00 7/10/2009 12:04 AM

Having been away from the Net for the past several hours, the commentaries on Caritas in veritate (CIV) have piled up, in English as in Italian. To set priorities, I have decided to concentrate for the time being on the commentaries that stress the spiritual, philosophical and moral premises of the encyclical rather than the economic nuts-and-bolts of it.

For instance, I applaud CNA's first account of the encyclical which rightly underscored Benedict XVI's homage to Paul VI and his Populorum Progressio:

Pope defines real social development,
drawing on Paul VI

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2009 CNA).- Today Pope Benedict XVI delivered his encyclical Caritas in veritate, drawing heavily on Pope Paul VI's vision of real human development, which insists upon progress in the moral and spiritual realms, in addition to the material.

Paul VI's teaching on development, Benedict XVI wrote, is the “new Rerum Novarum of the present age.”

“Charity in truth,” Pope Benedict said as he began his encyclical, “is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.”

It is precisely this gift of charity in truth that Jesus Christ bore witness to “by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection,” he noted.

Moreover, Benedict explained, “Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine.”

In today's world, the Pope said that he sees charity being “misconstrued and emptied of meaning” and that this puts it at risk of being “misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued.”

Areas where this distortion of charity often takes place are: “the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility.”

The remedy to this distortion of charity is to infuse it with truth, the Pope said. “In this way, he added, “not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living.”

Truth, he observed, also “frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism,” enables men and women “to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions” and “opens and unites our minds in the lógos of love.”

Returning to a theme that he preached on just before his election as Pope, the Holy Father pointed out that in the current social and cultural context, “where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development.”

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

Even worse, “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,” Benedict XVI wrote.

The Church sees her fidelity to the truth as being faithful to man, the Pope noted, saying that fidelity to the truth is the only “guarantee of freedom” and of “the possibility of integral human development.”

“For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce.

"Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church's social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.”

Pope Benedict also touched on the common good, writing that seeking it is a “requirement of justice and charity.” Taking a stand for the common good involves both caring for and participating in the “complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or 'city,'” he said.

The Holy Father then turned to the history of the Church's body of teaching on social life by noting that it has been over forty years since “the great Pope Paul VI” first penned Populorum Progressio, which unfolded the meaning of “integral human development.”

On the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II marked the commemorated the teaching by issuing the encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, he recalled. Until that time, only Pope Leo XIII's work, Rerum Novarum, had been commemorated in that way.

“Now that a further twenty years have passed,” Benedict XVI wrote, “I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered 'the Rerum Novarum of the present age,' shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.”

Summing up society's current situation, Benedict described offering love in truth as a “great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized.”

“The risk for our time,” he alerted, “is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development.”

When Pope Paul VI promulgated his message on integral social development, he was conveying two important truths: “the Church in all her being and acting...is engaged in promoting integral human development” and that “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.”

In other words, Pope Benedict explained, “Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space.”

As he proposed the notion of development in “human and Christian terms,” Pope Paul VI unflinchingly put forth Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development, the Pope recalled.

“Motivated by the wish to make Christ's love fully visible to contemporary men and women, Paul VI addressed important ethical questions robustly, without yielding to the cultural weaknesses of his time.”

Even in the 1960s, the German Pontiff noted that Paul VI was already warning against the “technocratic ideology so prevalent today.” Entrusting the “entire process of development to technology alone” was identified as a “great danger” because “it would lack direction,” he had said.

“Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent,” the Benedict wrote, saying that while “some today would be inclined to entrust the entire process of development to technology, on the other hand we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny "in toto" the very value of development, viewing it as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation.”

“This leads to a rejection, not only of the distorted and unjust way in which progress is sometimes directed, but also of scientific discoveries themselves, which, if well used, could serve as an opportunity of growth for all.”

The Holy Father brought his section on Paul VI's teachings to a close by reflecting on what a world without development means.

“The idea of a world without development indicates a lack of trust in man and in God. It is therefore a serious mistake to undervalue human capacity to exercise control over the deviations of development or to overlook the fact that man is constitutionally oriented towards 'being more.' Idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity's original natural state, are two contrasting ways of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility.”

Initial reactions from some European bishops has been very positive - well, how could it be otherwise? The following is translated from what has been reported so far by

the news agency of the Italian bishops conference:

From Mons. Reinhold Marx, Archbishop of Munich-Freising,
president of the Social Commission of the German bishops conference (DBK):

Benedict XVI's new encyclical is 'a moral exclamation point', he said at a news conference in Munich, saying he was 'delighted' by its contents.

"An encyclical is not a scientific text, even if it must be scientifically founded in its statements, nor a sermon, nor a political program, but an orientation that is binding at the doctrinal level for the formation of policy, society and the economy," Marx said.

"The Pope has given us this orientation at the right moment - an orientation that we should all now translate to concrete terms, as I myself must do, in my capacity as president of the DBK's social commission."

"In this new encyclical", he went on, "The Pope hopes that the world may go beyond the market economy as it is, towards a new calibration of the global economy that involves the State, the market and civilian society together. This is one of the principal challenges of the 21st century, and to this end, the Pope offers many remarkable starting points".

"The Pope makes it clear that the market need not be a space devoid of morality, that it needs rules and an ordered system which cannot function properly without moral norms".

He said he was surprised at the Pope's initiative in bringing up the possibility of "new forms for the market economy, even new forms of business enterprise."

Marx emphasized the encyclical's central reference to the 'fundamental principle of love' to help resolve social problems 'in a more humane and equitable way' - love not as "a sentiment and an experience' but as the 'fundamental readiness to meet one's neighbor halfway, to the active consciousness that we all belong to one human family".

Finally, Mons. Marx praised "the encouraging view of the world underlying the encyclical, which shows that Benedict XVI has great trust in the individual".

From Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris
and president of the French bishops' conference:

"It is a formidable message of hope addressed to Catholics and all men of goodwill who are interested in reflecting on the fundamental questions raised by the Christian faith".

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said this was his personal impression from a first reading of the Pope's new encyclical.

In a note published on the French bishops' site, he said: "Mankind has the mission and the means to manage the world in which we live... It can transform it... it can make justice and love prosper in human relations as well as in the social and economic fields" and this, he said, was the encyclical's message of hope.

He said there were two points he considered particularly significant in the document: the statement that "no field of human activity can escape moral responsibility" and the 'reflection on globalization and what it means for development".

Despite the multitude and richness of the themes treated therein, the cardinal concludes, "this encyclical is unified by its general perspective on responsibility in economic and social activities, (whose) ultimate and definitive criterion is... service to man".

Mons. Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg
and President of the German bishops conference:

"It is a definitive contribution to the present debate on globalization and social justice", Mons. Zollitsch said, "and even the timing of its publication - on the eve of the G8 summit in L'Aquila - underscores the urgency of its purpose."

"The Pope is not addressing only the leaders of the most important industrialized nations one earth so that they may courageously face the present challenges without neglecting the necessary ethical bases, but he encourages all men of good will to consider themselves protagonists and not victims in current developments. Everyone should change their mentality."

The Archbishop of Freiburg called the new encyclical "a great work which takes into account the fundamental premises towards human evolution and globalization to the measure of man."

He also said it represents "a significant step forward" in the elaboration of the Church's social doctrine, even if the Pope's intention was "not to rovide actual political or economic prescriptions".

Rather, he said, Benedict XVI has "redirected attention anew to a fundamental dimension of development that has been forgotten: that it must be unitary and integral, oriented by the principles of justice and the common good which are expressions of love in charity".

He said the encyclical "does not only make precise analyses of the signs of the time but indicates the criteria necessary in order to promote justice that is sustainable for all the world, through a path to the future characterized by the common good".

"The Pope", he continued, "offers many starting points for reflection that we hope may be heeded by the main actors in our society, in politics and the economy, and which we as bishops can make known and act upon within the Church as well as outside it."

"We are grateful that this encyclical can enrich the formation of public opinion, and we thank the Holy Father for his reflections and indications," eh concluded.

From the Belgian bishops' conference

"Truth and love are at the center of the Pontifical text. It is truth that allows a lucid look at society today, and it is love which impels us to action".

Shortly after Benedict XVI's third encyclical was released today, the press office of teh Belgian bishops' conference issued a first comment:

"In this first social encyclical of the 21st century, the Pope calls for a new reflection on the sense of the economy, of its ends, for an ethical review of the development model, reminding mankind that a globalized economy which develops beyond the pale of moral values is destined for impasse."

"Without falling into the trap of partisan politics," the bishops' statement continues, "the Church does not aspire to serve savage capitalism, it does not propose any technical solutions nor does it wish to encroach on decisions of State, but it has a mission of truth to carry out in favor of a society that is built to the measure of man and of his dignity."

Finally, they noted, "the Pope affirms that there cannot be full development and a universal common good without the spiritual and moral wellbeing of persons considered in their integrity of body and soul."

From the Irish bishops' conference:

The Irish bishops in a note issued today welcomed Benedict XVI's new encyclical.

They said that "it brings to light the inseparable link between love and truth", citing a passage that says "without truth, love degenerates to sentimentalism - love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily".

Thus, they said, "Christians should be every ready to proclaim this love to mankind. The social doctrine of the Church derives from the dynamic of love given and received in our relationship with God and our neighbor."

On what the encyclical says about globalization: "In a globalized society, our concept of the common good should be extended also to relations between nations" which means, the bishops said, "we must all share goods and resources and not just technological progress. We must make sure that in the market of globalized labor, competitiveness will not work against those who are poorer and weaker."

The Irish bishops also underscored the encyclical's "defense of creation, the right to food and water, and the right to life".

But one must take note, too, instant commentaries such as this one, whose writer chooses to end otherwise sober 'first thoughts' with a rather flippant line.

The Pope on the world economy:
Prophets, not profits

By Jeff Israely

Tuesday, Jul. 07, 2009

Ever wondered what God makes of the current global economic crisis? We'll never know, of course, but the man the Roman Catholic Church deems the Almighty's "pastor in chief" has finally weighed in with his own take:

Pope Benedict XVI offers neither stock tips nor bailout plans in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), but the long-awaited third encyclical of his papacy is a wide-ranging commentary on the sources of our economic woes and a holy blueprint for recovery based on something greater than the once mighty dollar.

"The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society," the 82-year-old Pontiff writes in the encyclical released Tuesday. "It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner."

But aside from weighing in on the issue of regulating financial markets, his proposals appear to be based largely on fostering in economic actors a sense of obligation to serve the greater good rather than just shareholders and the bottom line.

The Pope states up front that he isn't offering "technical" responses but wants to avoid a simply "sentimental" interpretation of economic rights and wrongs.

A theologian by training but an avid student of history and ideas, Benedict attempts to offer some serious philosophical depth — driven by his vision of revealed Christian truth — to the catchphrase ethical capitalism.

Indeed, according to Stefano Zamagni, an economics professor who was a consultant on the encyclical, Benedict believes that capitalism as such is now effectively "obsolete" and must be replaced by a new form of market economy whose driving force is not the maximization of profits.

"Capitalism is an old idea, where the market was supposedly morally neutral ... where efficiency becomes an ethos," said Zamagni during the presentation of the document in the Vatican press office on Tuesday. "This encyclical aims to overcome a dichotomy that characterized the 20th century between the economic and social spheres. If we can instead incorporate the idea of the social element into the economy, the market itself becomes a force for civility."

Benedict denounces the modern corporate business model, taking on the global Wall Street and its super bonuses, which lead to financial speculation and labor outsourcing.

"In recent years, a new cosmopolitan class of managers has emerged, who are often answerable only to the shareholders generally consisting of anonymous funds which de facto determine their remuneration," he writes.

"Profit is useful if it serves as a means toward an end. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty."

Benedict acknowledges the acceleration of globalization since the last major encyclical [Isn't Israely pointedly ignoring here John pauyl II's two social encyclicals????] dedicated to what is called the church's "social doctrine," Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio in 1967.

But this too, the Pope says, is inherently neither good nor bad. "We should not be victims of [globalization], but rather its protagonists, acting in the light of reason, guided by charity and truth."

The encyclical, which follows two others in this papacy on the concepts of Christian love and hope, was initially scheduled for release last year, but the Pope thought it wise to publish what is in effect a "post–Lehman Brothers" version.

There are frequent references to the global financial crisis, though Cardinal Renato Martino, who shepherded the encyclical, declared Tuesday that if it had come out in early 2008, "it would have been prophetic."

Its release comes on the eve of the Group of Eight summit in nearby L'Aquila, Italy, where church officials hope its message will reach the world leaders gathered to discuss ways out of the economic crisis.

In one of the more provocative passages, the Pope says the global recession requires not only a reform of the U.N. and international economic institutions but also the "urgent need of a true world political authority ... universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights."

While critics, particularly in the U.S., are likely to shun such an idea as a utopian sort of "world government," some world leaders, like French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have been advocating since late last year for comprehensive and binding global regulation of financial markets.

The 144-page document — an encyclical is considered Catholicism's highest teaching authority — expands well beyond strict economic theory, touching on abortion, euthanasia, immigration and the environment.

In each case, the Pope provides an economic reading of why Church teaching on these issues is not only holy but also helpful for improving human material conditions.

In the final section, titled "The Development of Peoples and Technology," the Pope challenges the modern gospel of progress for progress's sake. And as elsewhere in the document, he calls on individuals to take responsibility to do the right thing as both a moral and a socioeconomic imperative.

"True development does not consist primarily in 'doing.' The key to development is a mind capable of thinking in technological terms and grasping the fully human meaning of human activities," he writes.

"Even when we work through satellites or through remote electronic impulses, our actions always remain human, an expression of our responsible freedom. Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility."

Even more than loose credit, Benedict clearly blames loose morals for our economic ills.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/22/2009 11:35 PM]