:50 PM]
7/15/2009 6:47 AM
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From the BENEDICT XVI NEWS thread, where this story followed an update on the RAI Vatican correspondent who made some unacceptable statements about Benedict XVI on a TV newscast last Sunday, who said that in Les Combes, there will probably be "just the proverbial four cats - may be a few more - who still have the courage and the patience to listen to the Pope's words".

Well, as if in answer to that unfounded and malicious sarcasm:

Who tops Italy's best-seller list this week -
surpassing a weeks-long fictional bestseller?

Adapted from

So only "four cats have the courage and patience to listen to the words" of Benedict XVI!

Then who has been buying Caritas in veritate which, in less than a week climbed to the top of Italy's best-seller list, ahead of a novel that had been the chart-topper for weeks?

"Italians are in search of values and reference points - and they show this
by their mass acquisition of Benedict XVI's new encyclical".

LEV, the Vatican publishing house, printed an initial 530,000 copies in Italian, augmented by at least another half a million distributed as supplements to Avvenire and Famiglia Cristiana. Not to mention the texts published by Italy's 150 diocesan newspapers.[And with so many giveaways, people are still buying the commercial edition!]

The supplement that came with the Wednesday (July 8) issue of L'Osservatore Romano has already become a collector's item.

[Frankly, I am happily surprised by the popular interest in Caritas in veritate - a very 'technical' text compared to the 'pure' theology and philosophy of the first two encyclicals. But then, the popular success of thw first two encyclicals was a great big surprise to everyone as well. Not to mention Sacramentum caritatis, the post-Synodal exhortation on the Eucharist.

Since when have papal documents - teaching papers! - ever been best-sellers competing up there with 'regular books'? Only with Benedict XVI!]

Benedict XVI: Recommended reading
for moderns let down by modernity

by Bruno Mastroianni
Translated from

July 14, 2009

The idea that the world can use love, not as a vague sentiment, but as something solid and concrete rooted in the truth about man and on reality - caritas in veritate - has hit the mark.

On the left as on the right, among labor unions and entrepreneurs, economists and newsmen: everybody has heard the authoritative voice of the Pope.

The fact is that the era of enthusiasm over living 'as if God does not exist' is coming to an end. The global crisis has brought that clearly to light.

All this modernity has failed, over the past two centuries, to deliver what it promised. So there is widespread disssatisfaction and a desire for fresh air.

And that is why the encylical has been so well received.

And journalistic spin has not been possible because everyone has read it - or can easily do so, if they wish. [Well, no! There are still quite a number of people who are too lazy to read the whole thing and prefer to get their knowledge of it - as well as what they ought to think about it - from what the media tell them! And there certainly has been no lack of self-serving (or ideology-serving) media spin on CIV!]

They are rediscovering what can be reasonable, shareable and stimulating from Benedict XVI, who is reconnecting human events to the ultimate sense of existence.

In this climate, the meeting between the Pope and the American President must be instructive.

While the media were anticipating a confrontation on bioethical issues, the two used the occasion to size up each other. [And of course, it was a confrontation on bio-ethical issues - not all of it, surely - but the part of it that the Vatican unmistakably wished to be placed up front for all to see.]

Obama promised to reduce abortions [an empty promise, by the way, since he personally and his party promote abortion as a human right, so how does that help reduce abortions? And yet, media has reported this promise uncritically and positively, without even questioning its obvious improbability!], and the Pope handed him a copy of Dignitas personae - the document that explains very well why the defense of the dignity of man (and of human life) is not a fixation on the part of Catholics but one that concerns everybody.

If only Obama reads it with attention [or reads it at all!], he would discover how reasonable, shrable and stimulating the Church is when it reminds man that the future depends on the capacity to defend life from its very beginning.

How it is all question of love in truth.

7/15/2009 6:48 AM
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Of course, it would be Father Schall who would do what I have been waiting for someone to do - to consider CIV above the usual 'social encyclical' for its carefully designed theological beginning and conclusion, which set up and sum up, respectively, the doctrinal premises for what is necessarily a technical analysis of the world's problems - which are concretely material but cannot be overcome without factoring God into everything we do.

JulY 14, 2009

"Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity."
- Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, (#1).

"The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: 'that they may be one even as we are one' (Jn. 17:22).

"The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity. Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model. In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration."
- Caritas in Veritate, (#54).


The publication of a social encyclical is a significant event both in the Church and in the world. Many people will have heard even the Latin titles, which are the names given to the most famous of them, Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, Mater et Magistra, Pacem in Terris, Populorum Progressio, and Centesimus Annus, not to mention Gaudium et Spes, a decree of the Second Vatican Council.

We read in Scripture that a difference is found between the world and the Church. This difference often becomes clear in the way the world understands and receives a social encyclical. The world often considers its relative autonomy to be absolute so that no guidance or advice from outside its own control will be admitted.

In not a few countries in the world, even today, opposition to the Church's presence and freedom is juridical and intense. But even in countries where freedom of the press is guaranteed, an encyclical is often interpreted in an unrecognizable or ideological way.

For its part, a social encyclical tries to say something significant and meaningful to the world about the world in terms of truth and human worth.

Within it, we often find words like politics, economics, market, violence, profit, capitalism, socialism, justice, technology, development, corruption, rights, freedom, constitution, duties, and any number of other words we see or hear every day in the media.

In general, unless it absolutely has to, the Church does not like to be "polemical." But it does have to be truthful. It seeks to make common ground on some one or more basic points on which agreement of principle or practice is feasible and coherent.

When it does not agree with technical, theoretical, or popular social and political concepts, at least the encyclical seeks to state accurately what is at issue.

It addresses the controverted issue intelligently and accurately. It is better simply to "disagree" or "agree to disagree" than to arrive at common grounds that are really denials of the basic differences.

The Church can live with differences. It cannot live with untruths on any side, especially its own. Even in the case of contingent, practical matters — which politics and economics mostly are — what is looked for is the most proper, most probable way of incorporating truth into an action or polity.

Right away, when dealing with such social or political notions, the Church, to clear the air, disassociates itself from any thought that it might have or provide all the solutions to temporal problems. "The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim 'to interfere in anyway in the politics of States'" (#10).

So why should it say anything? Benedict explains: "She (the Church) does, however, have a mission to truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation."

Simply put, at times things should be said. Action first depends on truth. To not state what is true is irresponsible. The truth about man should be spoken, even at high cost. This responsibility to do so is why the Church has and honors martyrs.

Christianity and philosophy, in the persons of Christ and Socrates, are both founded on this principle. Finally, only truth will protect what man ought to be and ought to become. He is not simply a malleable being who can become whatever he wants. He is a being who seeks to be the truth he ought to be.


Thus, a "mission of truth" exists that transcends the limits of every polity regardless of time, place, or configuration. The polity itself is a limited relationship. What follows?

"Without truth it is easy to fall into an empiricist and skeptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings —with which to judge and direct it."

Benedict adds a pithy phrase of great profundity: "Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development."

The phrase "integral human development" is one of the organizing principles of this encyclical.

John Paul II, as I recall, called the freedom of religion the "first freedom," a phrase he may have gotten from our First Amendment. Benedict makes an interesting remark about this issue of religious freedom.

He says quite frankly that not all religions are the same, that some even tend to violence and deform fundamental aspects of human life. We can dispute these latter on this score but only if we are allowed to do so.

The fact is, however, that "the Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions" (#56).

In a world used to thinking sloppily on "the separation of Church and State," a phrase not found in America's founding documents (while "freedom of religion" is), these words are very significant.

"The Church's social doctrine came into being in order to claim 'citizenship status' for the Christian religion. Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to being the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development" (#56).

The Pope is thinking of the Europe of the nineteenth century. The Church through concordats, or laws, or political parties, or unions, had to carve out a space in which it could speak in the public forum by virtue of its own understanding of a truth valid for all men.

It needed to be legally free to build churches, schools, or other institutions, for citizens to participate in public life as legitimate citizens, for the pastor to teach and preach what the Church believes.

In almost every meeting with heads of state or ambassadors from states where the Church does not have even today this "citizenship status" — and there are not a few — the Pope, be it John Paul II or Benedict, brings this issue up.

Without the evangelization efforts of the Church the simple effort of people to live free lives in truth becomes jeopardized.

The Pope does not deny a private sphere of religious faith and practice, but here he insists that stating the truth is a public good to which it is entitled both for the well-being of the polity and for the guarantee of truth.

When the state denies any public presence, it means that it claims for itself an absolute, even divine power.

"Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent."

John Paul II spoke of the "purification of memory," Benedict speaks of the "purification of political reason.

Many readings of this document will concern themselves with the various economic and political suggestions found in it. For the most part they are informed, not infallible, judgments about the contingent laws and actions of politics, economics, finance, ecology, or globalization.

Not a few of the suggestions in the encyclical can be wondered about. Usually, the pope shows some awareness of the tenuousness or prudence of these suggestions. Some people find in them a heady optimism; others find even a naivete.

But these judgments are intended to address, at some more than purely abstract level, a given issue. Without this more informed effort, the Church often finds itself being accused of talking only in abstractions and glittering pieties.

Probably the most controversial suggestion of the encyclical has to do with the advisability of a real international authority capable of carrying out necessary reforms on a worldwide scale with power of enforcement.

The Pope is a German, so he has to be aware of the multiple lineages and dangers of such suggestions. People remember that the Holy Roman Empire and the "Third Reich" were proposals for a world order with authority.

Neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations Organization, as the Pope intimates in this document, gives much comfort as examples of successful world authority. It is noteworthy the document suggests some sort of third approach. But at this stage, it is little more than a point for discussion.

In one sense, even though he wrote of city-states, an implication for a general authority exists in the very logic of Aristotle's politics extended to include a real common good for all, a proposal many find in Aquinas also.

Still, following the Book of Revelation, as Oscar Cullmann once pointed out, there is danger of a "beast," of a new Babylon, that thinks only of itself and sets itself up against God.

The Pope's writings are full of warnings against this latter absolutist danger. He touches on it in this encyclical but his attention is mainly on the danger of a breakdown of the world economic order.

The world seems to lack an authoritative locus of action for greater goods. This authority, in the Pope's mind, would be an accepted and carefully limited authority. The Pope is usually considered an Augustinian thinker, but in this proposal, he does not show Augustine's usual caution about the abuse of power.


Clearly, this encyclical is as much, if not more, about truth as it is about charity. Indeed, the necessity of dealing with specifically charity arose because it was the fuzziness that grew up about a use of the virtue of charity that was causing moral and political problems everywhere.

In Deus Caritas Est, Benedict had already spelled out the scriptural and philosophical meaning of this word. He talked of "eros, philia, and agape', the three Greek words found in Scripture and in the philosophers to depict different aspects of love.

The New Testament almost exclusively uses "agape, which means the love that is outgoing, the love in which we first exist. This love that gives being is God's love of us, a creative love. It is this sort of love by which we love one another, our enemies, our God — who also forgives our sins if we choose to have them forgiven.

The first paragraph of this encyclical is tightly ordered to summarize the whole document. Love is a "driving force." It deals with "authentic," not inauthentic, development. It brings out what is already implanted in our being at our very conception and coming to be as human persons.

We are what we are through no power or intention of our own. Love is an "extraordinary force" that gives us "courage" and makes us generous to work for "peace and justice." These latter, peace and justice, do not exist before the former, the truth of our being already what we are not of our own making.

"Each person finds his good by adhering to God's plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free." Truth is to be defended. There is no freedom without it. God has a plan for each of us. This is why we are.

Here, are we just talking of a few Christians who know something of theological terms? Hardly.

"All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person."

This passage, which is very mindful of Augustine, is about what is already "planted" in our hearts. Lest we think this approach is still abstract, we find that it is made concrete in Jesus.

"In Christ, charity and truth becomes the Face of his Person." Jesus is the truth. All human beings belong to His plan.

John Paul II, following certain modern philosophers, also spoke of the astonishment for us for God to have a human Face, precisely because love seeks sight. Ubi eros, ibi oculus.

I have taken some time with this first paragraph because the Pope in this document recasts the center of traditional social teaching. It does not cease to be concerned with justice, but "Charity is the heart of the Church's social doctrine" (#2).

And if charity is the heart of the Church's social doctrine, certain new emphases need to be recognized in our private and public lives. We have to begin with the origin of what we are. We are not of our own origin. Our ultimate origin is the Trinity, nothing less.

We exist because of an abundance of being and love in God. This abundance and its overflow reflect in us, in the way we are with others. This abundance is why we find so much in this encyclical about "gift" and "gratuitousness.

What is unique about this social encyclical, then, is its philosophical and theological depth. It does not allow us to be superficial. It does not seek to explain "social matters" as if they had no ultimate source or as if, even with their own proper order, they stood by themselves.

"Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. The ultimate source is not, and cannot be mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. ... That which is prior to us and constitutes us—subsistent Love and Truth—shows us what goodness is, and in what our true happiness consist. It shows us the road to true development" (#52).

Thus, not only do "duties" stand before "rights," as Benedict teaches, but "gift" stands before and beyond them both without denying their validity.

Man is a spiritual being. He freely and knowingly relates himself to others, including God.

"A metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons is therefore of great benefit for their development," Benedict writes. "In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another" (#53).

That passage alone shows how much the loss of metaphysics in our schools affects our understanding of the flourishing of the human person. But the "community" is not itself another substantial being as the individuals who make it up are.

Benedict is right to stress this understanding of the human person which remains itself in its relations even with God. This is why we have the resurrection of the body.

So when, as we saw in the citation at the beginning of this reflection, we ask, "What is our grounding in being?", we have to go back to the Trinity, "the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine Substance. The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality" (#54).

All three Persons are "transparent" to one another. "God desires to incorporate us into this reality of community. "In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration.

Again, in a "social encyclical", a Pope understands that what it is we are created for is not this world itself, though we have something responsible to do in it.

The essence of God's love of us is an agape that we do not give ourselves. Hence, we have the constant theme that by itself, politics will not really be able to solve its own problems because the real problems of every man in every polity begin and end with his proper relation to God.

Still, and in conclusion, "Because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community, it brings all people together without imposing barriers or limits."

If it is a gift received by everyone, his principal task is to recognize and bring forth what is already there in his being. This bringing forth is not a "self-making" but it is a doing on the basis of what the divine plan has already seen in the being of each existing person. That this plan achieves its end in the inner life of the Trinity, we have to know the truth of what we are.

"The human community that we build by ourselves can never, purely by its own strength, be a fully fraternal community, nor can it overcome every division and become a truly universal community. The unity of the human race, a fraternal communion transcending every barrier, is called into being by the word of God-who-is-love" (#34).

Thus, Caritas in Veritate is a social encyclical that is not just an address about "social problems" but a refocusing of the whole plan of our salvation that takes place in the arena of our actual lives in cities of every description.

We work with what we have. We are made for eternal life, the life of the Trinity, as a gift.

As Benedict said elsewhere, politics is not an "eschatology" that is itself our salvation, rather it is an ethics in which, knowing what we are and what is our destiny, we decide, ultimately, what we are and what we will be.

The gift, the truth, the love is given to us. God can do no more. We are free. Otherwise there is no gift and no love, but there is truth even if we reject God.

7/20/2009 2:23 AM
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Now this is a reading of CIV with the right perspective - by someone who is able to appreciate and conciliate the theological adn philosophical arguments of the Pope with his analyses of concrete economic situations. It was also one of the early commentaries - I just did not come across it till today.

One can tell he has internalized the encyclical because apart from his constant awareness of its theological underpinnings, he is also able to enumerate its specifically economic concrete statements and express them in simple sentences.

Something, for instance, that the George Weigel we have been used to would have done if he would only read this encyclical with an open mind and set his violent biases aside. His critique was more against the encyclical's language and supposed leftwing ideological content that the Pope had allowed into the encyclical, rather than to any specifics.

Money from love
Rev. Robert A. Gahl, Jr.
Associate Professor of Ethics
Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome

July 10, 2009

In an encyclical released last week, an intellectually adventurous Pope asserts that love is ultimately the solution to the world economic crisis.

Today, by "economy" or "economical", what first comes to mind is low-cost, parsimonious, sparing, small, fuel-efficient, and, often, cheap.

But now, with his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) Benedict subverts and reverses the common understanding of "economy" as a parsimonious reduction in costs or a miserly (re)distribution of resources.

For this counter-cultural Pope, "economy" is principally a question of charity, of love. In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, the Pope argued that love is inherently expansive, ecstatic, and effusive.

For Benedict, the social doctrine of the Church, that includes a now rapidly developing theology of political economy, is not just about the distribution of wealth. Benedict is at least as interested in fostering wealth creation motivated by love, while exercising responsible stewardship over the environment.

The Catholic Church claims that God challenges all human beings to collaborate with the Creator by, not just conserving his creation, but improving and expanding upon all of creation. Therefore, we enjoy the right and duty to continue God's creative work.

A good Christian, in particular, must strive to create wealth and to foster development, especially seeking to promote the integral development of the poorest.

The first book of the Bible says that Adam and Eve were created to be fruitful and to multiply, to extend and to propagate the gifts received from God. Man and woman were created in God's image, and so, they are to continue his work.

Demographic growth and human fruitfulness, giving birth to offspring and extending human life through the generations, are components of the broader fruitfulness of expanding upon the vast wealth of the marvelous array of nature found on our planet, and beyond.

With his penetrating analysis of economic affairs, within the framework of human freedom and his recommendation that our activity be done out of love, often for free, and always in accord with the truth, Benedict surpasses the stale commonplaces of much current political debate between left and right, progressives and conservatives, communism and capitalism.

Like the Gospels themselves, Benedict's message is revolutionary. He applauds neither of the two sides of the debate, typically contested by partisan politics.

Within the Church, Benedict challenges both social justice and pro-life activists to seek even more ambitious and more well-rounded goals.

In sum, the Pope challenges the world to overcome the current economic crisis by transforming all human transactions in accord with love in truth.

In the 144 pages of Caritas in Veritate, the Pope addresses a wide range of topics. For instance, he proposes more robust supranational governance for the world economy: "so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth".

He analyzes the weakening of state sovereignty while predicting, nonetheless, the continuation of its important role in governing human affairs.

He advocates more substantial foreign aid, directed from developed countries to those that are still developing.

He addresses the morality of taxation and distinguishes compulsory tax payments from the more meritorious practice of gratuitous giving.

Benedict proposes that globalization be managed so as to promote its positive features, while putting a brake on the anti-human impetus of its downside.

He criticizes outsourcing, when done without concern for the benefit of employees and their right to stable employment. He defends the need for labor unions in continuing to protect the interest of workers especially within the context of increasing trends towards migration and mobility.

He warns against the dangerous effects of climate change and challenges us all to care for the environment.

Moreover, he analyzes the dangers of religious syncretism and cultural relativism and denounces the restriction in some countries of the fundamental right to religious freedom, which is so necessary for advancing integral human development.

The Pope also addresses the most controversial moral issues of our day by denouncing abortion, eugenics, and the cannibalization of human beings in embryonic stem cell research.

He describes the ongoing demographic suicide of many advanced countries and recommends urgent and generous correction to the trend away from the gift of life to a new generation of creative and caring individuals, the ultimate resource of our planet.

"Openness to life is at the centre of true development." Marriage and family form the core of human community required for genuine economic development.

At a time when free market dynamics are often criticized for contributing to the economic crisis, Benedict offers a theological development of the concept of market economy, beyond that proposed by John Paul II in his encyclical Centesimus Annus.

For Benedict, the market economy "does not exist in the pure state". The market presupposes a cultural and ethical basis of responsibility, trust, the readiness to give of oneself to others, and a love for the common good above and beyond one's own preferences.

In a bold step, Benedict connects the market to Trinitarian theology. The three divine persons are united in their love and this divine love is the source and summit of human life.

Most fundamentally, the market is driven by love, ultimately God's love for us and our love for God. Thus, "life in Christ is the first and principal factor of development" which must be sought with "the ardour of charity and the wisdom of truth".

And, "in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration."

For the gratuitous gift of love to flourish in society, men and women must learn to love first in family life by experiencing the gratuitous and unconditional bonds of human relation within the spousal union and the bi-directional relationship of love between children and their parents.

Likewise, scientific and technological progress must be sought along with respect for morality.

"Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth.... Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love."

The human being is the measure of progress for science and technology. Abuse or manipulation of humanity is always regressive and never constitutes real progress. Instead, when shaped by love in truth for men and women, scientific knowledge, discovery, and innovation constitutes genuine progress for society.

Even those accustomed to the theological depth of Joseph Ratzinger's analyses of contemporary culture, may be surprised to find that, in Caritas in Veritate, Benedict offers a political and economic theory rooted in and inspired by Trinitarian theology.

However, it is worth mentioning that his meaning is unfortunately obscured by some infelicitous translations in the preliminary but official English translation of the encyclical (for instance, "polyarchic" is rendered as "stratified", "polycentric" as "many overlapping layers", and "Monti di Pietà" as "pawnbrokers").

The use of "stratified" rather than "polyarchic" might seem to imply a clumsy addition of bureaucratic layers of statist government agencies. In contrast, Benedict advocates polyarchic authorities of governance so that a higher, or simply complementary, authority may safeguard the pursuit of a globalized common good while also fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity.

By proposing polyarchy, the Pope offers an innovative principle while entrusting its detailed policy implementation to technical experts capable of adjusting the principles in accord with our rapidly changing world. Many authorities, perhaps with intersecting and complementary competencies, would serve to protect the individual's free pursuit of the common good in accord with truth.

Benedict reaffirms and advances John Paul II's treatment of subsidiarity by affirming that it is a "particular manifestation of charity", "a guiding criterion for fraternal cooperation between believers and non-believers", "an expression of inalienable human freedom", "assistance to the human person", "recognition of the person as capable of giving something to others", and the fostering of "freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility".(57)

Moreover, Benedict affirms the principle of subsidiarity as an antidote "against any form of all-encompassing welfare state".

Benedict appeals to the foundational requirements for an economy, for scientific progress, and for advances in the quality of life.

What really drives the world is not money, but love. The driving force behind human development is love, not of money, but of the human being.

To consume more and more material things would never satisfy the deepest desires and most powerful longings of the human heart. Rather, what we really seek are loving relations with others. Self-gift, therefore, is the fundamental energy source for integral human development and the greatest treasure exchanged within human society.

Father Gahl's mindset and approach are the polar opposite of one of those liberal Catholics the New York Times uses to 'represent' Catholic thinking, who is predictably perverse on CIV as he has been on other matters.

Like Weigel, his mind is closed; he refuses to see what the encyclical actually says - though he manages to summarize some of its points quite well - because, he claims, it is 'poorly written'. He is condescending and smug - and gaggingly infuriating - and I am posting the piece, in small print, only for the record. Because it typifies a most objectionable type of mentality, Catholic or otherwise.

Perhaps someone should point out to Mr. Steinfels that if it is such a difficult read, why did it become an instant bset-selling chart-topper in Italy? Italians are not more inclined to read 'difficult' texts than Americans - and yet there are tens of thousands paying a few euros to have their own copy of CIV. An encyclical is not exactly the sort of thing a normal person would go out of his way to own if he did not intend to read it at all.

From the Vatican, a tough read

Published: July 17, 2009

Why is Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical on the world economy and authentic human development, so poorly written?

That is meant as a serious, honest question, not a snap way of dismissing a remarkable document, brimming with profound ideas and moral passion and issued at a time when it could hardly be more relevant.

The matter is all the more confounding since Benedict has often shown himself a graceful writer, and one who has insisted on the importance of beauty in communicating his Church’s message.

Of course, not everyone will agree that Caritas in Veritate is hard going. Some people, after all, enjoy visits to the dentist, and besides there are many crystalline sentences that can be yanked from the molasses-like text.

But published commentaries are already noting the “dense prose” or warning that “theological reflections usually don’t make for light summer reading.”

The encyclical “can be difficult to read,” says one commentator; it is marred by “irritating fits and starts, assertions, qualifications, doubtful formulas and doubling back,” says another.

And that is just from Roman Catholics who admire the encyclical.

Those unhappy about it are still blunter. Describing the document as “a duck-billed platypus,” George Weigel, the neoconservative biographer of Pope John Paul II, has derided the language of whole sections as “clotted and muddled.”

There are three readily available explanations for the encyclical’s ungainliness. The first is simply that this is just the way encyclicals are. They are a genre wielding theology and philosophy to address complex issues that a worldwide church may confront in many very different forms. Thus a tendency toward abstract language and vague or hedged generalizations.

Like Supreme Court decisions, they are also part of a larger body of thought. Thus the attention to previous church statements.

And what legalese is to those trained in the law, Vaticanese is to the caste of Vatican officials who work on encyclicals.

Even within that genre, however, encyclicals vary a good deal in tone and readability — or sheer length. Caritas in Veritate, for instance, is almost five times as long as Populorum Progressio, the 1967 encyclical on economic development that the new encyclical commemorates and uses as a point of departure.

A second explanation is that Caritas in Veritate is the work of many hands. That can be said of virtually all encyclicals. They are drafted, circulated and redrafted. Popes are personally and intensely involved in the process, but to different degrees.

In this case, the recognizable voice of Benedict XVI seems to disappear as Caritas in Veritate turns from its powerful theological reflections on the links among love, truth and justice, to its equally powerful but more mundane reflections on poverty, hunger, greed, corruption and what it sees as the necessity of transforming economic and political institutions.

This shift in tone allows a conservative Mr. Weigel to welcome the parts of the encyclical in line with his own political preferences and culture-war concerns as the true voice of the Pope while dismissing the rest — presumably including the encyclical’s statements about unregulated markets, unemployment, the rights of labor, the redistribution of wealth and the strengthening of international governing bodies like the United Nations — as the left-wing boilerplate of a Vatican body, the Council for Justice and Peace.

“Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul,” Mr. Weigel writes, “may have thought it necessary to include in his encyclical these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain the peace within his curial household.”

Other conservatives are less dismissive of the encyclical’s many concrete comments on economic, social and political issues but point out, quite accurately, that the Pope’s views on quite a number of these issues, including the market economy itself, globalization and new forms of finance, are in fact nuanced. The conclusion seems to be that compared with the broad theological themes about charity, these specifics are far less compelling. [Less compelling only if you insist on reading them divorced from their theological-philosphical underpinning. And that is the whole point of the encyclical. Charity and truth, love and social issues, are inseparable.]

In either case, the failure of Caritas in Veritate to blend the many hands and voices evident in its composition has probably diminished its impact and encouraged selective reading.

A third, very down-to-earth explanation for the tough read, however, is offered by the Rev. John A. Coleman, a Jesuit sociologist and theologian who has been studying the trajectory of Catholic social teaching for decades. Father Coleman believes that Pope Benedict simply tried to do too much.

Caritas in Veritate is a document about human nature and the Trinity and the current economic crisis and inequality and the energy problem. It argues a link between Catholic teaching on sexuality and life issues like abortion and Catholic stances on social issues like poverty and the environment.

It carries on an internal Catholic debate about continuity versus discontinuity in interpreting church teaching. It even offers a tantalizing glimpse at a new variation on markets, profits and the relationships between economics and politics.

This latter element of the encyclical appears to be based largely on the work of Stefano Zamagni, a noted economist at the University of Bologna. Unfortunately, though, the encyclical presents it in suggestive but obscure language about the “logic of the gift” and “gratuitousness.” [I disagree. I found these parts compelling and challenging for their very originality. And if you find the language obscure, then it may be because you are resisting the message which is very radical not as a concept but in the application that the Pope prtoposes.]

In Father Coleman’s view, what the encyclical gains in potential for further thought it loses in clutter. One legitimate and valuable point is obscured by the next. ['Obscured' perhaps, but not contradicted.]

He notes that like other recent encyclicals, this one is addressed not only to the faithful and their leaders but “to all men and women of good will,” but he doubts that many people, especially economists, even of the best will, will be lured into reading it.

The just-too-much explanation and the too-many-hands explanation are not mutually exclusive. The Pope’s intellectual ambition and the multiple concerns of his Vatican aides and other consultors may well have converged. One wonders if this isn’t a case where less would have been more

While I agree that Chapters 3-5 of CIV are not up to the impeccably graceful style of DCE and Spe salvi, it is also clear that this is due to the nature of the subjects being discussed.

Economics and sociology are awfully boring, even - or perhaps, especially - when discussed by the experts and specialists who always spin off into jargon. In Chapters 3-5 of CIV, the Pope goes into the nitty-gritty of the world's current economic and social issues. He has to use some of their jargon to carry his point across, if only to make his references clear.

And, even if the language is not homogeneous and therefore not seamless when it involves the parts that have been contributed to it rather than originating with the Pope, the flow and the logic of the presentation are not discontinuous.

More importantly, there is an internal consistency among all these multiple threads, and an overall faithfulness to the principle of charity in truth. And that's the whole point.

To read the encyclical other than from its fundamental premise - and dismiss its concrete statements because they are not seen in the light of charity and truth - is as erroneous as interpreting Jesus only on the basis of historical fact without the eyes of faith.

A secondary essential consideration when reading this encyclical is that its concrete proposals are obviously and necessarily made in general terms - as general orientations.The Pope makes it clear from the statrt that it is not the Church's place to propose technical solutions.

The orientations for concrete action suggected in CIV need to be reflected on and then appropriately translated to practical measures or strategies by those who are in a position to take such measures or devise and execute such strategies.

I believe that is what social encyclicals are meant to do.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/20/2009 2:28 AM]
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Here is another early commentary on CIV that I missed at the time it first came out. Fr. De Souza is not only a lucid analyst; he also has a gift of getting to the heart of an issue with simple, direct and forceful language, as he does here.

But I applaud him most in this item for linking CIV to Benedict's first encyclical, whose part 2 was, after all, on the social applications of the the third - and greatest - theological virtue; and for properly appreciating the powerful novelty of Benedict's introduction of 'gratuitousness' and 'the logic of the gift' - airily dismissed as 'incomprehensible' by iron-clad secular skeptics like Peter Steinfels (see article in precedeing post - as essential principles that should guide economic decisions.

'Caritas in Veritate':
Benedict’s call for
love in the marketplac


July 10, 2009

Father De Souza, who lives in Canada and writes for its National Post, was the Register’s Rome correspondent from 1999 to 2003.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) is a complex document of which the constituent parts have given rise to various reactions by commentators, some of them contradictory.

In terms of practical policy recommendations, Benedict’s first social encyclical shifts Catholic social teaching toward the more statist, redistributionist line favored by popes from Pius XI to Paul VI. It does not entirely abandon the more personalist, liberty-centered approach of Leo XIII and John Paul II, but Benedict does not draw out the same conclusions that his predecessor did, namely that economic liberty was an essential dimension of the liberty proper to man and also the most efficient path to economic development.

The continuity with John Paul lies at a deeper level, namely the conviction that, as Caritas in Veritate puts it, “the social question has become a radically anthropological question.”

That is to say that a correct understanding of the human person lies at the heart of what Benedict calls “integral human development.”

Caritas in Veritate therefore links together questions that often have been treated separately — economic justice, environmental stewardship, religious liberty, abortion, marriage and contraception.

At the same time as Benedict calls for an array of redistributive programs, he underscores the danger to human liberty and subjectivity from the bureaucratic welfare state. It will therefore be a challenge to work out what practical applications will follow from Caritas in Veritate.

While the balance of the encyclical points to greater state intervention in the economy, there are warnings too against state power. Commentators on the encyclical have already been using different sections to buttress competing arguments.

Yet Caritas in Veritate also suggests a deeper project at work. It is not exactly Benedict’s first social encyclical — Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) addressed the social question, too. Indeed, the two encyclicals together indicate something important in Benedict’s thought.

Deus Caritas Est began life as a draft for John Paul II on the Church’s charitable work — a sort of indirect social encyclical after the late Holy Father decided that Centesimus Annus (1991) was to be his most complete treatment of the question.

Benedict took that draft and recast it within a deeply theological and anthropological meditation on man’s need for love and God’s ultimate fulfillment of that need.

With Caritas in Veritate, the Holy Father has repeated the same approach. Many in the Roman Curia desired a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio, the 1967 encyclical on development.

Over the last few years and several drafts, Benedict decided not simply to update that document’s call for a greater redistribution of goods, but to recast it in terms of the fundamental desire to love and be loved.

For Benedict the social question — culture, politics, economics — arises from the basic reality that man is social, and, therefore, desires in his relations with others not merely cooperation or even justice, but an experience of love.

In both Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate, Benedict tries to apply this vocation to love and be loved to the social question in general and the economic question in particular.

“A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church,” Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est. “Love — caritas — will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the state so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbors is indispensable.”

In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict takes his argument one step further. In Deus Caritas Est, the vision was of justice being the work of politics and economics, to which the Church brought the work of charity to make society more fully human.

Now, Caritas in Veritate argues that economic enterprises in themselves should be motivated by charity, and not merely justice.

“Globalization makes peoples neighbors, but not brothers,” he writes in one of the novel expressions of Caritas in Veritate. Is economic life intended to make us brothers, or is that asking too much? Benedict makes his claim here that it is not too much to ask.

Charity is essential so that our treatment of each other is not limited to mere contractual obligations, but to the real flourishing of others.

This is a bold development, to say that economic life should be characterized by charity — a theological virtue — rather than the humbler natural virtues of justice and prudence.

Caritas in Veritate understands that existing economic language and concepts don’t really express this, so develops a new principle.

The underlying principle — replacing justice with charity as the principal motivation of economics — is articulated as the “principle of gratuitousness” and the “logic of the gift.”

“Gratuitousness” and “gift” encourage people to think not of their interest, but of service. So Benedict argues that labor unions should think not of their own members alone, but of the good of even foreign workers who might compete with union labor.

More far-reaching, Benedict endorses the idea that corporations should answer not only to shareholders, but also “stakeholders” — all those who have a stake in a company’s activities, including, it must be supposed, those who consider that the company’s financial health is a secondary concern.

This “principle of gratuitousness” is a novel contribution and might add something significant to the older Catholic social principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

It certainly expresses an ambition for social doctrine that animates Benedict’s broader magisterium, namely to bring the supreme virtue of love into even the mundane world of politics and economics.

The challenge of Caritas in Veritate is to see how effectively that argument is received against the tradition of Catholic social teaching and the real world of social experience.

Here's an even earlier commentary, also from the NCRegister, which makes the link to the theology of Communio - the 'school' of post-Vatican II theology that Joseph Ratzinger and theologians like his elder (and at the time, more eminent) Vatican-II colleagues Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, had set up through their international journal of the same name, to counteract the progressivists like Hans Kueng et al who had taken over Concilium, the earlier journal founded by the Vatican II theologians to discuss and disseminate its teachings.

The Communio link makes for a novel approach to CIV - and the writer's 'cute' title.

Benedict's ‘Communio-ist Manifesto’
by Angelo Matera

Thursday, July 09, 2009 9:01 AM

For commentators like First Things editor Joseph Bottum, one of the most unsettling statements in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) — a dense and complex 30,000-word encyclical on the Church’s social doctrine — is the one that asserts an obligation to practice charity in all areas of public life equal to the obligation to practice personal charity:

Every Christian is called to practice 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 neighbor directly(No. 7).

But in fact, Benedict’s statement is a logical development of the vital principle that lies at the heart of his new encyclical: a radical commitment to the implementation of a “political” charity in order to serve the common good.

While surprising coming from a Pope who is considered less political than his predecessors, this assertion of an “institutional path” of charity should not surprise anyone who understands the all-encompassing social implications of the Pope’s radical theology, first made known to a wider public in his 1968 book, Introduction to Christianity.

And although Benedict’s encyclical is completely in line with prior social encyclicals, as the Pope makes clear early in the text of Caritas in Veritate, what’s unmistakably new is the emphasis given in the document to ideas drawn from the Communio school of theology and the influence of Communio-inspired economic initiatives such as the Focolare movement’s “Economy of Communion” and the Communion and Liberation movement’s “Company of Works.”

Communio was the “third way” theological movement spearheaded at the Second Vatican Council by then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) and then Father Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). [I don't recall reading anywhere that Bishop Wojtyla was formally or informally associated with the Communio group whose senior leaders were Von Balthasar and De Lubac, except that he shared with them a respect for Church Tradition and the logic of continuity that should be read into Vatican II. In fact, Wojtyla and Ratzinger never met during Vatican-II. They din't get to know each other until the first conclave of 1978.]

Neither conservative nor liberal, Communio theology seeks to purify the Church’s stance towards the world by going back to the radical Christianity of the Church fathers, from Thomas Aquinas back to the first centuries of the Church.

Unlike traditionalists at the council, Communio theologians didn’t want to cram the world into conformity with the existing structures of the Church, a harmful tendency that some call “integralism.” Instead, they wanted to take the Gospel out into the world and thereby transform it in the image of the self-giving love of the Trinity.

It’s important to understand that the social implications of Communio theology can’t be reduced to mere policy, whether liberal or conservative. (Although, contrary to some reports, the encyclical doesn’t shirk from making concrete recommendations about reforming a dysfunctional financial system).

That’s why Caritas in Veritate isn’t being fully understood by many Catholics — those who see themselves as “social justice” or as “free-market” Catholics or as “pro-life” Catholics alike.

The encyclical’s vision of “integral human development” is based on a radical opening to God, a vision as audacious as the utopian secularist conceptions of recent centuries in its call for the transformation of every aspect of life through charity.

The crucial difference: The Church offers its vision based not on false ideologies that reject God but instead on the realism of Christian hope, which recognizes man’s dependence on God.

Caritas in Veritate’s vision of social life is inspired not by the collectivist ideas of communism or even the less coercive approach of socialism; it is inspired by the “Communio-ism” that ordered the common life of the early Christians who lived in a spirit of mutual dependence in relation to God as his sons and daughters in imitation of the Trinity.

As Benedict declares, in his radical yet realistic call to action at the conclusion of Caritas in Veritate:

“...Man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family 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.

The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God.

Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.

On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today.

A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.

Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs.

God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral; it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish. God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope. (No. 78)

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/20/2009 3:10 AM]
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While I usually admire what I have read of Restan so far - I've translated and posted a few of his articles before - I think he is forgetting that even Benedict XVI himself often cites his predecessor Paul VI for originating the felicitous phrase, 'civilization of love'.

Benedict XVI's revolution:
A society built on love

by José Luis Restan
Translated from

July 20, 2009

Reading the encyclical Caritas in veritate, what came promptly to my mind was a passage from Don Luigi Giussani [founder of Comunione e Liberazione], where he writes that civilization is not the outcome of actions but the fruit of the consciousness that generates action.

Benedict XVI's entire encyclical is permeated by that certainty: and that is why it is not a social encyclical in the strict sense, but an integral reflection on man and his culture, on his protagonism in history.

And the most revolutionary thing is that the Pope dares to say that caritas (that is to say, Christ's love accepted and lived), must be the matrix of a new culture from which will come actions that make true development possible.

Don Giussani added that without charity, a civilization in progress eventually reaches a threshold after which it starts to decay to the point of transforming itself to violence [not necessarily physical violence but moral violence].

That is something one can note even now, particularly in what the Pope, in his encyclical, calls 'the absolutism of technology'.

The great problem of modernity that has abandoned its Christian roots is precisely that it has replaced the idea of love (a notion that has been systematically diminished, emptied of 'virtue' and ridiculed) with the claim that politics and science alone can assure man's well-being and happiness.

It goes without saying that all of Benedict XVI's Magisterium recognizes the role of politics and science, but it also points out implacably their intrinsic limitations.

When they are used to encroach on man's freedom, when they seek to replace man's use of individual reason and freedom on the pretext of doing it for his good, then they generate monsters that will eventually turn against man himself.

In Caritas in veritate, the Pope warns that after the failure of the major 20th century ideologies [fascism, Nazism, Communism, socialism), the risk now is that technology is turning into an absolute power, into a new ideology that presents itself as a liberation from every dependency and guarantee of freedom.

But as Don Giussani wisely said, if there is no love, progress (defined as the accumulation of wealth and power) becomes violence against man. We saw this in the totalitarian systems and we see it now in the various forms of the culture of death, with the difference that these forms can encrust themselves - in an apparently bland and 'painless' manner - onto our daily lives, numbing our sense of humanity.

On the contrary, caritas always calls attention to the centrality of the person, his reason and his freedom. Love is the response of the individual who is moved by the gift of life, by the freely-given love he has received.

Far from being mere sentimentality or historical irrelevance, love also comes from the counsel of reason (and that is why the Pope stresses the inseparability of love and truth) about the radical good that existence is - one's own and that of others - which transforms love into an impulse to build and to serve.

Furthermore, love generates unity, it sustains working together beyond partisan or personal tastes and sensibilities - it is the very fabric of a harmonious community.

As Caritas in veritate amply documents, love gives rise to good works and so it contributes decisively to progress; it generates a civilization to the measure of man.

Benedict XVI says it beautifully:

Awareness of God's undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs.... even if this cannot be achieved immediately, and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish. (No. 78)

Since the encyclical came out, I have been meaning to make this comment. Before the July 7 release, I commented that I hoped the encyclical title would be translated into English as 'Love in truth', not 'Charity in truth', mainly because love is a more comprehensive and direct term, obviously; and because the English word 'charity' carries a whole load of connotations that reduce it to mere social activism or philanthropy.

The Vatican translators decided otherwise - although one would naturally ask, why did they translate Deus caritas est into 'God is love'? (Other than that "God is charity' sounds weird!)

But I went to the German version of the encyclical, which uses the noun LIEBE all throughout the text to translate the word 'caritas' - and I like to think that if only because Benedict XVI writes his texts in German, this should be the standard.

[The German word for charity is Wohltaetigkeit, an unwieldy polysyllable whose root words mean 'doing good', i.e., the usual connotation for charity, even in English, and which carries the same hint of condescension.]

I also think that all encyclical translations should carry the official Latin title - by which they are and will be known to posterity anyway - with the appropriate translation as a subtitle. This can be very effectively presented - to call attention to the translation without detracting from the Latin title - even by the simplest concept of graphic design.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/20/2009 6:11 PM]
7/21/2009 8:23 PM
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"Charity" - Caritas?
Teresa, thanks a lot for your postings around the third encyclical. which I still have to tackle in toto, I have to admit. Just the mention of the word "economy" is enough to make me rush for a cup of coffee or a glass of white wine - I have zero interest in this subject. It is way above my intellectual capacities to begin with. However, I have read the introduction and I suppose that is a beginning......

About the word/term "charity" (English) I agree with you: it does not seem to be the right choice for an encyclical of such wide dimensions as this one. "Liebe" expresses much more, both "horizontally" and "vertically" so to speak. For some reason I am irritated every single time I see the title in English. Which is of course also a silly reaction; I should start reading the encyclical in stead of the discussions around it! [SM=g7566]

Oh, how I sympathize, dear Crotchet: If CIV had been written by anyone else except Benedict XVI, I probably would not have bothered reading it at all! I find economics more arcane than quantum physics, and I would not hesitate to read a layman's account of string theory before I could even think of reading the new economists. It was difficult enough coping with the fundamentals of Malthus, Adam Smith, and Keynes, thank you, just enough to at least have an idea what they stood for.

I must confess I have read CIV in full in English only once so far, and since then, the German, But every time I find a commentary I think worth posting, I do go to the sections they cite to read them over first (in the English translation).

I have read the Introduction, Chapter 1 and the Conclusion a number of times now, because that's pure Ratzinger - the theological, philosophical and historical bedrock of the encyclical; Chapter 2 because it lays the material groundwork for the discussions in Chaptere 3-6; and Chapter 6 on development and technology, which reads very Ratzingerian. I promise to tackle Chapters 3, 4 and 5 one chapter at a time. One thing sure, it's a reading challenge I did not feel with the first two encyclicals, particularly Spe salvi, which is pure unalloyed Ratzinger/Benedict.

Glad you agree about the inappropriateness - or awkwardness at the very least - of translating caritas as 'charity'! Translation has everything to do with finding the right sense intended in the original word or statement, and that only requires some common sense (besides familiarity with the context or the subject matter, of course).


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/22/2009 12:02 AM]
7/22/2009 4:08 AM
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Belated cross-post from the BENEDICT NEWS thread:

I find this commentary on CIV particularly welcome and incisive, especially in view of Fr. Nichols's long-standing reputation as a student of Ratzingerian theology (see capsule profile posted after the article). Like Fr. Schall, he appreciates the document as a theological work, not just as a 'social encyclical'.

Singularly useful at a glance is his enumeration of what Benedict XVI 'likes' and 'doesn't like' about the world economy today.

Maybe it's my Protestant upbringing, or my philo-Eastern) Orthodox proclivities, but social encyclicals that present themselves as, essentially, essays in natural ethics leave me uneasy.

I understand, though, why they are written. Since the Fall of man, the vices have always run riot in society. But since the middle of the 18th century a whole range of moral dystopias have actually been argued for. That makes a difference to the world in which the Church works.

If political elites, and their accompanying intelligentsias, no longer grasp the fundamental principles of what is good for man in society, then the popes will have to recall them to some basic natural decencies.

You might think that for bottom-line wisdom about how people should live together, statesmen and philosophic sages would be enough, without a divine Incarnation to found an infallible Church. And you would be right. But desperate times need desperate measures.

There is some supernatural sense in popes instructing people about matters of entirely common sense. The supernatural presupposes the natural. In salvation grace gives new resources for good works done according to the law of creation.

But the wide hearing these encyclicals get in the world of the modern media - beginning with the invention of the telegraph - means the popes have to be careful.

Envisaging basic good order in society is not giving people the vision of the Church for a deified humanity in a consummated cosmos thanks to the descent of the Trinitarian energies in the God-man Jesus Christ.

If the launchers of these humane appeals are not savvy, statements of "integral humanism", however well-intentioned and even necessary, will tend to reduce the imaginative horizons of their Christian readers to the natural level.

Historians will be able to show, I think, how this was an unintended consequence of Pope Paul's VI 1967 letter Populorum Progressio, "On Furthering the Development of Peoples". It helped usher in an age of humanitarian moralism, as distinct from a full-blooded dogmatic Christianity, in the western Catholic Church.

I re-read that letter for the sake of understanding Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which presents itself as a commentary, in changed circumstances, on its Pauline predecessor. (Had it not been for delays, at first in the papal timetable, and then through the need to make some reference to the recent economic recession, Caritas in Veritate would, no doubt, have been published in 2007, for the 40th anniversary of Populorum Progressio.)

Populorum Progressio is not without strong hints of the real framework of Christian thinking, which turns on God, Christ, salvation, the mystery of the Church.

And its "final appeal" carefully distinguishes three registers in which it wants its readers to take away its message: Catholics; other Christians; non-believers.

Above all, it reiterates that humanism will not be "integral" unless, in its pursuit of all the conditions that make up a good human life, it is oriented towards "the Absolute" which is God himself.

In such words Paul VI echoes the writings of the French Neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, his chief inspiration in social matters and whom he cites.

The trouble was, people took the conditional - the account of the conditions - but they largely left the Absolute behind. Which is what an increasingly secularised culture expected (and wanted) anyway.

Does Benedict XVI do any better in this new letter? It will not surprise those who have followed the very different paths through life of Montini and Ratzinger to hear that he does.

For Benedict, charity needs illumining by both reason and faith (3; 9), two distinct yet convergent ways of knowing. Not surprisingly, then, there is more genuine theological doctrine in the new encyclical.

Sometimes it is upfront, sometimes it is expressed in a coded way which is one of the reasons people may find this letter difficult to read - something which certainly could not be said about Paul VI's enviably clear and far more straightforward document.

The upfront theology is easy to spot. Benedict's thought about social engagement is Christological and even (54) Trinitarian. Let me take some examples of his Christocentrism, itself a sine qua non of genuinely Christian thought.

The "charity in truth" of his title is the human face of the divine person of the incarnate Word (1). It reflects the God who is simultaneously Logos and Agape (3).

If "humanism" is what you are looking for, only Christ is the revelation of what humanity is (18), a passage indebted to Pope John Paul II's 1979 letter Redemptor Hominis (which itself initiated a more Christocentric reading of the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes). The Church's social doctrine points, therefore, to the "New Man", Christ "the principle of the charity that 'never ends' " (12).

Like Benedict's earlier letter Spe Salvi (2007), Caritas in Veritate is also eschatological, and this is another litmus test of thoroughly revelation-grounded thinking.

If global society could achieve unity and peace it would, to that extent, prefigure the final City of God to which the Church directs her own longing (7).

The cosmic nature in which human society is set and which it inevitably transforms will be re-capitulated in Christ at the end of time (48): a difficult concept but essential for any distinctively Christian attitude towards the environment.

Moving on to the "coded" theology, this concerns chiefly the idea of gift or gratuitousness (34; 37; 39). Gift theory entered sociology in the Twenties and reached philosophical theology some decades later.

The practice of giving, or gift exchange, can be seen as a signal of transcendence, and a clue to how to understand the doctrine of creation.

That reminded theologians of a theme of ancient Christian thought, the self-diffusiveness of the divine goodness, itself with a background in the best paganism (the gods are not envious).

Benedict uses a low-key version of gift theory to promote the idea that connatural with the divine plan are forms of economic activity with a built-in element of the gratuitous: in effect, preferential treatment by business in dealing with the poor. There is a touch of the divine about it.

This larger injection of theology indicates one of the things Benedict is seeking to do in this encyclical, which is to shoe-horn papal social doctrine into tradition with a capital "T".

In other words, he wants to argue that, thanks to its consonance with elements in Scripture and the Fathers, and its affinities with confessors or martyrs who died for defending the demands of the common good, these documents, whose continuity before and after the Second Vatican Council he stresses, cannot be regarded as merely prudential or exclusively natural in character (12). It will be interesting to see how far this line of thought is allowed to go.

Pope John Paul II's first encyclical began a process of linking the content of Church comment on social issues more closely with key doctrines. But what is now being suggested is that the authority of the apostolic Paradosis in some way also covers social encyclicals of this kind.

Without prejudice to that question, let us formulate it more modestly. What does the Pope like? And what doesn't he like?

So what does he like?
- He likes treating justice as inseparable from charity.
- He likes an objective account of the common good (not a subjective one based on opinion surveys).
- He likes human rights if they are fundamental ones that are genuinely linked to virtuous practices, and people recognise the corresponding duties.
- He likes markets so long as they operate in a humane fashion, and state intervention, on condition it doesn't reduce people to passivity by welfarism.
- He likes helping farmers, whether by introducing new methods or improving traditional ones.
- He likes scientifically based industry if it is marked by generosity in making know-how available.
- He likes trade unions and, in general, institutions intermediate between the state and the individual - so long as their goals are genuinely civilising (or, in the case of trade unions, just).
- He likes ecology when it avoids neo-paganism and incorporates a "human ecology" which, among other things, shuns contraception and abortion, eugenics and euthanasia.
- He likes globalisation if it leads to a sense of a single worldwide interdependence of people, a kind of secular analogue to the catholicity of the Church.

What doesn't the Pope like?
- He doesn't like treating technology as the means to utopia, nor deploring it as an interference with our naturally paradisiac condition, à la Rousseau.
- He doesn't like single-minded entrepreneurs motivated exclusively by the profit motive, nor financiers who juggle with notional assets in pursuit of miracles of unnatural growth.
- He doesn't like the diversion of aid to improper ends, whether by donors or beneficiaries.
- He doesn't like treating different cultures as obviously equal in every respect, nor does he like homogenising cultures and making them all the same.
- He doesn't like the mass media when they don't care a hoot for their possible effects in undermining human dignity.

Placed on the lips of a modern Pope, it can scarcely be said that much of this comes as a shock. But, in a way, to reduce the encyclical to a set of such likes and dislikes, recommendations and caveats, is to miss the point. The point, or most of it, lies in the way the various items listed in the recipe are connected up.

How are they connected up? The overall shape they belong with owes something to the more than half-century long concern of the popes with the interplay of "subsidiarity" and "solidarity" in economic and social life: roughly speaking, when to leave people or groups to act alone and when - by appeal to the sovereign - to make the members of a whole society act together.

But just as John Paul II liked to filter these ideas through his (philosophical and theological) personalism, so Benedict XVI, without abandoning that personalism, fine-tunes them by reference to his key concept (philosophically and theologically) of relation.

This helps him to articulate his master idea in Caritas in Veritate, the idea of a "person-based and community-oriented cultural process of worldwide integration that is open to transcendence" (42).

As I read the encyclical, I tried to ask myself what this master-idea would entail in the two countries I currently know best, England and Ethiopia. I soon found that answering my own question would be no easy task. This is the price one pays for a style of writing which avoids particular examples for the sake of universality.

But behind and beneath the operation of the master idea is another - hardly facile but possibly more manageable - leading question, and it links this, the Pope's third encyclical, with Deus Caritas Est (2005), which was his first.

In his forthcoming book Dante in Love, A N Wilson says that the question which exercised the medieval poet-statesman in all his many and seemingly quite disparate interests was, what is love? Love at every level: personally, emotionally, mystically, socially, politically, divinely. This is also the question driving the Pope.

With the integration of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the pontificate is drawing near to one of its greatest challenges.

By satisfying the followers and sympathisers of the late Mgr Lefebvre about the real continuity joining the state of Catholic teaching before and after the Council, can this pontificate simultaneously entrench in Catholic consciousness a feeling for that seamless, unruptured garment in the wider theological community and Church?

Granted the importance to traditionalists of not letting go of "Christendom", the question of the social doctrine of the Church will be central to this task.

Caritas in Veritate speaks of the need for a supernatural perspective on society (3; 18). It talks of the requirement that God have "a place in the public realm" (56). It claims that, as the religion of the "God who has a human face", Christianity - and by implication, only Christianity - carries within itself the criterion of a transcendence-linked integral humanism society requires (55).

These, then, will have to count in place of the older emphasis on the impossibility of social life without the true religion and the Christian prince.

It is difficult to feel confident that the juridically recognised world-governmental authority for which the Pope, following Paul VI, looks for assistance (57) would be much of a substitute for the Byzantine Basileus or the Holy Roman emperor in some pertinent regards. Am I being cynical in asking whether that is why this encyclical ends (79) with a request for prayer?

Fr Aidan Nichols's latest book is From Hermes to Benedict XVI: Faith and Reason in Modern Catholic Thought(Gracewing).

Born in 1948 in Lancashire, England, Nichols is an Oxford-educated Dominican priest who served as the first John Paul II Memorial Visiting Lecturer at Oxford University for 2006-8, the first lectureship of Catholic theology at that university since the Reformation.

He has written at least 28 books on theology and Christian history, since his first in 1980 on 'Theology and Image in Christian Tradition'. Very significantly, his second book, published in 1988, was The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: An Introductory Study, which was reissued in July 2005 as The Thought of Benedict XVI: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger. It is certainly remarkable that an Anglophone writer thought as early as 1988 to publish a study of Joseph Ratzinger's theology.

In 1998-2001, he published three analytical volumes on Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology and a fourth book in 2007.

For more practical reasons, I also like this reaction from an economist who zeroes in on one of the Pope's specific formulations in arguing for human life and the individual as the proper focus of development.

Population growth and the encyclical:
Development expert considers
Benedict XVI's innovations

Interview by
Antonio Gaspari

ROME, JULY 16, 2009 ( Caritas in Veritate proposes that population growth is needed to bring the world out of the economic crisis. And the president of the European Center for Studies on Population, the Environment and Development agrees.

ZENIT spoke with Riccardo Cascioli of CESPAS about Benedict XVI's contribution to theories on demographics and the methods to truly guarantee development.

Cascioli here explains why the encyclical offers the true solutions to the recession and even why the Pope should be considered for a Nobel Economics Prize.

What is your evaluation of the encyclical?

Extraordinarily positive, because in going deeper into the theme of charity and truth in the economic and social perspective, he considers from the point of view of reason the most controversial issue of our time: the meaning of human presence on earth, our task and destiny.

While in the West for decades now, ideologies that tend to disfigure man have taken hold -- the worst of which is "humanism without God," as the Pope recalls -- in this encyclical, the person, with his dignity and responsibility, is again placed where he belongs: at the center of creation.

And it shows how the anthropological question is not a philosophical problem; on the contrary, it is determinant for economic and social realities. This is clearly in continuity with the magisterium of Benedict XVI, committed to revalue reason, the faculty specific to man.

But it is also in continuity with John Paul II, who back in 1997 clearly said the decisive battle of the third millennium precisely revolves around man, the pinnacle of creation.

The points dealing with the demographic crisis and the environment are quite innovative. What do you think of this?

It is fundamental that he has said with such clarity that "to consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view."

This is a decisive point, because from the '80s onward, global politics -- under the auspices of organizations like the United Nations -- precisely endow programs for population control, considered as a "negative" for development and for the environment.

And also regarding the environment, the encyclical illustrates and shows the actual situation which is already part of the patrimony of the Church's social doctrine and which can be summarized in the phrase: Nature is for man and man is for God.

"If this vision is lost," the encyclical says, "we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it." In this way, it indicates precisely the schizophrenic situation of the secularized Western world.

The economist Ettore Gotti Tedeschi maintains that the Pope deserves the Nobel for economy because of highlighting the relationship between the crisis and the falling birthrate. What do you think?

I think he is entirely correct. There is truly a demographic crisis, and it is that of the developed countries, which for more than 40 years have a birthrate lower than that of the generational replacement level.

The encyclical brings us to see how this is the fundamental factor in the current economic crisis. And the answer cannot be merely "technical."

In recent years we have understood how the sinking birthrate influences the problem of pensions, for example, but this is only one aspect of a crisis that is much broader and bound to worsen in the coming years.

Governments -- and economists -- need to reflect on this point.

For some decades, international institutions have maintained that to favor development it is necessary to reduce births. What are the results of these policies?

Currently, there are many developing countries whose birthrates have dropped below the generational replacement level. Also in general, all the countries of the world -- except for a few rare exceptions -- have experienced a drastic descent in the number of births in recent decades. But not even one country has overcome poverty and underdevelopment thanks to these policies.

On the contrary, controlling births has diverted important resources needed to promote true development projects. Moreover, the savage application of these policies -- as in the cases of China, India and other Asian countries -- has caused grave social disequilibrium, of which the absence of hundreds of thousands of women is merely the most striking aspect.

It is not coincidence that this encyclical does not use the concept of "sustainable development," which is based precisely on a negative view of population. This is an important aspect, because even from certain Catholic environments, there is pressure to accept the ideology of "sustainability."

Contrary to the proposal, even from some Catholic circles, that to save the planet, there must be a reduction in development and demographic growth, (and hence, the theories about reductionism), Caritas in Veritate explains that development is a vocation to support the common good and that there is no development without demographic growth. What do you think?

Here as well the encyclical brings clarity and dismisses many prevailing norms. Development -- understood as integral development of the person and of populations -- is man's vocation. And this is what we should tend toward. Reduction is not a value, nor the way out for the economy.

The true challenge is taking the fundamental dimensions of development. It is not a coincidence that the encyclical puts the right to life and the right to religious liberty as fundamental conditions for true development.

Certain elements that seem damaged to us -- like working conditions or the environment in countries involved in a development as rapid as it is chaotic -- are actually the fruit of a concept that reduces development to economic growth, in which man is reduced to a mere instrument of this growth.

Returning to the theme of development, Benedict XVI's encyclical proposes a social revolution that passes from "solidarity" to the concept of "fraternity" and that joins together truth and charity. How do you see this?

It supposes a great novelty on which it is important to reflect. The term solidarity today goes along with a reductionist and sentimental view of charity, which the encyclical wants to turn around. And, consistently, it dedicates an entire chapter precisely to "fraternity."

While solidarity highlights a person's actions toward other people, fraternity highlights what we receive, because it presupposes the recognition of one father, without whom we cannot consider ourselves brothers. Once again, it emphasizes the vocation of man as the factor that determines everything, also community life.

[Quite apart from the technical distinctions between the definition of solidarity and fraternity, the word 'fraternity' itself is much more descriptive,less abstract and more personal than 'solidarity', which sounds like a word to describe the physical 'strength of materials', to use an engineering term.]

For decades, the Catholic world has seemed to be divided between those who do charity work and those who are dedicated more to bioethical questions, like the defense of life and family.

With this encyclical, the Pope maintains that there is no charity without truth and that only in truth does charity stand out. Thus it emphasizes that "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." What would you say about this?

Life is one and it cannot be divided into sectors. But at the same time, just as with a house, there are foundations, there are walls, partitions, the roof and the trimmings.

The right to life and religious liberty are the foundations. Without foundations, even the most beautiful houses are bound to collapse with the first wind. The current economic crisis proves this, but if this lesson is not understood, the crisis will not be halted.

However brilliant and trailblazing Benedict XVI's thought may be, I think perhaps hell will freeze over before any Nobel jury considers him for any prize - though I would have tagged him as a runaway candidate for Literature (the body of his writing is just as consequential - more, really - and as graceful in the use of language as Winston Churchill's World War II volumes wjhich earned him the Nobel for Literature), an unusual category for a Pope or religious leader who are generally considered for the Peace Prize.

But just consider the ideology-driven choices that the Nobel juries have made in the past two decades in those two categories! Economics would certainly be even more novel for a Pope, but the dominant liberal laissez-faire ideology - which anathemized the Pope for what he said about condoms, for instance, and which dominates the Nobel juries - would never allow that!

Of course, I would be more than happy to be proved wrong. Now, who's doing the paperwork for the nomination? I say nominate him in both categories.

Not Peace, because that's increasingly iffy and questionable - and the most ideologically-driven of all the categories. Think Yasser Arafat! And why, for instance, Ronald Reagan, John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher were never 'rewarded' for bringing down the 'evil empire'!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/22/2009 4:11 AM]
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Three misreadings of 'Caritas in Veritate'
by Deal W. Hudson


Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, was published on July 7. With the appearance of a new papal document, various factions in the Church, as well as some outside, eagerly attempt to score points on their own behalf.

This is particularly true of Caritas in Veritate, since both its length and the variety of its content allow plausible misreadings supported by selective citations.

The 'Progressive' Reading

As everyone should know by now, "progressive" is the term of preference liberals apply to themselves and what they claim for their own. The progressive reading of the encyclical requires looking away from its divine law and natural law foundation and, as I have argued, the long-overdue clarification on the importance of duty rather than the familiar reliance on rights claims.

Nothing could go more against the grain of the progressive agenda than the encyclical's assertion, "Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become license."

At the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters reported on a conference call hosted by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to discuss the new encyclical. Rev. Thomas Reese, S. J., discussed its "very progressive vision," a description echoed throughout the leadership of the Catholic Left -- including by E. J. Dionne in the Washington Post.

Winters, himself an avowed Democrat, rejects the description: "I am not so sure I would call the Pope's vision 'progressive.' I think it is more accurate to say that the Pope's vision results in support for many policies that progressives support."

Winters recognizes that a cherry-picked issues list does not fairly represent the Pope's metaphysical account of how acts of charity must begin with the mind's grasp of the truth through faith and reason. "The demands of love do not contradict those of reason," writes Benedict.

The Pro-Obama Reading

Once the encyclical is claimed for the progressives, the urge to boost the credibility of Catholic Democrats and President Barack Obama himself proves irresistible.

Dionne asserts that the encyclical "may provide the best perspective for understanding why a pope seen as a conservative views Obama more favorably than do most Catholic conservatives in the United States." (And how does Dionne know that the Holy Father holds a more favorable view of our President?) [By their usual faulty logic that by meeting with him, the Pope was tacitly showing his support for him and therefore for all his policies. By this token, the Pope has been showing support for every leader he has met at the Vatican, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Obama may be the President of the United States but he is only one of dozens of leaders who have an audience with the Pope every year - and towards whom he shows the same respect and gracious hospitality. What he does not usually do is pointedly discuss life issues with his guest and make sure, in more ways than one, that the world knows about it!]

But no one pushed the pro-Obama reading more blatantly than Anthony Stevens-Arroyo in the Washington Post's "On Faith" Blog:

C"atholic Democrats will rightly consider this papal document to legitimize their alternative approach to pro-life politics over the abortion-only policies that sounded very 'Republican Party'."

Weren't these the same Catholic Democrats who were calling President George W. Bush a "theocrat" for talking about God too much? The Holy Father surely held no contempt for Bush and his religious conservative supporters: "The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions."

(In fact, the Obama presidential campaign made it okay for Democrats to talk about God; Obama did it more than any other candidate, according to Beliefnet's "God-o-Meter.")

Again, Winters's succinct response hits the nail on the head in commenting on the Catholics in Alliance conference call: "The Pope's vision, as he repeated several times in the encyclical, is an 'integral' one, and no one has ever accused the Democratic Party of having an integral vision." [Strange statement for an avowed Democrat to make!]

The Democrats can appropriate the integral humanism recommended by the Pope only if they recognize, as the encyclical states, that"God has a place in the public realm."

The 'Package' Reading

The astute John L. Allen Jr. supplies the subtlest misreading; in an otherwise insightful overview of the encyclical, Allen treats the document as if it were a balanced blend of social justice and pro-life issues:

Benedict XVI insists that Catholic social teaching must be seen as a package deal, holding economic justice together with its opposition to abortion, birth control, gay marriage, and other hot-button issues of sexual morality.

The Pope expresses irritation with 'certain abstract subdivisions of the Church's social doctrine,' an apparent reference to tensions between the Church's pro-life contingent and its peace-and-justice activists.

This characterization fails to develop the crucial point of the "tensions" Allen mentions. Social-justice Catholics as represented, for example, by Network, a "national Catholic social justice lobby," routinely distance themselves from pro-life issues. As a result, some are publicly recognized as dissenters.

Pro-lifers recognize the priority of the life issues but do not dissent from social-justice issues. {An obvious point I raised in my own parentheticals on Allen's piece.] Allen treats the "tensions" he describes as if both parties were on equal footing before the encyclical's teaching. [When they obviously are not, since orthodox Catholics do not see respect for life and concern for social justice as mutually exclusive at all and can well support both, whereas liberals will never agree that abortion is not a 'fundamental huamn right'!

Yes, the encyclical states, "The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics." But the link is vertical, not horizontal:

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death; if human conception, gestation, and birth are made artificial; if human embryos are sacrificed to research; the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.

Those who continue to read Caritas in Veritate as a list of policy recommendations -- from the Left or the Right -- will miss Benedict's contribution to the Church's tradition of social teaching. For that, I would suggest a closer reading of sections 53-55, where the Holy Father calls for a "deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation." [Hudson is only the second commentator I have read who brings up this concept of 'relation' that Benedict XVI has stressed in quite a few of his homilies - the very basic concept of the trinitarian God as a relationship, and of man by himself as meaningless unless seen in relation to God and to his fellowmen.

Reading the encyclical from this angle reveals how truth informs genuine charity.

Deal W. Hudson is the director of and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/22/2009 5:19 AM]
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