Here is another early commentary on CIV that I missed at the time it first came out. Fr. De Souza is not only a lucid analyst; he also has a gift of getting to the heart of an issue with simple, direct and forceful language, as he does here.
But I applaud him most in this item for linking CIV to Benedict's first encyclical, whose part 2 was, after all, on the social applications of the the third - and greatest - theological virtue; and for properly appreciating the powerful novelty of Benedict's introduction of 'gratuitousness' and 'the logic of the gift' - airily dismissed as 'incomprehensible' by iron-clad secular skeptics like Peter Steinfels (see article in precedeing post - as essential principles that should guide economic decisions.
'Caritas in Veritate':
Benedict’s call for
love in the marketplac
by FATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
July 10, 2009
Father De Souza, who lives in Canada and writes for its National Post, was the Register’s Rome correspondent from 1999 to 2003.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate
(Charity in Truth) is a complex document of which the constituent parts have given rise to various reactions by commentators, some of them contradictory.
In terms of practical policy recommendations, Benedict’s first social encyclical shifts Catholic social teaching toward the more statist, redistributionist line favored by popes from Pius XI to Paul VI. It does not entirely abandon the more personalist, liberty-centered approach of Leo XIII and John Paul II, but Benedict does not draw out the same conclusions that his predecessor did, namely that economic liberty was an essential dimension of the liberty proper to man and also the most efficient path to economic development.
The continuity with John Paul lies at a deeper level, namely the conviction that, as Caritas in Veritate
puts it, “the social question has become a radically anthropological question.”
That is to say that a correct understanding of the human person lies at the heart of what Benedict calls “integral human development.”
Caritas in Veritate
therefore links together questions that often have been treated separately — economic justice, environmental stewardship, religious liberty, abortion, marriage and contraception.
At the same time as Benedict calls for an array of redistributive programs, he underscores the danger to human liberty and subjectivity from the bureaucratic welfare state. It will therefore be a challenge to work out what practical applications will follow from Caritas in Veritate
While the balance of the encyclical points to greater state intervention in the economy, there are warnings too against state power. Commentators on the encyclical have already been using different sections to buttress competing arguments.
Yet Caritas in Veritate
also suggests a deeper project at work. It is not exactly Benedict’s first social encyclical — Deus Caritas Est
(God Is Love) addressed the social question, too. Indeed, the two encyclicals together indicate something important in Benedict’s thought.
Deus Caritas Est
began life as a draft for John Paul II on the Church’s charitable work — a sort of indirect social encyclical after the late Holy Father decided that Centesimus Annus
(1991) was to be his most complete treatment of the question.
Benedict took that draft and recast it within a deeply theological and anthropological meditation on man’s need for love and God’s ultimate fulfillment of that need.
With Caritas in Veritate
, the Holy Father has repeated the same approach. Many in the Roman Curia desired a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio
, the 1967 encyclical on development.
Over the last few years and several drafts, Benedict decided not simply to update that document’s call for a greater redistribution of goods, but to recast it in terms of the fundamental desire to love and be loved.
For Benedict the social question — culture, politics, economics — arises from the basic reality that man is social, and, therefore, desires in his relations with others not merely cooperation or even justice, but an experience of love.
In both Deus Caritas Est
and Caritas in Veritate
, Benedict tries to apply this vocation to love and be loved to the social question in general and the economic question in particular.
“A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church,” Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est
. “Love — caritas — will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the state so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbors is indispensable.”
In Caritas in Veritate
, Benedict takes his argument one step further. In Deus Caritas Est
, the vision was of justice being the work of politics and economics, to which the Church brought the work of charity to make society more fully human.
Now, Caritas in Veritate
argues that economic enterprises in themselves should be motivated by charity, and not merely justice
“Globalization makes peoples neighbors, but not brothers,” he writes in one of the novel expressions of Caritas in Veritate
. Is economic life intended to make us brothers, or is that asking too much? Benedict makes his claim here that it is not too much to ask.
Charity is essential so that our treatment of each other is not limited to mere contractual obligations, but to the real flourishing of others.
This is a bold development, to say that economic life should be characterized by charity — a theological virtue — rather than the humbler natural virtues of justice and prudence.
Caritas in Veritate
understands that existing economic language and concepts don’t really express this, so develops a new principle.
The underlying principle — replacing justice with charity as the principal motivation of economics — is articulated as the “principle of gratuitousness” and the “logic of the gift.”
“Gratuitousness” and “gift” encourage people to think not of their interest, but of service. So Benedict argues that labor unions should think not of their own members alone, but of the good of even foreign workers who might compete with union labor.
More far-reaching, Benedict endorses the idea that corporations should answer not only to shareholders, but also “stakeholders” — all those who have a stake in a company’s activities, including, it must be supposed, those who consider that the company’s financial health is a secondary concern.
This “principle of gratuitousness” is a novel contribution and might add something significant to the older Catholic social principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
It certainly expresses an ambition for social doctrine that animates Benedict’s broader magisterium, namely to bring the supreme virtue of love into even the mundane world of politics and economics.
The challenge of Caritas in Veritate
is to see how effectively that argument is received against the tradition of Catholic social teaching and the real world of social experience.
Here's an even earlier commentary, also from the NCRegister, which makes the link to the theology of Communio - the 'school' of post-Vatican II theology that Joseph Ratzinger and theologians like his elder (and at the time, more eminent) Vatican-II colleagues Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, had set up through their international journal of the same name, to counteract the progressivists like Hans Kueng et al who had taken over Concilium, the earlier journal founded by the Vatican II theologians to discuss and disseminate its teachings.
The Communio link makes for a novel approach to CIV - and the writer's 'cute' title.
Benedict's ‘Communio-ist Manifesto’
by Angelo Matera
Thursday, July 09, 2009 9:01 AM
For commentators like First Things
editor Joseph Bottum, one of the most unsettling statements in Caritas in Veritate
(Charity in Truth) — a dense and complex 30,000-word encyclical on the Church’s social doctrine — is the one that asserts an obligation to practice charity in all areas of public life equal to the obligation to practice personal charity:
Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly(No. 7).
But in fact, Benedict’s statement is a logical development of the vital principle that lies at the heart of his new encyclical: a radical commitment to the implementation of a “political” charity in order to serve the common good.
While surprising coming from a Pope who is considered less political than his predecessors, this assertion of an “institutional path” of charity should not surprise anyone who understands the all-encompassing social implications of the Pope’s radical theology, first made known to a wider public in his 1968 book, Introduction to Christianity
And although Benedict’s encyclical is completely in line with prior social encyclicals, as the Pope makes clear early in the text of Caritas in Veritate
, what’s unmistakably new is the emphasis given in the document to ideas drawn from the Communio school of theology and the influence of Communio-inspired economic initiatives such as the Focolare movement’s “Economy of Communion” and the Communion and Liberation movement’s “Company of Works.”
Communio was the “third way” theological movement spearheaded at the Second Vatican Council by then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) and then Father Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). [I don't recall reading anywhere that Bishop Wojtyla was formally or informally associated with the Communio group whose senior leaders were Von Balthasar and De Lubac, except that he shared with them a respect for Church Tradition and the logic of continuity that should be read into Vatican II. In fact, Wojtyla and Ratzinger never met during Vatican-II. They din't get to know each other until the first conclave of 1978.]
Neither conservative nor liberal, Communio theology seeks to purify the Church’s stance towards the world by going back to the radical Christianity of the Church fathers, from Thomas Aquinas back to the first centuries of the Church.
Unlike traditionalists at the council, Communio theologians didn’t want to cram the world into conformity with the existing structures of the Church, a harmful tendency that some call “integralism.” Instead, they wanted to take the Gospel out into the world and thereby transform it in the image of the self-giving love of the Trinity.
It’s important to understand that the social implications of Communio theology can’t be reduced to mere policy, whether liberal or conservative. (Although, contrary to some reports, the encyclical doesn’t shirk from making concrete recommendations about reforming a dysfunctional financial system).
That’s why Caritas in Veritate
isn’t being fully understood by many Catholics — those who see themselves as “social justice” or as “free-market” Catholics or as “pro-life” Catholics alike.
The encyclical’s vision of “integral human development” is based on a radical opening to God, a vision as audacious as the utopian secularist conceptions of recent centuries in its call for the transformation of every aspect of life through charity.
The crucial difference: The Church offers its vision based not on false ideologies that reject God but instead on the realism of Christian hope, which recognizes man’s dependence on God.
Caritas in Veritate
’s vision of social life is inspired not by the collectivist ideas of communism or even the less coercive approach of socialism; it is inspired by the “Communio-ism” that ordered the common life of the early Christians who lived in a spirit of mutual dependence in relation to God as his sons and daughters in imitation of the Trinity.
As Benedict declares, in his radical yet realistic call to action at the conclusion of Caritas in Veritate
“...Man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism.
The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God.
Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.
On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today.
A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.
Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs.
God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral; it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish. God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope. (No. 78)
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/20/2009 3:10 AM]