Charity in Truth

A brief excerpt from the just released encyclical Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth):

. . .
In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.

52. Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. This principle is extremely important for society and for development, since neither can be a purely human product; the vocation to development on the part of individuals and peoples is not based simply on human choice, but is an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us and constitutes for all of us a duty to be freely accepted. That which is prior to us and constitutes us — subsistent Love and Truth — shows us what goodness is, and in what our true happiness consists. It shows us the road to true development.

This encyclical, given its significant engagement with politics, should be of interest outside the Catholic Church. Its focus on integral human development will, no doubt, escape the soundbite media; nevertheless, such coherence is central to the encyclical as the title Caritas in Veritate reiterates.

More discussion at various places, e.g. Amy Welborn’s blog and New Liturgical Movement.

The best op-ed I’ve read on the encyclical is that by Robert Sirico in the Wall Street Journal.

Section 76 could benefit, I think, by a clarification of the distinction intended between soul and psyche.

My own focus is on:

Coherent, Consistent, Comprehensive

. . . Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church’s social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations. . . . (from section 9)

I close with a bit of doggeral:

It seems caritas in veritate
Would seek a fond fair goal for far off day:
To gain just rule by one authority
While keeping freedom’s subsidarity.


Washington, Jul 10 – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) today issued the following joint statement regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

“Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, is neither an indictment of capitalism nor an endorsement of any political or economic agenda, and ideologues and politicos hoping to spin it as either are destined to be unsuccessful.

“The Holy Father’s central point in Caritas in Veritate is that at times of economic challenge, the inherent dignity of the individual must be preserved and sustained through genuine charity and compassion. This message is clearly distinct from efforts to ‘remake’ government into a soul-crushing centralized welfare state in which independent citizens are remade into dependent servants. In the encyclical, the Pope stresses that the human being must remain as the center of our free-market system. He warns that individuals, families, churches, communities, and businesses must never become subservient to the state. He emphasizes that the sanctity of all human life must always be protected. And he advocates conservation, not radical environmentalism.

“Caritas in Veritate is not a political document, but rather a complex work that warrants careful and thoughtful contemplation by American Catholics and non-Catholics alike at this time of economic anxiety.”

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