Friday, June 05, 2009

Anticipating Pope Benedict XVI's new social encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" - to be released this summer (?)

Sandro Magister devotes his latest column to the papal encyclical on economics and Catholic social doctrine, "Caritas in veritate" ("Charity in Truth"):
It is expected to be signed by the pope on June 29, and released at the beginning of summer. It underwent various revisions, all of which left Benedict XVI dissatisfied until the last one.

Unlike the encyclical on hope, written by the pope himself from the first line to the last, and unlike the encyclical on charity, the first half of which was also written entirely by the pope, many minds and many hands have worked on "Caritas in Veritate." But in any case, Benedict XVI will leave his mark on it, already visible in the words of the title, which indissolubly link charity and truth.

Magister mentions a Catholic scholar by the name of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, of the same generation as the Pope, and whose thought the latter employed (as Cardinal Ratzinger) in a January 19, 2004 discussion in Munich with the philosopher Jürgen Habermas on the theme "Ethics, religion, and the liberal state."

According to Magister:

In a pivotal 1967 essay, he presented what was later called the "Böckenförde paradox": the thesis according to which "the secularized liberal state lives by presuppositions that it cannot guarantee."


in an article for "Süddeutsche Zeitung," also published in Italy in May by the journal of the Sacred Heart fathers in Bologna, "Il Regno" – and presented in its entirety further below – Böckenförde applied his "paradox" to capitalism as well, but in much more devastating terms.

In his judgment, the principles on which the capitalist economic system is founded can no longer stand. Its current collapse is definitive, and has revealed the inhuman foundations of this system. The economy must therefore be rebuilt from the ground up, not on principles of egoism, but of solidarity. It is up to the states, and European countries in the first place, to take control of the economy. And it is up to the Church, with its social doctrine, to accept the testimony of Marx, who saw correctly.

Understandably, Böckenförde's recommendation for a revival of Karl Marx was met with much incredulity and disdain (which Magister provides in detail), noting: "after the publication of "Caritas in Veritate," it will therefore be interesting how Böckenförde comments on it."

* * *

There is much speculation as to the contents of the encyclical. (Via Wikipedia), "In what seems to have been an unintentional release of marketing materials, some basic themes were announced by Ignatius Press ... The announcement was removed from the publishers website approximately one month later". The announcement read:

Pope Benedict's third encyclical, Love in Truth (Caritas in Veritate), applies the themes of his first two encyclicals -love and hope (God Is Love, Saved in Hope) – to the world's major social issues. Drawing on moral truths open, in principle, to everyone (the natural law) as well as on the teachings of the gospel (revelation), Pope Benedict addresses Catholics and non-Catholics alike, challenging us all to recognize and then to confront the social evils of our day. The first part of the encyclical examines the dynamic teaching of Benedict's predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. [...] In the second part Benedict surveys the social issues that confront the human race today-assaults on the dignity of the human person such as the attack on human life, poverty, issues of war and peace, terrorism, globalization, and environmental concerns.
In a visit with the newly appointed Lithuanian ambassador to the Vatican in November 2008, Pope Benedict provided a glimpse into the encyclical's message:
Since love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God toward others, the practice of Christianity leads naturally to solidarity with one's fellow citizens and indeed with the whole of the human family. It leads to a determination to serve the common good and to take responsibility for the weaker members of society, and it curbs the desire to amass wealth for oneself alone. Our society needs to rise above the allure of material goods and to focus instead upon values that truly promote the good of the human person.
Later, in a March 2009 question-and-answer session with parish priests and clergy in the Diocese of Rome, the Pope responded to the petition of Father Giampiero Ialongo, for "the courage to denounce an economic and financial system that is unjust at its roots" and "an authoritative word, a free word, which will help Christians ... to administer the goods that God has given, and that he has given for all and not only for a few, with evangelical wisdom and responsibility":
As you know, for a long time we have been preparing an encyclical on these issues. And on this long path I see how difficult it is to speak competently, because if the economic reality is not addressed competently, one cannot be credible. And, on the other hand, we must speak with a great ethical consciousness, created and inspired by a conscience forged by the Gospel. In the end, it is about human avarice as sin or, as the Letter to the Colossians says, of avarice as idolatry. We must denounce that idolatry that is opposed to the true God and that falsifies the image of God through another god, "mammon."

[...] Because egoism, the root of avarice, consists in loving myself more than anything else and of loving the world in reference to myself. It happens in all of us. It is the obscuring of reason, which can be very learned, with extremely beautiful scientific arguments but which, nevertheless, can be confused by false premises. [...] Without the light of faith, which penetrates the darkness of original sin, reason cannot go forward. But it is faith, precisely, that then runs into the resistance of our will. It does not want to see the way, which would be a path of self-denial and of correction of one's own will in favor of the other, not of oneself.

[W]hat is needed is the reasonable and reasoned denunciation of the errors, not with great moral statements, but rather with concrete reasons that prove to be understandable in today's economic world. [...] To realize that these great objectives of macro-science are not realized in micro-science — the macroeconomics in the microeconomics — without the conversion of hearts. If there are no just men, there is no justice either […] Justice cannot be created in the world only with good economic models, even if these are necessary. Justice is only brought about if there are just men. And there are no just men without the humble, daily endeavor of converting hearts, and of creating justice in hearts.

The encyclical was initially intended to be published on the occasion of the forty year anniversary of Paul VI's Populorum Progressio (1967); since then release dates have been announced and subsequently withdrawn four times.