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 LOsservatore 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 1721, 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 XVIs 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.See the whole series here:
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.
- 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 manthis 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 factthe pope does not hold this to be a matter for debatethat 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.Do his charges have any merit? — Consider:
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 .
- Part I: The Destructive Influence of a Papal Encyclical
- Part 2: Globalization and the Popes Discontents
- Part 3: The Attack on Classical Liberalism
- Part I: The Destructive Influence of a Papal Encyclical
- “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” .
- Frances 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 Churchs 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 Benedicts 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 Benedicts 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 todays 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 Popes 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 policiesare 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 usand we need constant remindingthat 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 developmentpolitical 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 wealthand for a global political authority to impose itis 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 endeavorincluding 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.In a time where economic activity is characterized by the unfortunate likes of Bernie Madoff, the Pope’s words are a welcome change.
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.”
- 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 Jacobss 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 havent been very interested in Jewish law, and those most attached to Jewish law arent 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.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:
(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.
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. OBrien,
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 mans 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 Popes 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 churchs 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 Colemans 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.”
- 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”;
- 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. Its 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 Vaticans website.”
- Michael Novak says “You cant 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 LOsservatore 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. Whats more, Ive not seen it referenced in any of the debates Catholics have had over immigration, though I am sure that Ive 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 Churchs 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 XIIIs 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 Benedicts 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.As Boudway also notes, “Wherever the word ‘subsidiarity’ occurs in the encyclical, the word ‘solidarity’ is not far away.”
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.
- 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 dont 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 Churchs 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 . . .
- 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, Benedicts insistence . . . that the life issues are social-justice issues is the encyclicals tacit response to Obamas promotion of the late Cardinal Bernardins consistent ethic of life or seamless garment, which despite the cardinals 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 encyclicals 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 youre likely to hear in Barack Obamas next State of the Union, or in the Republican Partys response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.
But thats precisely what makes it so relevant and challenging for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
- Brian Griffiths, Vice