00 7/10/2009 3:53 AM









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]