Caritas in Veritate is the first social encyclical of the 21st century, and Pope Benedict XVI’s chosen topic couldn’t be timelier. Forty years after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio, and following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II (who marked its twenthieth anniversary with his own Sollicitudo Rei Socialis), Benedict conveys his desire to
“pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment.”
It is Benedict’s conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity’s journey towards unity.”
Benedict’s reflection is a lengthy and substantial one — 30,468 words: an introduction, six chapters, conclusion, and 159 footnotes, to be precise.
Caritas in Veritate online
- The full text of the encyclical, now available in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church.
- From the Vatican Information Service, a chapter-by-chapter summary of the encyclical
- Full text of Caritas in Veritate from the Vatican’s website
- Ignatius Press, the primary English-language publisher of the works of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), makes use of the occasion to announce its expansion into electronic and audio formats, beginning of course with the encyclical.
And for those who just want to quickly skim over a coffee break:
- A helpful summary from Dr. Jeff Mirus (CatholicCulture.com)
- Sandro Magister provides selected highlights.
- Encycli-bites for reading “Caritas in veritate” – key thoughts from the encyclical condensed into helpful bullet points, courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.
What follows is a compilation of coverage, commentary and resources which may perhaps assist us in doing so — none of which, of course, should substitute for reading the document itself — (I cannot emphasize that enough).
First Things Online Symposium — August 17–21, 2009
- Pope Benedict XVI: Economist, by Ivan Kenneally. August 21, 2009.
- Is Benedict in Favor of World Government?, by Douglas A. Sylva. August 20, 2009.
- A Return to Augustinian Economics, by John D. Mueller. August 19, 2009.
- Confirmed in Centesimus Annus; Perplexed by Caritas in Veritate, by Joseph A. Swanson. August 18, 2009.
- Doing The Truth In Love: An Evangelical Call for Response to Caritas In Veritate August 18, 2009.
- Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas, by Michael Novak. August 17, 2009.
Compiled on July 27-August 17, 2009
- Caritas in Veritate — One Month Later Michael Novak, Father Robert Sirico and Kirk Doran reflect on the meaning and impact of the encyclical. (Headline Bistro, August 7, 2009).
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offer free small group study guides – for stand-alone use or as a series, as well as an action guide on putting Caritas in Veritate into practice.
- John Schwenkler of Upturned Earth continues his weekly, chapter-by-chapter discussion of Caritas in Veritate.
- Catholic News Service has a story on the Economy of Communion (philosophy of the Focolares) — which promotes operating a business both to make a profit and benefit society and to which Pope Benedict drew attention in his latest encyclical:
Worldwide, there are 754 businesses involved in the Economy of Communion initiative.
These business owners still want to make a profit, but they distribute their profits differently from other businesses, said Linda Specht, director of the accounting program at Trinity University, a private, Presbyterian-founded school in San Antonio.
Monies are split into three categories: The first is what goes back into the business; the second, what is put into educating others about the Economy of Communion principles; and the third, what is donated to people in need.
The categories are of equal importance, Specht told Catholic News Service in an interview.
- Il Corriere della Sera interviewed Giorgio Vittadini, founder of the Society of the Works and chairman of the Foundation for Subsidiarity, located in Milan, Italy:
The market can be understood as pure selfishness, or as sharing and offering goods that improve the lives of people. One of the great merits of the encyclical is not to say “no” to the market and enterprise and “yes” only to the non-profit and volunteer sector. Business and finance are redefined less hysterically, an idea of a more nuanced market is offered. This represents the end of an ideology of the economy, that defines itself without need of man.
- Canadian journalist David Warren finds that “in the main, and in its spiritual depths, the encyclical is a wonderful thing” (InsideCatholic.com):
It seems to me that the Holy Father has begun the long process of recovering for the Catholic Church a view of politics and society that is organically related to her salvific faith, rather than an afterthought to it.
He does, I think, a better job of avoiding “policy prescriptions” than his immediate predecessors, and helps un-write much that I thought unfortunate in the Populorum Progressio of Pope Paul VI, which went some distance to identify Christianity with “social democracy.”
Benedict instead delivers what at first seems a gentle, but on re-reading an excoriating rebuke of political sentimentality and posturing. He declares that, without hard truth, “Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. . . . 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.”
- Donald Goodman of the Distributist Review deems Caritas in Veritate “a mixed blessing”:
[O]verall, it’s a boon for the Church, as I fully expected it to be. It contains numerous reaffirmations of the perennial social teaching of the Catholic Church, blazes new ground in some areas, and makes explicit what was only implicit in some earlier writings. What many previous pontiffs left unsaid, assuming that their readers would have a basis in Thomistic philosophy, this great pontiff has been forced to make explicit, and he has done so. In this way, Caritas in Veritate must be received with great joy by the faithful, particularly those conscious of Catholic social teaching.
On the other hand—and in these sad times there is nearly always another hand—the encyclical leaves off a good deal of what was great and powerful in past statements of the Church’s social teaching. Most especially, it is completely devoid of any acknowledgment of Christ the King, though it does (without, of course, using those words) acknowledge in some ways the role that Christ must have in earthly kingdoms. Among some other omissions, this is troubling, and faithful Catholics steeped in the tradition of the social teaching of the Church cannot but think it so.
See the whole series here:
- Part I (8/10/09) | Part II (8/19/09) | Part III (8/26/09); Part IV (9/7/09); Part V. (9/16/09) The Distributist Review
- Maclin Horton (Light on Dark Water) — having recovered from last month’s disgust — now offers his own reflections on Caritas in Veritate:
… So un-reactionary is the encyclical, in fact, that one striking feature is its complete acceptance of certain fundamentals of the modern world, things having to do with material progress and the expansion of liberty: technology, science, the enterprise economy, democracy. It considers these to be basically good things, and is concerned that they be guided and corrected and that their fruits be widely distributed. It insists on a conception of progress articulated by Paul VI and repeated several times here: “the development of each man and of the whole man”—this is the Christian theory of progress I mentioned.
The acceptance is far from uncritical, of course; in fact, to put it that way is an understatement. The pope is deeply concerned about the dangers of inadequate or misguided development which is often the result of a misapplication of some advance. He is concerned, for instance, about ideologies which would consider the workings of the market and of technology to be properly beyond the reach of ethics, and any product produced by them acceptable, as long as it is produced freely. He is concerned about the imposition on some societies of a sort of unofficial practical atheism, which practically forbids the application of ethical principles to social and technical questions if they can be shown to have any foundation in religion. He is of course concerned about what we generally call the “life issues,” and links them directly to questions of material welfare. (Somewhat to my surprise, he says relatively little about the link between poverty and the collapse of marriage.)
In short, he is insistent that any development which purports to be for the benefit of mankind must be grounded in the truth about mankind, including acknowledgment of the fact—the pope does not hold this to be a matter for debate—that man is more than a material being. This is charity in truth. The progressive impulse, no matter whether its details are of a “left” or a “right” slant, leads inevitably to some form of abuse, and to a deformed sort of development, if it is ungrounded in and unbounded by truth [More].
- Voices on what could be termed the “right” or “conservative” side of the blogosphere have, by-and-large, regarded Pope Benedict’s social analysis with approval. However, given this is a comprehensive roundup, it behooves us to mention those conservatives who dissent.
Writing in Canada’s Financial Post, Terence Corcoran dismisses the Pope as displaying “a willful disregard for economic history” and aiming “to drag the church back to the 1960s and the liberation theology-tinged 1967 encyclical of Pope Paul VI”. In the end, the encyclical would be better titled “Caveat Venalicium Libertas”:
That’s bootleg Latin for Beware Free Markets, which is what should be the title of this sweeping 140-page collection of sound bites and instant quotations that will be used by all and sundry as another authority for condemning free markets, globalization, big business, finance, outsourcing, capitalism, copyright law, greed, climate change, energy consumption, etc.
Those familiar with Thomas Woods’ The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy will find his scathing review of Caritas in Veritate none too surprising. According to Woods, the encyclical is
at best a relatively unremarkable restatement of some familiar themes from previous social encyclicals. At worst, it is bewilderingly naïve, and its policy recommendations, while attracting no one to the Church, are certain to repel.
Woods believes Benedict’s encyclical to be a “gigantic missed opportunity”, foregoing legitimate concerns and criticisms regarding the structure of the world’s monetary systems — laid out in his own recent book, Meltdown — for “platitudinous warnings about materialism and greed that I might encounter in secular form in any mainstream publication you care to name.”
Finally, a three-part critical review by Mario Rizzo, Chairman of the Colloquium on Market Institutions and Economic Processes at the Department of Economics, New York University, who blogs at ThinkMarkets and judges the Church of having “entered areas beyond its own admitted competence”:
The linchpin of the encyclical … is that every economic transaction has moral implications. (See Sec. 37, CV.). Thus the encyclical claims to be restricting itself to those.
Yet this is impossible. The reason is that economic actions and policies have consequences. These consequences are often indirect, long-run, and run through complex chains of causation. This is what the great nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat called the “unseen” in economic life. …
As I shall show in future posts, all sorts of “scientific” statements are being made – many of which have two (not necessarily overlapping) characteristics. First, they are not consistent with the overwhelming thrust of economic liberalism. Second, they reveal an ignorance of economic thought that often is at a very elementary level. Hence the policies that they support would be destructive to many of the ends the Church values.
In fact, the pope commits the “sin” against which he warns us: advocating charity without truth.
Do his charges have any merit? — Consider:
- “Whosoever Desires” is a new Jesuit blog, formally launched on the feast of St. Ignatius, offers a reflection on Caritas in Veritate and Human Ecology”.
- Fr. Sirico of The Acton Institute announces the soon-to-be publication of Caritas in Veritate — A Reader:
This encyclical, in all of its remarkable depth, will no doubt be the subject of thoughtful analysis for a long time to come. Later this summer, Acton will gather the best of its own commentary on Caritas and selected articles from other observers in a single volume that will be available in hard copy and in a digital format. We trust that this Reader will serve as a guide to understanding the encyclical and the thinking of Pope Benedict on important social questions.
- From Dr. Mario Ramos Reyes — a Paraguayan perspective on Caritas in Veritate (UltimaHora.com July 22, 2009), the first of many reflections on the encyclical (the latest of which is a rebuttal to liberation theologian Leonardo Boff).
- From Ovi, a daily magazine from Finland: “Caritas in Veritate” and the Economic Crisis: Message and Messenger, by Emanuel L. Paparella. August 14, 2009.
- From Zenit News, Hector Welgampola, former executive editor of UCANews.com, examines the encyclical’s message for the Asian Church; on July 28, Cardinal Bertone gave a presentation on the encyclical to the Italian Senate, emphasizing its applicability (due to natural law principles) to believer and non-believer alike.
- The recently-converted “Catholic Newt” pronounces the Pope’s encyclical “largely correct”.
- France’s Minister of Labor, Xavier Darcos, praised the encyclical as “come at an opportune moment, like a ray of light amidst the dark clouds” — making the Church’s social teaching shine as a clear response to “the cynical laws of unregulated economic advantage-taking and interdependence.” (Catholic News Agency).
Also writing for The Distributist Review, “Athanasius” describes the encyclical as “the bane of Austrianism” (August 5, 2009), and John Medaille inquires: “Benedict and Business: What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (August 1, 2009):
… perhaps the best way of getting a handle on all this is to recognize that Benedict is reviving the thought of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, who was the pontiff at the close of the Second Vatican Council. Paul wrote two highly controversial encyclicals which between them managed to anger both the right and the left. One of them was called Populorum Progressio, which was written forty years ago when what we now call “globalization” was in its infancy, and it dealt with the development of the “third world.” Paul warned that if the world did not develop with justice and equity, the resulting inequality would shake the world apart to produce pretty much the situation we see today. The other encyclical was Humanae Vitae, which dealt with human sexuality, and particularly with the difficult issue of contraception. In Benedict’s view, this encyclical “indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics” (15). Benedict has combined the thought of these two encyclicals into one work and applied them to the current situation.
Compiled on July 16-26, 2009
- Fr. Aidan Nichols believes there is more genuine Christian doctrine in the Pope’s new encyclical than in Paul VI’s 1967 letter Populorum Progressio (Catholic Herald July 17, 2009):
Populorum Progressio is not without strong hints of the real framework of Christian thinking, which turns on God, Christ, salvation, the mystery of the Church. And its “final appeal” carefully distinguishes three registers in which it wants its readers to take away its message: Catholics; other Christians; non-believers. Above all, it reiterates that humanism will not be “integral” unless, in its pursuit of all the conditions that make up a good human life, it is oriented towards “the Absolute” which is God himself. In such words Paul VI echoes the writings of the French Neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, his chief inspiration in social matters and whom he cites. The trouble was, people took the conditional – the account of the conditions – but they largely left the Absolute behind. Which is what an increasingly secularised culture expected (and wanted) anyway.
Does Benedict XVI do any better in this new letter? It will not surprise those who have followed the very different paths through life of Montini and Ratzinger to hear that he does. For Benedict, charity needs illumining by both reason and faith (3; 9), two distinct yet convergent ways of knowing. Not surprisingly, then, there is more genuine theological doctrine in the new encyclical. Sometimes it is upfront, sometimes it is expressed in a coded way which is one of the reasons people may find this letter difficult to read – something which certainly could not be said about Paul VI’s enviably clear and far more straightforward document. …
- According to Nate Wildermuth (Catholic Peacemaking), the most important theme in Pope Benedict’s new encyclical has been almost entirely ignored:
the closest collaborators of the Pope have repeatedly stressed technology as a vital issue in the modern age. At the official press conference that unveiled Caritas in Veritate, Cardinal Renato Martino, of the President of the Pontifical Council of Peace and Justice, along with the Secretary of the council, Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, both pointed to technology as a new sign of the times. Cardinal Martino said that Cold War ideologies “have been replaced by the new ideology of technology,” and that the “arbitrary nature of technology is one of the greatest problems of today’s world.” Archbishop Crepaldi explained that Caritas in Veritate is “the first time an Encyclical deals with this theme [of technology] so fully.” Inside the encyclical itself, one finds that the last chapter is devoted entirely the “The Development of Peoples and Technology”. Summarizing the previous five chapters, Pope Benedict writes that the “supremacy of technology tends to prevent people from recognizing anything that cannot be explained in terms of matter alone,” (77), and yet “development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth” (76). Modern technology is never ethically ‘neutral’ – “technology is never merely technology” (69).
The Pope’s last chapter has been given the silent treatment by not only the mass-media, but by professors, theologians, and generally by those who ought to know better. When those who introduce the encyclical point to technology as a new ideology, when they say that this encyclical is the first time that the issue of technology has been treated in such depth, one would expect to see a lot of thinking, writing, and reading done on that topic. But nothing of that sort has occurred, at least publicly. Why?
- “Morals, Markets, and the Pope” (The American July 17, 2009) – Joseph Loconte of the American Enterprise Instititute weighs in. He praises the Pope’s rejection of the notion that “‘structures of society’—modern manufacturing, multi-national corporations, free-trade policies—are the engines of inequality”; that the market as such is to blame for the current economic crisis; the Pope’s healthy suspicion of top-down approaches to international aid which all too often suppress the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, and most importantly, that free markets cannot operate in a moral vacuum:
“Caritas in Veritate” reminds us—and we need constant reminding—that economic systems rely upon a culture of trust and a commitment to the common good. Put another way, capitalism demands truth-telling: economic cultures severed from moral and religious truths cannot sustain the ideals and values critical to healthy free-market economies. “Without truth,” he writes, “without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility.” That is about the best diagnosis available of what launched the current financial tsunami.
Understandably, Loconte is not without criticism — he fears that “this wise and welcome counsel, however, gets lost in loose talk about redistribution schemes and global governance.”
The encyclical seeks support for poor countries “by means of financial plans inspired by solidarity.” It calls for “a worldwide redistribution of energy resources.” It envisions the “large-scale redistribution of wealth on a worldwide scale.” How do Biblical teachings on justice and charity support these goals? Does political prudence suggest they should be attempted? We are not told. Neither is there enough attention to the great obstacles to economic development—political oppression, corruption, bad governance, illiteracy, disease, and war. All told, the redistribution of wealth gets far more papal ink than the creation of wealth. …
The desire for the worldwide redistribution of wealth—and for a global political authority to impose it—is a stubborn temptation. It is the siren song of utopianism. It is strange that an encyclical devoted to truth would undercut its own premises by neglecting the theological truth most easily verifiable: the doctrine of original sin. Like no other doctrine, it has been validated by the horrific history of utopian projects, and memorialized by the tears of their victims. It is this truth that casts the deepest doubt on every human endeavor—including the grand economic and political dreams implied in the encyclical.
- Darrell Delamaide (MarketWatch) finds the encyclical to be a “refreshing reminder” of the necessary moral dimension to the market:
Charity, in the form of everyone’s obligation to seek the common good, and truth are essential for any economy to function, at a local, national or global level.
These are precisely the values driving many of the top economic issues in this country – from healthcare reform to combating global warming to improving disclosure and transparency in financial products.
The pope insists that markets aren’t just about an exchange of goods, but a social compact based on a shared understanding of what is just and fair. “If the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well,” he writes. “Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function.”
In a time where economic activity is characterized by the unfortunate likes of Bernie Madoff, the Pope’s words are a welcome change.
- The Pope’s drawing upon biblical and religious wisdom to address the economic crisis, and suggestion that believers and non-believers should collaborate together in alliances based on shared moral values, prompts J.J. Goldberg (The Forward) to indulge in some self-criticism of the Jewish community:
Judaism has a long tradition, older than Christianity, of reading the Bible in very much the same way, as Rabbi Jill Jacobs argues elegantly in a new book called There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law & Tradition (Jewish Lights).
But Jacobs’s views are all too rare in Judaism these days. For a long time now, those Jews who seek the sort of structural justice that Benedict is talking about haven’t been very interested in Jewish law, and those most attached to Jewish law aren’t jumping into the sorts of coalitions Benedict proposes.
It used to be different. …
- Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin gives his initial thoughts and provides some helpful reading tips, recommending that one refrain from “[putting] weight on anything you read in the newspaper or on secular talk radio regarding the encyclical,” and resist the attempt to apply a political, polarized hermeneutic which “read[s] everything in terms of a liberal/conservative dichotomy”.
Akin also identifies those points “where, at least in general terms, the pope seems to go beyond his stated intention not to offer technical solutions and to make proposals that at least point in the direction of particular solutions.” In such cases, he has two key recommendations:
(a) One should not casually dismiss things that seem to conflict with one’s previous views; this is the Vicar of Christ talking, and we need to take what he says seriously.
(b) One should not simply seize on things that seem to confirm one’s prior views and absolutize them; there is a very substantial element of nuance to what the pope says, he is deliberately leaving room for legitimate diversity of opinion even as he makes certain proposals, and he is not attempting to engage his infallibility and thus is deliberately leaving much of what he says open to future revision.
Jimmy also expounds on George Weigel’s controversial “Gold and Red” division of the encycical — and applies yet another color: dark blue — to “hybridized passages with more than one hand at work”, and which display:
soaring rhetoric that doesn’t so much uplift the reader as cause him to pop right up out of the experience of reading the text and start wondering what the text means.
As with other critics, Akin finds fault with Weigel’s assumption that the Pope somehow permitted or conceded the final draft in an effort to maintain peace inside the Vatican: “it’s just insulting to the pope to suggest that the contents of numerous passages in his encyclical do not, at least in general terms, reflect his own views.”
- Split in Consciousness: Split in Conscience: “liberal” and “conservative” reactions to Caritas in Veritate. According to Catholic (and Canadian) novelist Michael D. O’Brien,
The most destructive aberrations in social and political thought of the post-war era have arisen from the application of these artificial constructs to the human community: left versus right, liberal versus conservative, neo-liberal versus neo-conservative, love versus truth, justice versus mercy, etc, etc. These adversarial templates present to us as fact certain images that function in the mind much the same way as does myth, faith systems, and symbols. But myths, if they are not based in reality, can create artificial dichotomies that derive from damage done to man’s concept of himself and his societies. They alter consciousness, the psychology of perception at its very roots. And thus they alter conscience. This in turn largely determines the choices we make and the actions that come from them.
For O’Brien, this dichotomy in Western consciusness manifests itself in the negative reactions to the encyclical from liberal and conservative circles.
The liberal reaction is “to extract from the encyclical the Pope’s words regarding the rights of the poor, the worker, and the underdeveloped nations, while ignoring … the rights of the unborn child.” (A chief example for O’Brien being the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops’ social justice arm, Development and Peace, which in the attempt to assist the economically-poor, ended up “funding organizations that promote abortion rights as part of their agendas in several nations in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”)
Predictably, O’Brien spends the latter portion of his article chastizing George Weigel’s “condescending and patronizing” reaction — representative of “the major flagship journals of American neo-conservatism” minimizing [the encyclical's] significance, calling into question its authoritative voice in the formation of conscience … fragmenting and nuancing and explaining away what ought not be explained away, what should be reflected upon and acted upon with very close attention to the wisdom in the letter.”
- Peter Steinfels wonders “why is Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”) 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.
Steinfels notes three explanations:
- This is just the way encyclicals are — “a genre wielding theology and philosophy to address complex issues … with a tendency toward abstract language and vague or hedged generalizations”;
- Like many, if not all, encyclicals, Caritas in Veritate “is the work of many hands … drafted, circulated and redrafted.” (A valid observation made by George Weigel).
- Lastly, according to Rev. John A. Coleman, a Jesuit sociologist and theologian: Pope Benedict simply tried to do too much. “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.”
All of which prompts Jody Bottum to muse: “I would wait with bated breath the loud condemnations of Steinfels by all those who excoriated Weigel, except that asphyxiation is a sad way to die.”
- The Acton Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse notes the temptation, herself as a free-market economist, to “read this document as if it were a think-tank white paper, and ask whether the Pope endorses [one's] particular policy preferences.” This would, however, be an injustice to the text, which focuses instead on the primacy of culture:
[T]he cultural sphere needs its own defense. Both the economic and the political sectors have plenty of ideological defenders. The libertarian right seems to believe that the market can manage all of society. The socialist left seems to think that the government can solve every problem and wipe away every tear.
Extremists on both sides fail to respect culture’s distinctive role.
The modern ideologies that reify either the state or the market have difficulty understanding that the encroachments of their preferred sphere into the social and cultural sphere have the potential to dehumanize us.
- Does it come as any surprise that renegade liberation theologian Leonardo Boff thinks that “The Pope needs a dose of Marxism”?
[The encyclical's] vision is that the world system is fundamentally correct. What exists are dysfunctions, not contradictions. The diagnosis suggests the following cure, similar to that of the G-20: rectifications and not changes, improvements, and not a change of paradigm, reforms and not liberations. It is the imperative of the teacher: «tocorrect»; not the imperative of the prophet: «toconvert». Reading the text, long and heavy, we end up thinking: How good a dose of Marxism would be for the present Pope! Marxism, starting from the oppressed, has the merit of unmasking the contradictions present in the system today, bringing to light the conflicts of power, and denouncing the uncontrolled voracity of the market society: competitive, consumerist, non-cooperative and unjust. It represents a social and structural sin that sacrifices millions, on the altar of production for unlimited consumption. This should be prophetically denounced by the Pope. But he does not do that.
- The The Italian edition of Vatican Radio reported that more than 1,800 articles have been written on the encyclical, many of them the report called “valuable.”
- From Zenit, a Vatican translation of the reflection on Catholic social doctrine given by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unam, on July 7 at the press conference that marked the release of the encycical.
- For Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, Caritas in Veritate represents “the new face of development, true ethics and human dignity”. The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life presented his evaluation of the encyclical in Rome this past week.
- “Justice and Charity”, by Roberto de Mattei (The Catholic Thing ):
“God has to have a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions.” In fact, “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is.” This is the heart of the document, and possibly of the whole Magisterium of Benedict XVI.
- Caritas in Veritate proposes that population growth is needed to bring the world out of the economic crisis. The president of the European Center for Studies on Population, the Environment and Development agrees. (Zenit)
- For Mark Stricherz (True Slant) finds the Pope’s encyclical “dense, overlong, and great”:
Caritas en Veritate makes a CBO report look like The Great Gatsby, as it is filled with dependent clauses and academic phrases. It’s too long — a 30,000-word document that should have been cut by half. And its opening lacks context, leaving readers unclear about its subject matter. (By contrast, Rerum Novarum, perhaps the best known of the papal encylicals, is if not in the stylistic league of A Communist Manifesto, sharply written and engaging).
Despite that, “the last thing the document deserves is to be gathering dust in libraries and unclicked on the Vatican’s website.”
- Michael Novak says “You can’t have veritas without caritas“. (National Review July 23, 2009).
- Matt Cavedon (The Acton Institute) explores similarities between Pope Benedict’s evaluation of culture in Caritas in Veritate and that of economist Thomas Sowell. Counter to the relativism of the age, both agree that “some cultures are better suited to fostering human development than others.”
- Alan Carlson, President of The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, finds that “on one matter, the encyclical letter is ambiguous about a long-standing principle of Catholic social justice: the principle of a “family wage” resting on distinctive social and economic roles for men and women.” (Via Touchstone‘s “Mere Comments”).
- Carl Anderson sees Caritas in Veritate as a “prescription to the health care debate”. (Zenit, July 21, 2009).
- In international news, Fr. Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, of the Asia Desk in the Pontifical Council for Culture, believes Caritas in Veritate” is of great importance to Goans”; the Italian politician, historian and journalist, Giuseppe Tamburrado, who led the Italian Socialist Party from 1966-1981, praised the new social encyclical in an article published by L’Osservatore Romano; meanwhile, a Hindu is critizing the Pope for being “tough on atheists”.
Compiled on July 10-15, 2009
- Michael Liccione (What’s Wrong With The World) pens some initial thoughts about Caritatis in Veritate and reflects on the “usuary crisis”:
Although people can debate from now till doomsday how much state regulation of debt instruments is wise, and probably will, it cannot be denied either (a) that some degree of regulation is necessary, and (b) that the explosion of public and private debt, all slated to be repaid with interest, has been bad for everybody. Ignoring the traditional moral strictures of the Church about debt and interest fosters a systemic greed which is eventually self-defeating. We are now in a situation where bankrupt governments are shoring up bankrupt sectors of the economy with funny money that will burden the next generation and beyond with unsustainable debt service. That wouldn’t have been necessary if both the private and public sectors hadn’t reduced themselves to pigs feeding at the trough. Because both private and public greed have driven this crisis, it’s really not a Left/Right issue. It’s a rather elementary moral issue.
- Caritas Veritate and Immigration – Joe Hargrave (Evangelical Catholicism) discovers:
Pope Benedict only touched upon immigration briefly in Caritas in Veritate. In paragraph 62 he reminds us that “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.” Following that footnote 142, I saw that the pope referenced a document called “Erga migrantes caritas Christi” or “The love of Christ towards migrants”. From the look of it, it is about as long as a typical social encyclical. What’s more, I’ve not seen it referenced in any of the debates Catholics have had over immigration, though I am sure that I’ve not seen everything there is to see in that regard.
- Lively discussions abound at American Catholic. Noting, as the Pope himself did, a tendency among certain commentators on the Church’s social doctrine to divide it up into “pre” and “post” Vatican II ways of thinking, Joe Hargrave (one and the same) takes a look back at Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum.
Also, Brendan Hodge (aka. DarwinCatholic) attempts to classify three different types of responses to the question of whether the Church can or should teach on matters of economics.
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- From the Acton Institute, Hunter Baker expresses more thoughts from a Protestant on Caritas in Veritate, including his concern about the Pope’s admonition to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”
Kishore Jayabalan takes note of conservative and liberal criticism of the encyclical and finds “neither side, however, seems ready to take Benedict’s theology – his own field of expertise – seriously”.
- Commonweal‘s Matthew Boudway responds to Matt Cavedon (The Acton Institute) on the principle of subsidiarity:
… subsidiarity is a broad principle about propriety of scale, and it does not apply only to government. Although it implies what we might call a preferential option for the local, it also implies a symmetry between economic power and political power. As small as possible, yes — but also as big as necessary. If you are going to insist on keeping all political power local, you must also insist on keeping the power of capital local. Conversely, if you are going to defend economic globalization, as free-market conservatives do, you will need to find some kind of global political authority that can check the power of multinational corporations.
True, the pope never says exactly what such an authority would look like: it might be nothing more than a closely coordinated coalition of states; it might be nothing less than a supranational government. Whatever it is, it will not be a village council or a chamber of commerce. One of the many provocative arguments of Caritas in veritate is that there is a political arrangement that corresponds to every level of community, from the most local to the most universal. To have the U.N. take up a job that a municipal government can do just as well or better is a clear violation of subsidiarity. But it is no less a violation of subsidiarity to expect municipal governments by themselves — and separately — to head off abuses by companies that make their products in one place, sell them in another, and distribute the profits to investors who live in neither place.
As Boudway also notes, “Wherever the word ‘subsidiarity’ occurs in the encyclical, the word ‘solidarity’ is not far away.”
- Taking issue with the various readings of the Acton Institute, as well as Francis Beckwith (Christianity Today), Davey Henreckson of TheoPolitical asks “Is Benedict really a libertarian?”:
[O]n any close reading of the text, I cannot find any substantial support for this view. Benedict is explicit about his presupposition that our current system is broken (paragraph 40). He says repeatedly that a “new way” is needed. As Sirico points out, Benedict did not call for an economic or political coup, à la Innocent III. However, I don’t see how he moves on from that premise to conclude that the Church is precluded from offering actual economic counsel to the world community.
Benedict argues that the Church’s witness is not limited to narrowly defined “charity work” (11). Her calling is eminently public, and her calls for charitable justice extend into the global marketplace. Only a witness speaking from a foundation of truth can be a guarantor of freedom. Any claims to freedom must be ordered properly toward love and truth. Further, freedom itself is only free, according to Benedict, if it is moral. The capitalist “conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way.” This viewpoint has “led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom.” Segregating charity from the marketplace leads inevitably to social injustice and lack of true freedom (34).
George Weigel and his Critics, Continued
- Controversy over Weigel’s initial reading of the encyclical continues — in America, John W. Martens notes the similarities of Weigel’s approach to the “source criticism” of biblical scholars:
[T]he same criticisms raised of Weigel’s “gold pen” and “red pen” theory – that this is a means to choose what is “best,” “original” and “authentic,” as opposed to that which is “interpolated,” added” or “not essential” and which may be rejected out of hand – can be raised with respect to biblical scholars. Biblical scholars often seek out sources, and this in itself is not problematic. Finding various sources in Matthew and Luke, for instance, can allow us to determine more precisely how these sources have been shaped and adapted for their various audiences. It is when some sources are preferenced as “early” and so more “authentic” than other sources, and more significant than the completed and received text as a whole that we run into problems.
In “Weigel is Right”, Vox Nova‘s Sam Rocha has a little more fun:
Weigel effectively theorizes towards a post-structural approach to Church literature; where we do not take authorship at face value but look into the power/knowledge relations that constitute the thing in question and assume that the (competing) motives involved are steeped in structurations of conflict that create the Foucauldian notion of “governmentality.”
It may seem too ironic, but Weigel is right precisely because he takes into account the possibility of the impossible. And he does so based on a largely accurate understanding of Church (and papal) authority: Namely, that, a hermeneutic of suspicion is not heterodox to Catholic devotion …
Meanwhile, Weigel responds to Michael Sean Winters’ criticism in America (see comment #15).
- In yet another contribution to the National Review, George Weigel takes a look back at the President’s visit with the Pope — and the former’s “unmistakably decided [attempt] to wrestle with the Catholic bishops of the U.S. over the definition of the Catholic ‘brand’ in America”). Reprising his earlier judgement, he also finds, after several additional readings, that Benedict’s encyclical “remains a complex and sometimes obscure document, in which many intellectual influences are clearly at work.”
Weigel criticizes unidentified proponents of Popularum Progressio who
seem to be promoting a “hermeneutics of rupture” when they claim that the tradition of Catholic social doctrine began anew with Populorum Progressio — a claim that at least some passages in Caritras in Veritate can be interpreted to support.
For Weigel, one of the most important accomplishments of Caritas in Veritate is its insistence that “life issues are social-justice issues, such that the ‘human ecology’ or moral ecology necessary for make free economies work is eroded when wrongs are defined as rights.”
In this respect, Benedict’s insistence … that the life issues are social-justice issues is the encyclical’s tacit response to Obama’s promotion of the late Cardinal Bernardin’s “consistent ethic of life” or “seamless garment,” which despite the cardinal’s strong personal opposition to abortion, was used by two generations of Catholic politicians as a way to avoid pro-life votes. …
The positive commentary on the encyclical from those usually stereotyped as the defenders of “unbridled capitalism” suggest both the silliness of that label and the openness of many conservatives to the legal and cultural regulation of markets. The sounds of silence from the left, however, on the encyclical’s insistence that the defense of life from conception until natural death is a social-justice issue, and perhaps the social-justice issue of the moment because of its fundamental character, suggests that a parallel openness to challenge is not immediately self-evident among some of those now trumpeting their appreciation for Caritas in Veritate.
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- Ross Douthat (New York Times) finds the pope’s encyclical “nothing, if not political”:
“Caritas in Veritate” promotes a vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism. It links the dignity of labor to the sanctity of marriage. It praises the redistribution of wealth while emphasizing the importance of decentralized governance. It connects the despoiling of the environment to the mass destruction of human embryos.
This is not a message you’re likely to hear in Barack Obama’s next State of the Union, or in the Republican Party’s response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.
But that’s precisely what makes it so relevant and challenging — for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
- Brian Griffiths, Vice-Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, exclaims “Pope Benedict is the man on the money”, offering “the best analysis yet” of the global economic crisis and the proper response:
Despite heavy competition from some of the world’s finest minds, it is without doubt the most articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the financial crisis that has yet appeared. It should strike a chord with all who wish to see modern capitalism serving broader human ends.
- “Capitalism with a Conscience” (Times Online) — for William Doino Jr., Caritas “breathes with the same spirit” as Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1985 address on capitalism and ethics:
Critics fear [Benedict] encapsulates what Ludwig von Mises called “the anti-capitalist mentality”, but Benedict acknowledges the fruits of capitalism and the legitimacy of profit. He simply wants the free market held accountable: left on its own and devoid of moral underpinnings, it can’t guarantee just wages, or prevent greed and corruption from robbing people blind. The experience of the last few years offers ample proof of that.
- In a contribution to Christianity Today, Francis J. Beckwith explains why “trying to love people without knowing the truth about them leads to mere sentiment and will do them harm.”
- John Powers of the Chicago Daily Observer has a roundup of journalistic interpretations of Caritas in Veritate.
- Zenit News Service interviews William Fahey, president of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, on manifestations of dissent (“facile dismissals of the encyclical appeared within an hour or so of its official release. … to dismiss sections on the first day strikes me as not the action of a good son of the Church, or even a thoughtful mind”) and the relevance of CiV to his position as college professor and president:
Academics do not dwell much on charity or love and its relationship to the truth — or vice versa. But as the Holy Father reminds us, to know the truth entails a love of the truth; to love the truth means that we will be urged to act, to share the truth. This seems so simple as not to deserve comment, but upon reflection it is profound. As a Catholic educator, when I meditate on this, I perceive more clearly the connection between the intellectual life and the life of grace, the work that chiefly occupies the study or classroom and the broader work of evangelization.
- As noted earlier, much of the conversation of Caritas within the secular press is centered on just one paragraph, number 67, and the Pope’s call — echoing John XXIII — for a “new world political authority.” John Zmirak, who in an earlier article for InsideCatholic.com expressed his concern about this very matter, delivers an extended reflection on “The Pope and Global Tyranny”.
Zmirak finds that “The problem isn’t with the Pope’s language (taken in context), but how dishonest people will try to use it,” — the answer to which is to point out the following:
The Pope states as a mandatory condition that any such projected government: a) respect subsidiarity, and be delegated the power only to intervene when every other level of government had failed; b) accept what Benedict calls the “Truth” of the human person — in the person of Jesus Christ as preached by the Church.
So, the Pope wants an international federation of sovereign states that can, in rare and exceptional cases, intervene in the affairs of particular nations when their actions threaten others, and he wants it to be in spirit — if not in name — profoundly Catholic. Anything else that’s on offer, he’s opposed to it. And no, you cannot build up a global state first, with power in the hands of the kind of utopian materialists who currently dominate the European Union and the United Nations, in the hope that later on he will infuse it with “Gospel values.” That’s like giving a tanker truck full of plutonium to a chronic drunk driver in the hope that he’ll discover a “higher power.”
Until and unless the two conditions are met, Catholics are free to — and I think obliged to — fight for states’ rights, regional liberties, and national sovereignty. The alternative is Orwellian.
Also from Zenit, commentary from Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, president of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church.
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- Deacon Keith Fournier believes “this scholarly yet pastoral and prophetic encyclical letter can be summarized in one word, Gift!”
- Rich Heffern (National Catholic Reporter is struck by the consonance in many of the pope’s statements with the key values of the worldwide Green movement. He recognizes that:
… Green values are based on a “deep ecology” point of view, recognizing that we humans are, as the late Fr. Thomas Berry taught, derivative of the natural world, not specially created and apart from it. The encyclical’s values are rooted in a more human-centered Christian view. These are widely different philosophical or theological starting points.
But the Green vision and Pope Benedict’s get to many of the same places.
- Stratford Caldecott (editor of Second Spring), maintains a blog devoted to Catholic social doctrine, of which Caritas in Veritate is the current topic of discussion.
- John Schwenkler, author of “Upturned Earth” @ American Conservative, is hosting a weekly chapter-by-chapter reading and online group discussion Caritas in Veritate.
- Statement of Communion & Liberation on Caritas in Veritate.
- Statement of the Knights of Columbus on Caritas in Veritate (and appraisal of Elizabeth Ela, editor of the KoC website Headline Bistro).
Compiled on July 8-9, 2009
From the Holy Father himself — Benedict XVI dedicated Wednesday’s general audience to a consideration of Caritas in Veritate:
Some forty years after Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Populorum Progressio, it too addresses social themes vital to the well-being of humanity and reminds us that authentic renewal of both individuals and society requires living by Christ’s truth in love (cf. Eph 4:15) which stands at the heart of the Church’s social teaching. The Encyclical does not aim to provide technical solutions to today’s social problems but instead focuses on the principles indispensable for human development. Most important among these is human life itself, the centre of all true progress. Additionally, it speaks of the right to religious freedom as a part of human development, it warns against unbounded hope in technology alone, and it underlines the need for upright men and women – attentive to the common good – in both politics and the business world. In regard to matters of particular urgency affecting the word today, the Encyclical addresses a wide range of issues and calls for decisive action to promote food security and agricultural development, as well as respect for the environment and for the rule of law. Stressed is the need for politicians, economists, producers and consumers alike to ensure that ethics shape economics so that profit alone does not regulate the world of business. Dear friends: humanity is a single family where every development programme – if it is to be integral – must consider the spiritual growth of human persons and the driving force of charity in truth. Let us pray for all those who serve in politics and the management of economies, and in particular let us pray for the Heads of State gathering in Italy for the G8 summit. May their decisions promote true development especially for the world’s poor. Thank you.
Also pertinent — here is the letter Benedict XVI sent July 1 to Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ahead of the G8 Summit.
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How “authoritative” is a Catholic social encyclical?
In what sense is a social encyclical “binding” on Catholics? — it is understandable that such topics will resurface, this being the first social encyclical published in two decades. The question is posed by Joe Carter, in response to a post we noted earlier by M.J. Andrew (Evangelical Catholicism). M.J. objects to “the stubbornly persistent opinion among Catholics that the Church’s social doctrine is not binding–and if it is authoritative, then it is not as important or consequential as doctrines of faith,” deeming it “simply a pernicious prejudice.”
- Stephen Barr responds:
Catholic teaching itself distinguishes different levels of authoritativeness for different kinds of teaching and different kinds of Church pronouncements. Some teaching is de fide (of faith) and must be accepted with “the assent of faith.” Such teaching is binding in an absolute and irrevocable way. Below that is teaching which, while not de fide, is nevertheless authoritative. Such teaching must be accepted with an obsequium religiosum, usually explained to mean “a religious assent of intellect and will.” Authoritative teaching is also binding, but not in an absolute and irrevocable way. One can entertain as a real though remote possibility that the teaching is false, but the benefit of the doubt goes to the Church, and there is a strong presumption that the teaching is correct. Such authoritative-but-not-de-fide teaching is like that of good parents: it may not be infallible (as de fide teaching is), but it is highly reliable and one is subject to it.
- Also from the combox, Steven D. Greydanus:
On the question of social teaching, there is a fuzzy boundary between irreformable fundamental principles and reformable practical solutions, between theory and practice. Caritas in Veritate notes that “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer,” but also insists that the Church’s mission of truth is open “to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes.”
When Benedict XVI says things like “the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak,” or that food and water are “universal rights of all human beings,” those speak to irreformable fundamental principles that all Catholics must accept. When he speaks of the need for a “world political authority,” that seems to be a matter of application that Catholics must take seriously, but which is necessarily reformable and does not demand assent in the same way.
Over at American Catholic, Blackadder takes note of the Pope’s disclaimer — “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim to interfere in any way in the politics of States” — and discusses what this means with regard to “statements that rely explicitly or implicitly on technical conclusions, sometimes very specific or controversial ones”:
One could try to deny that these sorts of judgments rely on technical assumptions, but to do so would render either meaningless or disingenuous the repeated caveats of popes on this score, which is not, I think, respectful of the integrity of Catholic Social Thought.
The answer here, so far as I can tell, is that the authority of such claims does not extent to the technical aspects of the issue involved, but only to its moral aspects. As John Paul II says in Centesimus Annus, “part of the responsibility of Pastors is to give careful consideration to current events in order to discern the new requirements of evangelism. However, such an analysis is not meant to pass definitive judgments since this does not fall per se within the Magisterium’s specific domain.”
But as Blackadder notes: “The problem is that most economic and political problems involve both a technical and a moral dimension.” Therein lies the dilemma. (A good discussion follows in the combox).
George Weigel and his Critics
George Weigel’s cursory slice-and-dice of Caritas is generating quite the firestorm. His approach has taken a number of people aback — even those (myself included) more often than not in Weigel’s camp.
Weigel approaches the encyclical with a critical stance that parses the parts of the encyclical that are in harmony with his prior understanding of the current economic situation and seperates those parts from the parts that are in disharmony. That’s almost the reverse approach that the “neocons” took with Centessimus Annus, which, rather, was sort of like, “Let’s see how much we got right.” I prefer the latter approach, because it implies a certain hermeneutical humility that the Weigel of today is lacking. Even if there are different schools of thought within the same encyclical, since I also happen to believe that the Holy Spirit has *something* to do with its composition, then there might be an ultimate unity that is beyond the imagination of both Novak-Weigel-Bottum and Schindler/Rowland/MacIntyre. Perhaps the “Red” and the “Gold” are not so much in disharmony as the entire encyclical is in disharmony with Weigel. Or maybe not. But Weigel should at least consider the possibility that this might be the case. Otherwise, how would he ever be open to correction? To claim that the understanding of a papal document might go beyond the understanding of the American commentariat is not necessarily beyondism. It is merely entertaining a possibility.
I have to wonder if Weigel will pen a response to his critics. If anything, he should address Evangelical Catholicism‘s persuasive demonstration of the sheer implausibility of his story — first by comparing Weigel’s present account of the alleged “dumping” of the initial Justice and Peace drafts of Centesimus Annus with an earlier, and more detailed, account provided in the magnificent biography of Pope John Paul II; secondly, asking but what if Weigel were correct?. M.J. reveals:
Let me first say that I have long been an admirer of much of Weigel’s work. My devotion to Pope John Paul II is largely a product of my reading of Weigel’s Witness to Hope, which remains the standard and most impressive biography ever written on the late Pope. I honestly enjoy his books on Catholicism and politics. Accordingly, Weigel was the last Catholic commentator I suspected would provide an altogether unmeasured and grossly unjust review of the new encyclical.
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From InsideCatholic, I particularly appreciated this reading by John Zmirak: “Your Life Is a Gift” — who like many, expresses his appreciation for the Pope’s attention to rights and duties:
Already, the Catechism states that the right to immigrate into a country comes with the duty “to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.” In this document, Benedict notes that the right of the poorest countries to receive foreign aid for the sake of economic development is chained to a different duty — to administer the funds responsibly, in a manner that helps rather than stunts native initiative.
The pope points to “corruption and illegality” in rich and poor countries alike, and notes, “International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions both within the chain of donors and within that of the beneficiaries” (CV, 22). I deduce from this that it is the right — and perhaps the duty — of countries sending aid to demand its proper use, and be prepared to cut it off when it proves counterproductive. The exercise of such political prudence, guided firmly by the principles taught by the Church, is the proper role of the statesman, the layman, the citizen.
Zmirak is impressed as well by Benedict’s elucidation of the meaning of gift, which he suspects may be drawn from Lewis Hyde’s own book (a thoroughly engrossing read in itself):
[T]he pope makes the bluntly realistic observation that most of the central actions we take in this life are made not based on rational calculation, or the explicit hope of receiving back tit-for-tat, but rather as gestures of creative generosity. We don’t bear children principally in the hope that they will care for us when we’re old — although, of course, they should. Acts of love between parents and children, lovers or friends, are rarely subject to careful scrutiny as to whether everyone is getting enough deposited in his “emotional bank account”. … It is only when relationships turn abusive that we even start to examine them, to find the source of imbalance and rectify it if possible.
Likewise in a healthy working environment, employees and employers do not in fact seek at every turn to extract the maximum benefit from each other, the consequences be damned. Neither sweatshops nor featherbedding finally make for good business, the pope suggests. Indeed, for the market economy to work — as the great market economist and architect of post-war German recovery Wilhelm Röpke observed, and the pope reiterates — the participants require an atmosphere of trust and fair-dealing that are drawn from deeper sources than mere compliance with formal contracts or the desire to stay out of jail.
“There is only one statement in the encyclical that frankly troubles me,” adds : the Pope’s recommendation — following Blessed John XXIII — of “a true world political authority”.
What exactly would the “true world political authority” urged by the pontiff actually look like?” — This, for John Allen Jr., constitutes “The $64,000 question from Benedict’s encyclical”:
Popes themselves — including, it must be said, Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate — often don’t seem terribly clear what they have in mind. Sometimes it seems like they’re talking about a formal, constitutional one-world government — a sort of United Nations on steroids. Yet in the same breath, popes usually invoke the principle of subsidiarity, which implies a devolved system of decision-making at the lowest possible level. How to square these two points remains a bit of a mystery. …
Many experts regard the idea of planetary governance as perhaps the most glaring gap between the promise of Catholic social teaching and its delivery. As American Jesuit sociologist Fr. John Coleman has put it, Catholic social doctrine on this point remains “much too vague and moralistic.”
Nevertheless, Allen offers “two possible lines of reflection that academics, activists and others interested in fleshing out the promise of Catholic social teaching on this point might want to pursue.”
The topic is also explored at length by Lewis McCrary (The American Conservative):
… Phrases like “effective power to ensure security for all” and “to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties” should give us pause to consider the appropriate scale of international organizations. There is a danger that, taken out of context, this language could be used to support some kind of global tyranny. But a closer reading of Caritas demonstrates that more international solidarity is not necessarily a recipe for global Leviathan, particularly if it is conditioned by the Church’s formulation of subsidiarity.
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Catholic World Report hosts a Caritas Roundtable, with contributions from J. Brian Benestad, Francis J. Beckwith, Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., Richard Garnett, Thomas S. Hibbs, Paul Kengor, George Neumayr, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico. To share but a few observations:
- Rick Garnett:
Rather than reflecting carefully on the Pope’s central proposal, namely, that “[f]idelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development,” commentators who might ordinarily roll their eyes at policy suggestions from the bishop of Rome are happy to uproot from the encyclical’s inspiring, challenging vision a few talking points about environmental stewardship, trade unionism, or the redistribution of wealth.
- Francis J. Beckwith:
“That theological anthropology is the proper starting point in discovering the good for which human beings were designed is the animating principle behind CIV.”
- Thomas J. Hibbs:
Amid the shallow media debates over whether the latest papal encyclical, Pope Bendict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, leans left or right, there is a good chance that readers will miss the central philosophical claim of the document: “the social question has become a radically anthropological question” (italics in the original text). By subordinating all economic systems to the question of the common good, understood as integral human flourishing, the document opposes reductionism, whether in theory or practice, in liberal or conservative forms.
- Tracy Rowland:
The intellectual center of this encyclical is that “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.” It rests a notion of authentic human development upon the principle enshrined inGaudium et Spes 22, that the human person only has self-understanding to the extent that he or she knows Christ and participates in the Trinitarian communion of love. As the Pope says, “Life in Christ is the first and principle factor of development.” The whole document is a plea to understand the limitations of a secularist notion of development.
- George Neumayr:
In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI says in effect: Woe to those who call degradation “development,” selfishness “charity,” regress “progress,” and wrongs “rights.” His encylical letter is a sustained debunking of modern liberalism’s most complacent claims and habitual abuse of words.
- Fr. James V. Schall:
This encyclical, moreover, does something that I have been concerned about for many years. It is very careful how it uses the term “rights.” The Pope clearly spells how “rights” and “democracy” in their modern meanings can lead to a violation of human dignity if they are grounded in no standard or understanding of human nature, including fallen human nature.
But the great insight is that all reality is gift-oriented. The very title of the encyclical has to do with the fact that we cannot call “charity” something that is not rooted in the truth of what man is. The terms “mercy” or “compassion” have often lent themselves to a process whereby they overturned what was objectively true in the man.
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From Zenit News Service
- Fr. Schall, on Benedict’s reconnection of “rights” and “duties”:
Particularly pleasing was the way in which Pope Benedict finally came to terms with the ambiguity from modern political philosophy in the word “rights.” In many ways, nothing has been more destructive to Catholic social thought than its uncritical use of the word “rights.” Benedict admonishes us that we first begin with “duties.” We can use the word “rights” provided it has a fixed content and does not mean — what it in fact means in modern philosophy — whatever we want or legislate.
- Fr. Joseph Fessio (of Ignatius Press) says Pope Benedict has changed the framework of the debate on “the social question”, locating “justice” and “rights” in a larger synthesis, grounded in charity and truth:
Within this fundamental material context of charity and truth, and the fundamental formal context of the continuity of the Church’s teaching, Pope Benedict situates the centerpiece of the Church’s social teaching: “integral human development.” And by “integral” he means “it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man” (18, quoting Paul VI). Among the important dimensions of this wholeness, he notes that integral human development must be open to the transcendent (11: “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space.”) and it must be open to life (28: “Openness to life is at the center of true development”).
- Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, observes that for the first time, 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.”
- Stratford Caldecott calls our attention to four particular elements on “integral human development”
First, this encyclical is closely connected to the Pope’s two previous encyclicals — on love and on hope — and forms with them a triptych on the Christian faith, in both its theoretical and its practical dimensions, namely, love and hope grounded in truth.
Second, the encyclical takes Catholic social teaching to a new level by basing it explicitly on the theology of the Trinity and calling for “a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation.” Metaphysics is back.
Next, it introduces a new principle — that of “gratuitousness” and “reciprocal gift,” which enables us to break the “hegemony of the binary model of market-plus-State” (38, 39, 41). [...]
Finally, those in the Distributist, Green, and “alternative economics” movements will be encouraged that the encyclical opens the door to the development of alternative “economic entities” that act on principles other than pure profit, or which treat profit merely as a means to a social end, including cooperatives, credit unions, micro-finance, and the “economy of communion” (46).
- Reflections from Gabrial Martinez, chair of the Economics Department at Ave Maria University, greatly impressed by the Pope’s “common sense”:
The key insight of the free-marketeer is that voluntary exchange must be mutually beneficial. The key insight of the left-liberal is that fair outcomes must be deliberately planned for.
The key double insight of Catholic social teaching, on the other hand, is that we are created in the image of God and that we are sinners. That is, we build an economy, politics, or culture that is human, if we remember that we are creatures who received our being as a gift, called by God to be like him and with him; and that our economy, our politics, and our culture are inhuman insofar as we forget it.
This position is often refreshingly commonsensical. Instead of, say, “idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity’s original natural state,” the Pope naturally mistrusts what comes from the hand of man, but also relies on the “human capacity to exercise control over the deviations of development.” Capacity implies responsibility, but it also implies that this responsibility is often abdicated in the name of a system, an idea, or a vice.
- Stefano Zamagni, an economics professor from the University of Bologna and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the question: A Capitalist or Anti-Capitalist Encyclical?
- Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, asserting “It’s a Moral Document, Not a Political One”:
We might sum up the Pope’s thinking on the economy this way: Each of us must answer Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” If we, with Peter, answer “The Messiah,” then that should direct the axis of our life. Our most important reality must be the truth of our relationships.
- Stefano Zamagni, an economics professor from the University of Bologna and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the question: A Capitalist or Anti-Capitalist Encyclical?
- Jody Bottum has finished his 10-part reading of Caritas in Veritate, posting his “first thoughts” along the way.
Time now for me to try some second thoughts. What does the encyclical move me to consider that I had failed to consider before? What does respect for Joseph Ratzinger’s great theological mind force me to rethink? What does respect for Pope Benedict XVI’s papal authority demand that I rephrase and reform? What is new in Caritas in Veritate? And how must I, as a result of its promulgation, change my life?
This, by the way, is how I think encyclicals should be read. If you don’t engage the text, determining exactly where it strains you as a reader and believer and thinker, then assent is meaningless.
- From Paul Zummo @ Southern Appeal:
The word that kept coming to me as I read this was “totality.” We need to view things – the individual, the Church, the economy – in their totality. Humans are not simply wealth-acquiring machines, but we are people who have been given gifts from God, and we ought to be gift-bearing individuals. More importantly, we need to overcome those materialistic impulses that drive us to look inwards – again, not just as individuals, but as a society as a whole.
- “The Catholic Thing” has a symposium, with some early observations from Michael Novak, James V. Schall S.J., Joseph Wood, Robert Royal.
- From America Magazine: Austen Ivereigh agrees with Weigel’s observation that some passages are more “Benedictine” than others (“the often sharp shift in style and language is one of the least impressive characteristics of this – in so many other ways brilliant — document”), but identifies one additional major influential source: “the distinctive language and ideas of the Focolare movement – much admired by Pope Benedict — are evident in at least three places”.
- From the Acton Institute: Matt Cavedon surveys some of the many attempts from the left (secular and Catholic) to claim the Pope’s encyclical for their agenda and ponders how Friedrich Hayek might contribute to realizing the Pope’s vision of an effective international governing body.
Samuel Gregg explains why Caritas in Veritate is not the left’s encyclical:
It is difficult to describe comments about Caritas in Vertitate as revealing Benedict as being “to the left of the Democrat Party on economic issues” or “sounding like a union organizer” as anything but unsophisticated, and, frankly, rather provincial. Contrary to the expectations of many living in America’s Boston-Washington-New York self-referential hothouse, popes don’t compose encyclicals with an eye to the particulars of American domestic politics or the next election cycle.
Anyone who has actually read Joseph Ratzinger’s many works would understand the pope has never thought that the Catholic faith neatly translates into left or right politics. To be sure, plenty of Catholics (particularly American Catholics) wish that it did. But it doesn’t and it never will, because the Catholic faith purports to contain the entire Truth about God and man. Hence it can never be compressed into earthly political categories.
Gregg wonders: “what the Catholic left thinks it is trying to achieve by attempting to shove a theologically-dense text into a politicized left-wing straight jacket?”
- Last, but not least for this second installment, Maclin Horton hasn’t read the Pope’s encyclical yet, and he’s already sick of it — or rather, the perpetual arguments about it:
We can look forward to weeks or months now of politically-minded Catholics trying to beat their enemies to death with this document, or trying to keep from being beaten to death. It must be more comforting to the left in this country than to the right, as it had hardly popped out of the Vatican before Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. was suddenly transformed into an ultramontanist. And by the middle of the day George Weigel, on the other side, was telling us which parts we should ignore.
A plague on them all. I’ll make you this prediction: partisans all across the spectrum will make it impossible to have a calm and charitable discussion of the encyclical and the questions it raises.
Can we prove him wrong, I wonder?
Peter Schineller, S.J., likewise impressed with Benedict’s reflection on “astonishing experience of gift”, seeing parallels with the thought of the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur
James Martin SJ reflects on what Benedict’s encyclical has to say about capitalism — “as a graduate of the Wharton School of Business (B.S. Econ, ’82) and someone who worked for GE and then GE Capital (1982 to 1988). In other words, as a capitalist, or at least a fan of capitalism, the system I believe is the most efficient distributor of goods and services and wealth.”
Compiled on July 7, 2009
- We begin with the press conference to present the encyclical. For those who can read Italian, here are the formal presentations from the Vatican Press Conference, with highlights in English from Acton Institute’s Kishore Jayabalan:
… Cardinal Cordes denied that the encyclical or the Church proposes a “third way” between capitalism or socialism, as the Church has no technical model to offer. (This leads one wonders if a moral critique can be made without an adequate technical understanding, as the former Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote.)
Professor Zamagni noted the distinction between a market economy and capitalism (which was also made in Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, n. 42), adding that the Franciscans had a form of market economy in Italy long before the term “capitalism”, with its Marxist ideological connotations, ever existed. …
Jayabalan remarks that “the most difficult questions [from the press] concerned the nature of a “world political authority” mentioned in n. 67 of the encyclical, which refers to Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris.”
“It does not ask for a supergovernment, a world government,” he said, “while there are current international organisations that should assume a world political authority.”
“That is why the pope instead seeks the reform of the UN but does not say in concrete terms how it should be done,” he added.
The council’s secretary, Msgr Giampaolo Crepaldi, meanwhile said it was “unthinkable” to ask the Holy See for an “detailed and technical proposal for UN reform.”
That said, the general proposition of a U.N. “socio-economic security council” to enable the world’s poorer countries to have a voice in economic decisions is one that appeals to Stefano Zamagni, a professor of economic policies at the University of Bologna, Italy, and a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (interviewed by Catholic News Service):
Zamagni said the fact that the pope spoke about the need to include a wide range of voices in decision-making and to uphold the principle of subsidiarity — that decisions on local matters should be made at the local level — made it clear that he is not proposing “a kind of superstate,” but wants internationally recognized institutions to have the power to intervene when lives are at stake.
The United Nations, he said, has “a security council for military affairs. Why don’t we have one for socio-economic affairs? If we did, the crisis of 2007-2008, which saw the price of grains triple despite an increased supply,” might have been resolved more quickly.
- The National Catholic Reporter‘s John Allen Jr. publishes a commendable summary of the encyclical, which “offers something for both left and right to cheer in Caritas in Veritate, and something for them to be grumpy about”:
Liberals will likely applaud Benedict’s call for robust government intervention in the economy and his endorsement of labor unions, while conservatives will appreciate his unyielding opposition to abortion, birth control and gay marriage, insisting that such policies are not only morally flawed but poor economic strategy.
While the encyclical insists that “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer does not claim “to interfere in any way in the politics of States,” Allen presents a bulleted list of recommended courses of action proposed by the Holy Father.
And though the encyclical is presented as an update to Pope Paul VI’s 1967 social encyclical Populorum Progressio and a restatement of traditional Catholic principles, Allen points out “a couple of new wrinkles”:
For the first time in a social encyclical, a pope argues that current demographic trends – in particular, population declines and rapid aging in parts of the developed world, especially Europe and Japan – illustrate the wisdom of Catholic sexual morality. [...]
A second original touch in Caritas in Veritate is Benedict’s description of the emergence of a “broad intermediate area” between private business firms and non-profit initiatives, made up of business enterprises that operate not just from the profit motive but also out of a sense of social responsibility. [...]
Third, despite the argument of some social theorists that the nation-state may become obsolete in a globalized age, Benedict argues that “both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State.”
Also of interest to Allen — the Pope has “managed to pen a 144-page reflection on the globalized economy without once using the term ‘capitalism.’”
- According to the New York Times / Associated Press, “[Pope Benedict] called for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown.”
The article cites Drew Christiansan’s analysis in America (more of this below) and that of Kirk Hanson, a business ethics professor at Santa Clara University, lamenting that there is “precious little about how an actual CEO leader should go about business.”
The article also mentions the state of the Vatican’s own financial books, given its implication “in the 1980s collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, in which the Vatican’s bank was the major shareholder, and it agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano’s creditors, while denying any wrongdoing.”
- Kirk Hanson was also featured in a Catholic News Service roundup with Nancy Frazier O’Brien:
Hanson said he also was struck by Pope Benedict’s concept of “gratuitousness” or “giftedness,” which reminds people “not to consider wealth ours alone” and asks the wealthy to “be ready to put (their money) in service for the good of others.”
The encyclical is “a plea for the wealthiest on the planet to put their wealth toward the development of peoples,” he said. “In many ways, (Microsoft founder and philanthropist) Bill Gates would be the poster child for this document.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars for health and development programs worldwide, as well as for education and housing programs in the United States.
Also interviewed are Terrence W. Tilley of Fordham U.; Andrew Abela, an associate professor of marketing at Catholic U., Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, Cardinal George of Chicago and Archbishops Vigneron (of Detroit) and Wuerl of Washington).
- Caritas in Veritate: Why Truth Matters, by Samuel Gregg. (7/7/09)”Relativists beware. Whether you like it or not, truth matters – even in the economy. That’s the core message of Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical.”
Perhaps Caritas in Veritate’s most important truth-claim about economic life is that the market economy cannot be based on just any value-system. Against all relativists on the left and the right, Benedict maintains that market economies must be underpinned by commitments to particular basic moral goods and a certain vision of the human person if it is to serve rather than undermine humanity’s common good.
“Papal anathemas against ‘global capitalism’, Gregg notes, ‘were found wanting.’
(Further commentary by the Acton Institute can be found here, including an NRO interview with Kishore Jayabalan and some must-read preliminary commentary from Fr. Robert Sirico on “The Divine Economy”, which in turn sparks a lively discussion on Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s blog.
- Deal Hudson (InsideCatholic.com) thinks that “Those who dig through the document to see whether it leans left or right will be disappointed: There is something here for everybody”:
For the Left … there are plenty of concerns expressed that fit their agenda. But the pope’s criticism of free markets and the pursuit of short-term profits, as well as his support for labor unions, environmental ecology, and the right to food and water, are embedded in an overall account of social teaching tightly integrated with the life issues, moral duties, natural law, and truth. Love, in other words, is wedded to the truth about God and man.
Highlights for Deal include its treatment of rights and duties (“we should first think about our social teaching in terms of what we should do for others, rather than a set of demands of what we are ourselves owed”); the importance of faith’s expression in politics and the assertion that a true, or integrated humanism is only that which properly acknowledges our supernatural destiny.
- Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (What Does The Prayer Really Say?) highlights paragraph 56:
I think this is a key to understand the pontificate of Pope Benedict: he is working to revitalize our Catholic identity. He did so with a huge step (liturgically) in Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007. He is doing the same in this encyclical on 7 July 2009. Other milestone indicators were the Dec 2005 Address to the Roman Curia and the Sept 2006 Regensburg Address.
It seems to me that par. 56 is an important paragraph in the encyclical. …
Pope Benedict is presenting ad intra and ad extra a case for the Church’s voice in the public square. This is a logical consequence of the proper view of Christ and of man. Even so, other religions also have a role to play, provided they admit of the dimension of the Logos in man’s very nature. But they must adhere to the proper relationship of faith with reason to do so. Otherwise, what they give to the public square does more harm than good.
- Perhaps the most critical treatment of the encyclical is posed by George Weigel in “Caritas in Veritate in Gold and Red” — the title referring to the relative ease with which experts with “advanced degrees in Vaticanology” could easily highlight the text: Benedictine passages with a gold marker, and the default positions of the Justice and Peace in red.
The clearly Benedictine passages in Caritas in Veritate follow and develop the line of John Paul II, particularly in the new encyclical’s strong emphasis on the life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryo-destructive stem-cell research) as social-justice issues — which Benedict cleverly extends to the discussion of environmental questions, suggesting as he does that people who don’t care much about unborn children are unlikely to make serious contributions to a human ecology that takes care of the natural world. The Benedictine sections in Caritas in Veritate are also — and predictably — strong and compelling on the inherent linkage between charity and truth, arguing that care for others untethered from the moral truth about the human person inevitably lapses into mere sentimentality.
In contrast, Weigel points to several passages indicative of the muddled thought of the Justice and Peace.
First, there are those which he finds “simply incomprehensible”:
as when the encyclical states that defeating Third World poverty and underdevelopment requires a “necessary openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion.”
Second, he points to sections — such as the lengthy explication of “gift” (hence “gratuitousness”) [# 34-40] — which he deems
so clotted and muddled as to suggest the possibility that what may be intended as a new conceptual starting point for Catholic social doctrine is, in fact, a confused sentimentality of precisely the sort the encyclical deplores among those who detach charity from truth.
Third, he points to the indordinate emphasis upon the “redistribution of wealth” vs. “wealth-creation” and references to “world political authority” to ensure integral human development — “with no more insight into how such an authority would operate than is typically found in such curial fideism about the inherent superiority of transnational governance.”
I do think Weigel is on to something — to one accustomed to the crystal clarity of Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict’s personal writing, there are sections of the encyclical which are positively jarring.
At the same time, I wonder if Weigel is being too dismissive, especially win his admission of helpless befuddlement.
For example, America‘s Fr. Drew Christiansen found himself perplexed by Benedict’s proposal of “a new fourth sector of society, profit-making entities committed to the common good, to figure alongside state, the market and civil society:
At first it was hard for me to put my mind around the idea, but then I began to think of examples: the Gramin Bank and other micro-finance institutions; “Fair Trade” product marketers, and small investment firms, like GlobalGiving, offering support to entrepreneurs in developing countries. (I hope my examples don’t mislead, but they seem to fit the contours of the model.) They are all part of what the pope calls “the economy of gratuitousness.” I am not sure these enterprises yet constitute a sector of economic life. But they are harbingers of a different, conscientious kind of economics that would not repeat the mistakes of the last 30 years.
Likewise, John Allen Jr. was capable of observing a an environmental consulting firm in Indianapolis, Indiana, can claim from Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical:
Founded in 1995, Mundell & Associates is a 20-person firm specializing in environmental clean-up and design; for example, it’s currently helping Ball State University convert its entire campus to geothermal energy. Directed by a Catholic couple, Mundell & Associates is also part of the “economy of communion” network of businesses linked to the Focolare movement.
The “economy of communion” was cited by Benedict XVI as a promising form of intermediate activity between for-profit business and classic non-profit institutions, rupturing what the pope called an “exclusively binary model of market-plus-state” which is “corrosive of society.”
For another, if snarky, response to Weigel, see The Good Pope and the Bad Advisers — A Fable by George Weigel @ Vox Nova).
- Doug Kmiec, former apologist-in-chief for the Obama campaign (and now, we are reminded, “ambassador-designate to the Republic of Malta“), speculates that “if in place of the in-flight movie [en route to the G8 Conference], the president reads the Holy Father’s latest encyclical,” he will find much that “will resonate well in presidential ears” (National Catholic Reporter):
First, he will see how natural is his collaboration with the Holy See in support of economic and social reforms, be they to restore fairness to the market or to provide access to healthcare.
Second, he will be reading a papal document that because of Benedict’s expected, and I daresay fulfilled, freedom to speak in a spiritual idiom far broader than that of public policy and everyday politics, the justifications for the reforms the president and his like-minded international counterparts seek lie in the truth of the human person and not just Pareto optimal moves measured by cost-benefit or other economic analysis.
I challenge anyone to diagram the second sentence, which I’m still attempting to decipher. At any rate, Kmiec ruminates on how Obama might direct “his intelligent open-mindedness for which he is now well regarded” to a practical application of Caritas in Veritate.
Kmiec insists that he is “not unmindful that certain political actors in our society will merely stress the tragic divergence between the president and the Holy Father on the issue of life,” — but urges “that the balance of the Holy Father’s writing not be ignored.”
So much, then, for Benedict’s admonition that “Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good.” [CIV #28]
- Amy Welborn @ Via Media expresses some honest concerns:
I have to say right out that I am never sure what the ultimate point and effect of an encyclical like this is. It is a mix between analysis of very specific global situations ranging from the financial crisis to migration to unions to the welfare state and some quite wonderful, clearly Benedict-written passages about the nature of human life, especially human life in community.
I wonder if arguments about the former – about the accuracy of the analysis, the sufficiency of the evidence and data – will overwhelm the latter, which is really what we should be looking to a Pope for. Don’t think I’m saying religious figures – Popes included – shook stick to the “purely religious” stuff – whatever that means. I am just not sure if contemporary Catholic pronouncements touching on current issues have quite mastered the task of effectively bringing the Gospel into the fray while at the same time acknowledging the limitations of received data and analysis. This encyclical actually does better than some in its attempt to look at every side of issues and the prevalence of original sin and the law of unintended consequences. But I wonder if the detail and specificity it contains is necessary.
Amy goes on to post some passages for discussion. (Contra Weigel, Amy finds that “what Benedict says about “gratuitousness” is one of the more striking and provocative elements of this encyclical.”)
- Here at First Things‘ “First Thoughts”, Jody also finds his prediction concerning the media’s response is proven incorrect; Joe Carter responds, “It’s not that the media is ignoring the story, it’s just that there are so many more important subjects to report on; and Michael Novak reflects on the Pope’s use of Caritas:
It is as if Benedict is bringing back into play the long-neglected lessons of St. Augustine to Catholic Social Thought—re-presenting, as it were, The City of God—that is, the City of that caritas which the Divine Persons gratuitously pour into the human heart, that it might cast the burning desire for human unity into the kindling of hundreds of millions of parched hearts.
Without eternal perspectives and without the sense of our individual immortal value—the great Tocqueville reminded us—the sheer materialism and dreck of democracy and capitalism would wear us down to mean and petty creatures. Materialism radically undercuts our human rights. Simply to survive—let alone flourish—democracy and capitalism need soul.
For Catholics, all social energy flows from the inner life of the Trinity. Everything is gift. We signal our gratitude by developing our own talents to the fullness, by becoming free, responsible, initiative-showing, creative agents of a better world, and by aspiring to that full communion of all human beings whose vocation is written into the structure of human history.
- From (the recently-resurrected) Evangelical Catholicism. M.J. Andrew posts on “Pope Benedict XVI and the False Hope of Marxism” and, in the first of several reflections, inquires, “Why Should Catholics take the New Encyclical Seriously?”.
- From The American Catholic – DarwinCatholic makes a prediction (“The much discussed social encyclical will finally be issued — and all sides of the Catholic political spectrum will within several days claim that it supports the positions they already held”) and Joe Hargrave offers his take:
It is apparent to me that Benedict, like his predecessors and perhaps to an even greater extent, uses a certain methodology when approaching a wide range of issues. He points out the extremes, calls attention to their flaws, and seeks a reasonable middle position between the two. We saw this with regard to market activity, the environment, technological development, and religious freedom in the course of CV.
Benedict acknowledges both the positive and the negative results of globalization, and calls particular attention to the negative. Let there be no mistake: CV is not an anti-market encyclical. But in the tradition of his predecessors, it is most certainly an anti-individualist encyclical.
- A host of commentators weigh in from Zenit News: Vincentian Father and CUA President David O’Connell shares his perspective on the Pope’s choice of title and the meaning of “integral human development”; Lesley-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, believes the encyclical “comes at a key moment for development with decades of progress at risk“; moral theologian Thomas D. Williams considers where “Caritas in Veritate” fits into the Church’s tradition of social teachings and what it adds, and Andrew Abela is a marketing professor at CUA (also cited above) a “businessman’s” summary of this encyclical.
- LifeSiteNews’ John-Henry Westen selects the most pertinent and striking passages on the life issues.
- Speaking to the Catholic News Agency, Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson decried the “spin masters who will try to spin the encyclical in one direction or the other” and emphasized that “the Catholic reader should read the encyclical in its entirety”. Right on queue, Thomas J. Reese, SJ predictably teases out the quotes to demonstrate “[the Pope] is to the left of almost every politician in America.” and David Gibson (Politics Daily) concurs: “The Pope is a liberal.”
- Matthew Balan of the Media Watchdog organization NewsBusters exposes the shoddy reporting from Reuters and the Associated Press as they spin the Pope’s words.