00 7/20/2009 2:23 AM

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]