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