Monday, July 27, 2009

Caritas in Veritate (Part I)

I apologize for taking so long to post something on Caritas in Veritate. For one thing, I have been tremendously busy. I had my middle-child's fourth birthday and graduation parties; I just completed what has become a 65 page booklet on the End of the World and the Second Coming, plus I am working on the sequel to my first book as well as finishing up one book review for St. Austin Review and beginning another. All while trying to prepare four Power Point presentations on World Geography for a homeschool group, feeding the poor with my Youth Group, planning a boys campout as well as doing my regular parish work. Sigh.

But on the other hand, part of my slowness is that Caritas in Veritate (CV) is a very, very dense document. I could only go through it in chunks, paragraph at a time, making notes as I went and reflecting on what the Holy Father is saying - and even after that, I'm still unsure. I'm not a dumb guy by any means, but I have little tolerance for 48 pages of extremely dense socio-economic commentary written in Vaticanese. For instance, look at this sentence from section 30:

In this context, the theme of integral human development takes on an even broader range of meanings: the correlation between its multiple elements requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples.

Sentences like this leave me rubbing my eyes. But that's just my personal hang-up and is not reflective of the objective merit of the document. But I personally found it a lot more difficult to get through than Spe Salvi, which I thought was excellent. I do wonder at the apparent paradox of Church language in official documents versus liturgical translations. The trend in the past forty years has been, until recently, that of simplifying liturgical language, to the point where (as Fr. Z jokes), liturgical prayers will be reduced to, "God you are big. Really big. Make us big like you." On the other hand, post-Conciliar documents have taken the opposite route, getting more and more wordy and philosophical. Why pursue simplification and complexity at the same time in different mediums? I think I have the answer, but it is not relevant here.

It is not my job or my place to pass judgment on the Holy Father's words. I do not stand to say whether this is a good or bad encyclical - I can only offer my reflections, with the understanding that they are my own private opinions and that I acknowledge that I am much more ignorant and unlearned than the Holy Father, and that therefore I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt wherever I don't understand something or something seems amiss.

Why am I issuing this disclaimer? Because I do have grave apprehension at some of the things contained in this encyclical. I also see many wonderful points as well. I have to warn you that this is a very long post, even though it will be split into two. First, let's look at the positives.

I think the heart of this encyclical can be found in a brief statement in paragraph 25, where the Holy Father reminds us that there is no such thing as "economic systems" or "market forces" in the abstract; all of economics is the activity of men, and that mankind (or rather, the common good of man), ought to be the end of economic activity:

I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life” (CV 25).

Being that man is at the center of all economic activity, both as an agent in the utilization of resources and as a resource himself (the most important resource), economics has a strong moral dimension. Man is a moral being, and economics is not divorced from morality. This, I think, is the main point of this encyclical and one that the world desperately needs to grasp.

But this is not an abstract point that has no real-world consequences. The Holy Father says that failure to understand and adhere to the moral dimension of economic decisions leads to the abuse of individuals and economic slavery:

Then, the 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 (CV 34).

Throughout the encyclical, Benedict calls for something called "integral human development", which as far as I can tell means a responsible cultural, political and technological development of society in a human-centered manner, driven by charity in the truth. It is a development not just of technology or science, but of the whole person in an organic fashion.

This is a noble vision for man's development, and the encyclical rightly places the foundation of this development in a recognition of the importance of the Gospel in shaping cultures and promoting true charity:

[Development must be based] only on Christ, to whom every authentic vocation to integral human development must be directed. The Gospel is fundamental for development, because in the Gospel, Christ, “in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself (CV 18).

I like what the encyclical says about the dangers of a speculation driven economy, which has been the cause of our recent calamities. Speculation brings with it the temptation to short-term financial profit, but makes no contributions to the real economy. Indeed, speculation is what is behind every "bubble", which the central bankers assure us is a normal part of the "business cycle." Benedict says such speculative ventures should be shunned:

What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development (CV 40).

Companies and large, multinational firms (in fact, everybody) has a responsibility towards not only profit, but the betterment of man and the commong good of all society. In this vein, Benedict proposes a new model of business which is a synthesis of the old profit-driven corporation and the non-profit corporations that act as charities. In this Benedict envisions a kind of for-profit company that utilizes its profits for the common good. There is an interesting meditation on the relation between rights and duties in paragraph 43 that is relevant here:

An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties. Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become licence (CV 43).

I also mentioned in my last post that the Holy Father seems to share my preference for a loosening of restrictions on intellectual property laws in the interest of a common development of society:

On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property (CV 22).

A lot of good stuff scattered throughout, indeed. But I mentioned earlier that I had some serious misgivings about what I read in Caritas in Veritate. Though the document has many fine points, I am going to tell you the things that tripped me up the most. As I said, I want to give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt (he is much smarter than I). Perhaps some of you who are more knowledgeable can let me know if I have erred in any of my estimations here. The things that troubled me about this encyclical were not minor, and I think they are enormously important. I am going to presume that some committee or bureaucratic body is behind it.

The first thing that bothered me was this encyclical's heavy reliance on Populorum Progresso of Paul VI, which like Gaudium et Spes on which it was modeled, is one of the most time-bound and worldly oriented documents of the post-Conciliar period. In CV, Benedict states his intention to magnify the importance of Paul VI's Populorum Progresso to the point of calling it “the Rerum Novarum of the present age, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity. (CV 8)." The first chapter of the encyclical is entirely about this document.

In Populorum Progresso, as in CV, we see an emphasis on the "development" of man and the world. But what is the vision of development that CV gives us? While paragraph 18 states that all development must be based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this appears as mere lip-service when compared to the following 60 paragraphs which talk about development in purely secular, humanistic terms without reference to Christ at all. Look at Benedict's definition of "development", which he gives in paragraph 21 (borrowing from Paul VI):

Paul VI had an articulated vision of development. He understood the term to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy. From the economic point of view, this meant their active participation, on equal terms, in the international economic process; from the social point of view, it meant their evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity; from the political point of view, it meant the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace (CV 21).

Okay, so after saying development had to be based on the Gospel, we see a definition that is purely worldly. Let's parce this out: Benedict gives us a fourfold definition of development-

1) First and foremost, rescuing people from hunger and disease

2) Active participation in the economic process

3) Wider access to education

4) Consolidation of democracy

All of these things are worthy aims, but they are purely material and secular in nature. There ought to have been a greater emphasis on the roleof the Gospel in the true development of authentic culture. As we'll see later, this encyclical actually teaches that the world needs other religions to contribute to culture and that Christians have a duty to unite with these other religions.

But back to development. Later in the document, Benedict reaffirms that his vision for development is a purely human-centered one that has to due withintergration into human communities centered on the buzzwords of "justice" and "peace":

The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace (CV 54).

So we see that the Pope is taking a very secular-humanist view towards development. He does not think he is; the encyclical seems to think its approach is very Christian because it emphasises things like assistance for the poor, charity, justice, etc. But lest we forget, while these things are wonderful, they are secular values - i.e., they are part of the four cardinal virtues that are necessary for a Christian to possess but are not exclusive to Christianity. This means, as many have pointed out, there is nothing exclusively Christian about calls to feed the hungry, have justice, etc. Everybody wants that. In arguing for these things in a anthropologically centered manner, the Pope is doing nothing other than what every other humanitarian, Christian or not, has ever argued for.

Where is the role for religion? The Pope goes on to speak of religion's role, but unfortunately, it is not Christianity per se, but religions in general that are important in this secular humanist development:

Other cultures and religions teach brotherhood and peace and are therefore of enormous importance to integral human development (55).

Other religions are not just important - they are "of enormous importance." If they are of enormous importance, is that the same as saying they are essential? So we have gone from saying the Gospel is essential for building culture to saying that it is all religions and cultures which are essential. If they are essential just as the Gospel is, then does it not follow that Christianity and other religions are both of equal importance? In the following paragraphs the Pope tries to backtrack and say that this doesn't promote indifferentism or syncretism:

One possible negative effect of the process of globalization is the tendency to favour this kind of syncretism by encouraging forms of “religion” that, instead of bringing people together, alienate them from one another and distance them from reality. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. In these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves, and authentic development is impeded (CV 55).

Okay. That's a nice disclaimer and a good point. But as I see it, if you are saying that other religions "teach brotherhood and peace" (what weary terms!) and are of "enormous importance" along with Christianity, you are de facto promoting indifferentism, regardless of what disclaimers you throw in. Plus, if one looks at the paragraph above, other religions are evaluated solely on their social or communitarian emphasis - a religion is good or bad to the degree that it "brings people together" and whether or not "authentic development is impeded." It almost seems to be a utilitarian approach to religion that isn't taking into account whether or not these religions are true (which, of course, they are not).

But here is the kicker, in paragraph 57. Now we have the document calling for Christians to fulfill their duty (that's right, duty) to "unite" with non-believers and pagans in the task of building a world of universal brotherhood and peace:

This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator's watchful eye (57).

It is interesting that while the document correctly identifies the end of mankind's existence as living in one, united human family under the aegis of God the Father, it utterly fails to respect the preconditions upon which the family can be established - the Book of Revelation clearly says that those who are part of this great family are "those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14); i.e., they are Christians. The family of God that will be gathered at the end of time is the Church. The divine plan is not to have a unity of all the world's religion living in world peace under "the Creator's watchful eye." But you wouldn't know that from this document, which seems to state that God's "divine plan" is universal brotherhood and world peace without any reference to the Church or the eschatological expectation of the Church.

Another difficulty I had with this document was the way it accepts globalism as a fait accompli (see 33 & 42). For example, in pargraph 7:

In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God (CV, 7).

So, globalism is coming no matter what you think or want. You'd better just accept it and stop trying to view yourself in national or regional terms. That's the message I am getting here. I agree that globalism is probably an unstoppable force, but I don't think it needs to be welcomed and ushered in as a positive good. In fact, my private opinion is that it ought to be resisted. But as we'll see, this document sees globalism as a positive good that should be actively promoted, even politically.

When the document speaks of wealth and finance, it sounds positively socialist. Now, to give the Pope the benefit of the doubt, he has lived his whole life in socialist Europe, and maybe that is just the normal way he thinks of things like economics. Maybe there was a poor translation from the Italian; I don't know. But I do know how myself and many other in this country at least react to phrases like "redistribution of wealth" (or like Obama famously said, "spread the wealth around"). Yet we find again and again this phrase "redistribution of wealth" employed in Caritas in Veritate as a praiseworthy economic aim [my comments in red]:

Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country's international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development [i.e., governments should not abolish socialistic programs in order to shore up their economies] (33).

Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts, in order to regulate relations of exchange between goods of equivalent value. But it also needs just laws and forms of redistribution governed by politics, and what is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift [i.e., the taxpayers need to realize their taxes that go to welfare and wasteful statist programs are really a "gift" to the poor]. (37).

In this way [Paul VI] was applying on a global scale the insights and aspirations contained in Rerum Novarum, written when, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the idea was first proposed — somewhat ahead of its time — that the civil order, for its self-regulation, also needed intervention from the State for purposes of redistribution [i.e., it is a really great idea to conceive of the state as a mechanism by which wealth can be collected and redistributed]. Not only is this vision threatened today by the way in which markets and societies are opening up, but it is evidently insufficient to satisfy the demands of a fully humane economy. What the Church's social doctrine has always sustained, on the basis of its vision of man and society, is corroborated today by the dynamics of globalization (CV 39).

It is necessary to correct the malfunctions, some of them serious, that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples, and also to ensure that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty [i.e., more socialist tinkering with global economies is necessary in the name of equality] (CV 42).

Sometimes this document sounds downright Marxist. Look at this clause and the rhetorical language used to describe the world's inequality:

While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks (CV 75).

So we have the starving masses banging on the doors of the greedy capitalists who are oppressing them and the cold-hearted capitalist ignoring their plight. The document, in paragraph 22, refers to the inequality in the world as a scandal:

The scandal of glaring inequalities” continues (CV 22).

Really? Inequality is a scandal? That's not what Pius XI said in Divini Redemptoris (1937):

It is not true that all have equal rights in civil society. It is not true that there exists no lawful social hierarchy (Divini Redemptoris 33)

Now, there are different forms on inequality, and in all fairness, I think Benedict was referring to extreme inequalities between rich and poor, which Christians do have a duty to attempt to redress. But it is a reckless statement, "the scandal of glaring inequalities continues..." and it needs to be balanced with Pius XI's statement that there does exist a lawful social hierarchy and that it is not inherently unjust for there to be an inequality of rights in civil society. I guarantee you will never see Divini Redemptoris 33 quoted in any modern encyclical.

But even so, what does it mean to say glaring economic inequalities are a "scandal?" Does the Pope expect us to be able to right these inequalities? As my father, who is not Catholic but very astute, once said when he heard JPII using such language, "So what do you want us to do, John Paul, throw some money at them?" Of course Christ taught us that we should always care for the poor and remember that we serve Him in ministering to them, but He never set before us the goal of abolishing all poverty, not because it is not a worthy thought but because it is impossible to attain: "The poor you have with you always" (John 12:8).

The most controversial aspect of this encyclical is the apparent call for a one-world government. There are several places in the document where this is hinted at. First, in section 42, Benedict again mentioned redistribution of wealth, this time proposing some kind of global organization to manage this redistribution an ensure that it happens in a responsible manner. He warns us against a rash and "blind" opposition to globalism, which he sees as a potential for good:

Blind opposition would be a mistaken and prejudiced attitude, incapable of recognizing the positive aspects of the process, with the consequent risk of missing the chance to take advantage of its many opportunities for development. The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale; (CV 42)

So I guess if I opposed globalism I am prejudiced? Is that what that first sentence means? Later, in 49, he posits not only a world-wide redistribution of wealth, but a redistribution of energy resources, as well:

The technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption, either through an evolution in manufacturing methods or through greater ecological sensitivity among their citizens. It should be added that at present it is possible to achieve improved energy efficiency while at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy. What is also needed, though, is a worldwide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them. (CV 49)

I readily admit that developing countries should have access to energy. But the Pope's choice of wording here is very poor. Does he mean taking "energy resources" from the rich countries and giving them to the poor? That is what is implied by the word "redistribution." Perhaps he simply means wealthy countries need to invest in poorer countries, which would be fine, but does not merit using the word "redistribution."

So how does this document envision these redistributive processes of wealth and energy to be implemented? Presumably, most countries won't want to part with their wealth and energy. This is where the Pope starts talking about a one world authority "with real teeth" to implement these changes:

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, (67)

The most troubling thing about this paragraph is that he doesn't even discuss whether there should be a world political authority, but simply takes it for granted as a positive good. This "world political authority" will have control over the global economy, "food security", international security and disarmament as well an environmental protection. It is a New World Order. The Pope sees the necessity for this order as a consequent of globalization: world economic unity must give way to world political unity:

Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. (57)

"Hold on Boniface, hold on. Maybe you are exaggerating. Maybe he is just talking about a reworked and more effective United Nations. After all, that is how he begins this section. He really doesn't mean a world wide authority that would trump national sovereignity, does he?"

Let's look at the rest of paragraph 67:

Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization.

Not only is the Pope saying that this organization needs to have real power to bind other nations (a "universally recognized" power with authority to "ensure compliance") but he even says this authority is necessary if the stronger nations are to be kept in check. He is definitely calling for a one world political order here, one that trumps national identity, and I don't see much of a way around that.

Of course, many conservative-capitalist Catholics immediately jumped into the fray to explain how the Pope is really not calling for a one world system and how this is a perfectly capitalist document. I will address their arguments in Part II.

One more thing about Caritas in Veritate: the amount of space it wastes talking about things the Church has no business talking about, and thus vindicating the colloquial use of the verb "pontificating" for someone going on and on. First, we have a statement in 58 that seems to support a plan to tax or otherwise punish companies who are "using up shared environmental resources":

It is likewise incumbent upon the competent authorities to make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations: the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet

A liberal Catholic could easily use this paragraph to argue support Obama's Cap and Trade tax, which makes sure that evil, polluting businesses "incur the costs of using up shared environmental resources", as well as adhering to the economically suicidal Kyoto Protocols.

Next we have a statement on national trade imbalances:

Just and equitable international trade in agricultural goods can be beneficial to everyone, both to suppliers and to customers. For this reason, not only is commercial orientation needed for production of this kind, but also the establishment of international trade regulations to support it and stronger financing for development in order to increase the productivity of these economies. (CV 58)

Great. So the same document that is telling us that we are going to have to cede our authority to some corrupt, European world system is now telling us how to regulate our trade with China and India.

There's also a section on welfare reform:

[M]ore economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard. One way of doing so is by reviewing their internal social assistance and welfare policies, applying the principle of subsidiarity and creating better integrated welfare systems, with the active participation of private individuals and civil society. In this way, it is actually possible to improve social services and welfare programmes, and at the same time to save resources — by eliminating waste and rejecting fraudulent claims — which could then be allocated to international solidarity. A more devolved and organic system of social solidarity, less bureaucratic but no less coordinated, would make it possible to harness much dormant energy, for the benefit of solidarity between peoples. (CV 60)

Okay, this is silly. The document is calling for rich countries to provide welfare for developing countries. And where are we to get this money? By reforming our own welfare systems and taking money from American assistance programs and giving them to third world countries. The statement that we can have more coordination with less bureaucracy is especially laughable.

As if this wasn't enough, the Vatican apparently thought it had to stuff in a paragraph about tourism in here. That's right. Tourism. Why not? Every other topic under the sun is addressed. Let's see what weighty words we have from the Vatican on tourism:

An illustration of the significance of this problem is offered by the phenomenon of international tourism, which can be a major factor in economic development and cultural growth, but can also become an occasion for exploitation and moral degradation...We need, therefore, to develop a different type of tourism that has the ability to promote genuine mutual understanding, without taking away from the element of rest and healthy recreation. Tourism of this type needs to increase, partly through closer coordination with the experience gained from international cooperation and enterprise for development. (61)

That's enough. It's as absurd at the "Ten Commandments For Drivers." Ugghh. Well, here's what I want to ask whatever useless Vatican committee pasted this document together:


The Church's mission is the promulgation of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, NOT the reform of the tourism industry and the promotion of bankrupt, European statist agendas. Where is tourism in the deposit of faith that you think you have to pontificate about it? While there are thousands of priests out there preaching heresy from the ambo, why are you levelling these weighty platitudes about environmentalism? Most importantly of all, why is this encyclical not even really mention Jesus Christ AT ALL, as if the Church's mission is to build a secular world peace? Sure, I know it talks about basing solidarity on the Gospel, but it just uses this as a segue to get into socialism, tourism and all the rest. As Fr. Divo Barsotti once said about the modern Catholic Magisterium: "In the Catholic world of our time, Jesus Christ is too often simply an excuse to talk about something else."

A final point about this document is the citations. We have 159 citations in this encyclical. Here is a breakdown of quotes:

Rerum Novarum: 1

Quadrigessimo Anno: 1

St. Augustine: 1

St. Thomas: 1 (but not a real citation, more of an explication)

Populorum Progresso (Paul VI): 43

Various JPII: 70

The rest is a few quotes from other Paul VI documents, one from Pacem in Terris, and then a slur of citations from the most low-level papal statements imaginable:

Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York, 18 April 2008.

Benedict XVI, Address to young people at Barangaroo, Sydney, 17 July 2008.

Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Thailand on their “Ad Limina” Visit, 16 May 2008.

Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass, Islinger Feld, Regensburg, 12 September 2006

John Paul II, Interview published in the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix, 20 August 1997.

How about this one:

Jubilee of Workers, Greeting after Mass, 1 May 2000.

I didn't know a "Greeting after Mass" was something that was written down and recorded, let alone cited as a reference in an encyclical!

I mentioned above that I am not the judge of the Pope. Very true. It is not for me to pass authoritative judgment on these things. If minds smarter than mine say this encyclical is wonderful, so be it. But I did promise to give you my private opinion, and my private opinion is that this encyclical is one of the worst things to come out of the Vatican in the past 40 years. I love Benedict XVI, God knows I do. I have read a lot of his stuff from before and after he became Pope, and anyone who has knows that this document was not written by his hand.

Unfortunately, he has put his signature to it, which means it has some sort of authority that we must respect. Next time I will look at some of the comments from different Catholic commentators on what we are to make of this encyclical and demonstrate how many of their arguments attempting to explain it away are vain. I'm sorry if you find this review too frank; I know some do not think we should ever criticize anything that comes out of the Vatican. I disagree with that premise, but I understand your feelings. But the reason the Church is in a mess today is because Catholics sat by too idly a generation ago while Tradition was dismantled. We can't afford to make the same mistakes today.


tim mccarthy said...

Being dense I too have a problem these types of writing. I use to think sentences with a half dozen subordinate clauses was the mark of genius, but now in my old age I think Ernest Hemingway had it write short declarative sentences. puns intended

Alexander said...

Is it too much to complain that this document should of had something about the Social reign of Christ the King?

I also agree that it should be clearer.

I also agree that the crisis of faith is a more pressing issue; we need documents that condemn error and go after bad bishops and priests with actual force.

At the end of the day we still have lax bishops who let liturgical abuse and error run rampant in their dioceses.

Sam Danziger said...

I suspect you'll address it in the next post, but Phil Lawler over at Catholic Culture had some interesting things to say:

He (Pope Benedict XVI) has that admirable ability to express difficult ideas in easy language-- to make things seem simple even when they are complex.

Caritas in Veritate is not written in that admirable prose style. There are passages, certainly, that show the hand of the same master. But then there are whole sections of convoluted prose, and the overall structure of the document does not have the clarity, the logical flow, that one expects from the work of Pope Ratzinger.


As for tourism, I suspect that section was included due to the horrendous evils associated with international sex tourism.

In charity,

Athanasius said...

Bravo! Took the wind right out of me. Everything I was going to say but better.

Mark said...

You are right that this is not the Church's mission, but it is put forth as our task, not the Church's. Remember that one of the opening explanations is that it is the church's place to comment on moral issues, and the world's economies are not moral-neutral, being but the acts of men.

As for a global authority, I suspect he is saying that there should be an organization which can take actions which would, in this country: halt pornography, abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, etc. etc.

Keep an eye on Just Third Way blog
Wall Street Journal on Caritas in Veritate for analysis which considers the entire deposit of the faith.

Brad C said...

I read the entire encyclical the day it was released, and you have given voice to my concerns. I especially like the quote that Jesus Christ is an excuse to talk about something else. I thought the encyclical sounded somewhat like a policy paper released by a think-tank--but a policy paper lacking specifics.

My personal beef with the social encyclicals of the modern era is that they are addressed to political and economic leaders. They basically read like pleas to the political elites who are the very ones causing the problems we are in.

I would love for a Pope to address a social encyclical to laymen in such a way as to encourage local, decentralized action by people like us--average Catholics. The average person could read this encyclical and feel no obligation to behave any differently afterwards. It has an attitude of "someone really ought to do something about such and such".

For those of us who are a little skeptical about the prospects of the U.N. bringing about the reign of Christ the King, what can we do on a practical level besides vote for politicians advocating the liberal economic policies promoted in this document?

Anonymous said...

I just don't get it. This encyclical fails to teach:

--The Social Reign of Christ the King

--The union of church and state

It favors:

--That grossly evil secularist organization known as the UN

--a standing army for this evil organization

--the condemned agenda of the Sillon: cooperation with the believers in false religion (or no religion) in the humanist/humanitarian agenda.

I am so sick of this stuff

Anonymous said...

How is it spell in english "perplejo"? Because I am "perplejo" after reading CV, as you are.
An Argentine.

jack tollers said...

Sir, what I hate most about this encyclical is its very name. Caritate in veritate.

To say that this is one of the worse creatures delivered by the Vatican in the last 50 years, seems a bit over the top, doesn't it? And again, to say a thing like that sounds like a sin against charity.

Except that its perfectly true.

And to say it, like Phillip did, is a great act of charity.

Count me among the very grateful for that.

Another Argentine.

Johannes said...

Boniface, the call for a world political authority has been a feature of encyclicals since 1963. You can see that point 137 & following of John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris" is practically identical to the call in CV:

"137. Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are world-wide in their dimensions; problems, therefore, which cannot be solved except by a public authority with power, organization and means co-extensive with these problems, and with a world-wide sphere of activity. Consequently the moral order itself demands the establishment of some such general form of public authority."

As you know from my comment on your other post on CV, I am Peak Oil-aware. As such, I'd like to note that the above PT quote starts with "Today": maybe to your comfort, it can be reasonably assumed that, once several decades have passed after Peak Oil, the world will be back at a situation before that "Today".

Johannes said...

Point #49 on energy is best understood if you assume the Holy See is Peak Oil-aware.

I commented on the topic at

Johannes said...

And as a final comment from a Peak Oil-aware perspective, you can safely forget about tourism. In a Peak Oil context, it will be the canary in the coal mine.