00 7/20/2009 6:02 PM

While I usually admire what I have read of Restan so far - I've translated and posted a few of his articles before - I think he is forgetting that even Benedict XVI himself often cites his predecessor Paul VI for originating the felicitous phrase, 'civilization of love'.

Benedict XVI's revolution:
A society built on love

by José Luis Restan
Translated from

July 20, 2009

Reading the encyclical Caritas in veritate, what came promptly to my mind was a passage from Don Luigi Giussani [founder of Comunione e Liberazione], where he writes that civilization is not the outcome of actions but the fruit of the consciousness that generates action.

Benedict XVI's entire encyclical is permeated by that certainty: and that is why it is not a social encyclical in the strict sense, but an integral reflection on man and his culture, on his protagonism in history.

And the most revolutionary thing is that the Pope dares to say that caritas (that is to say, Christ's love accepted and lived), must be the matrix of a new culture from which will come actions that make true development possible.

Don Giussani added that without charity, a civilization in progress eventually reaches a threshold after which it starts to decay to the point of transforming itself to violence [not necessarily physical violence but moral violence].

That is something one can note even now, particularly in what the Pope, in his encyclical, calls 'the absolutism of technology'.

The great problem of modernity that has abandoned its Christian roots is precisely that it has replaced the idea of love (a notion that has been systematically diminished, emptied of 'virtue' and ridiculed) with the claim that politics and science alone can assure man's well-being and happiness.

It goes without saying that all of Benedict XVI's Magisterium recognizes the role of politics and science, but it also points out implacably their intrinsic limitations.

When they are used to encroach on man's freedom, when they seek to replace man's use of individual reason and freedom on the pretext of doing it for his good, then they generate monsters that will eventually turn against man himself.

In Caritas in veritate, the Pope warns that after the failure of the major 20th century ideologies [fascism, Nazism, Communism, socialism), the risk now is that technology is turning into an absolute power, into a new ideology that presents itself as a liberation from every dependency and guarantee of freedom.

But as Don Giussani wisely said, if there is no love, progress (defined as the accumulation of wealth and power) becomes violence against man. We saw this in the totalitarian systems and we see it now in the various forms of the culture of death, with the difference that these forms can encrust themselves - in an apparently bland and 'painless' manner - onto our daily lives, numbing our sense of humanity.

On the contrary, caritas always calls attention to the centrality of the person, his reason and his freedom. Love is the response of the individual who is moved by the gift of life, by the freely-given love he has received.

Far from being mere sentimentality or historical irrelevance, love also comes from the counsel of reason (and that is why the Pope stresses the inseparability of love and truth) about the radical good that existence is - one's own and that of others - which transforms love into an impulse to build and to serve.

Furthermore, love generates unity, it sustains working together beyond partisan or personal tastes and sensibilities - it is the very fabric of a harmonious community.

As Caritas in veritate amply documents, love gives rise to good works and so it contributes decisively to progress; it generates a civilization to the measure of man.

Benedict XVI says it beautifully:

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.... 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. (No. 78)

Since the encyclical came out, I have been meaning to make this comment. Before the July 7 release, I commented that I hoped the encyclical title would be translated into English as 'Love in truth', not 'Charity in truth', mainly because love is a more comprehensive and direct term, obviously; and because the English word 'charity' carries a whole load of connotations that reduce it to mere social activism or philanthropy.

The Vatican translators decided otherwise - although one would naturally ask, why did they translate Deus caritas est into 'God is love'? (Other than that "God is charity' sounds weird!)

But I went to the German version of the encyclical, which uses the noun LIEBE all throughout the text to translate the word 'caritas' - and I like to think that if only because Benedict XVI writes his texts in German, this should be the standard.

[The German word for charity is Wohltaetigkeit, an unwieldy polysyllable whose root words mean 'doing good', i.e., the usual connotation for charity, even in English, and which carries the same hint of condescension.]

I also think that all encyclical translations should carry the official Latin title - by which they are and will be known to posterity anyway - with the appropriate translation as a subtitle. This can be very effectively presented - to call attention to the translation without detracting from the Latin title - even by the simplest concept of graphic design.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/20/2009 6:11 PM]