Friday, July 03, 2009

Awaiting Pope Benedict's "Caritas in Veritate"

[Initially published to First Things"First Thoughts"]

Well, it's official. The Vatican has announced that Benedict XVI's new encyclical, titled "Caritas in Veritate," will be released Tuesday, July 7:
Those participating in Tuesday’s conference will be: Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," and Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Signed by the Holy Father on June 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and released in time for the G8 international summit in L'Aquila, Italy (July 8-10), Caritas in Veritate will be the first social encyclical to be written in almost two decades.

There has been much speculation as to what the encyclical will say. The Pope himself has given several helpful indications.

  • 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":
    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.

  • On June 13th, meeting with the “Centesimus Annus - Pro Pontifice” Foundation, the Pope commented on the global economic crisis and offered a brief preview:
    “I am pleased to learn – he continued – that you have examined, in particular, interdependence between institutions, businesses and market starting from, in accordance with the encyclical Centesimus annus of my venerated predecessor John Paul II, the reflection that recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector’ (n. 42), which can be a path of economic and civic progress only if oriented towards the common good (n. 43). This vision however must be accompanied by another reflection into which the freedom in the economic sector must be inserted ‘within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious’ (n. 42). Opportunely the aforementioned encyclical states: ‘Just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all’ (n. 43)”.

    “As you all know – he concluded - my next encyclical, soon-to-be published, is dedicated to the vast theme of the economy and work: it will evidence the objectives that Christians must pursue and the values Christians must promote and defend tirelessly, in order to realize a world in which all people can live together in a manner that is truly free and based on mutual assistance”.

  • This week, on the June 29th homily on the feast of Saints Peter & Paul, the Pope reprised his "dictatorship of relativism" speech and offered a further glimpse of the encyclical's subject:
    Taking up again the social themes in "Populorum Progressio," written by the Servant of God Paul VI in 1967, this document -- dated in fact today, June 29, feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul -- aims to go deeper in certain aspects of the integral development of our age, in the light of charity in truth. I entrust to your prayer this new contribution that the Church offers to humanity in its commitment to sustainable progress, in full respect of human dignity and the real needs everyone has.
  • Finally, for those who just can't wait another week, The Italian daily Corriere della Sera published what it alleged were several original paragraphs of the Pope’s third encyclical.
Upon its publication next week, I hope to dedicate a post (or two) to rounding up coverage and commentary on "Caritas in Veritate" -- charting what I anticipate will be some very spirited discussions within the online Catholic community.

It remains to be seen, however, just how much attention the "mainstream media" will devote towards the document for two reasons -- 1) there's the likely chance it's release will be overshadowed by the Pope's audience with His Holiness, President Obama (did I say that correctly?); and 2) a document on Catholic social doctrine does not present itself easily for selective quotation and cherry-picking to stir the fires of controversy. Unless, say, the Holy Father can work in a little something referencing condomns and AIDS; or Muslims and a certain 14th century emperor, I just don't anticipate much journalistic enthusiasm.

In the meantime, some additional items of interest: