00 7/14/2009 3:20 PM



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

by ROBERTO DI MATTEI
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]