Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

There is a lot of scuttlebutt about the internet on Caritas in Veritate.

I've only read quotes and did a quick overview of some reactions. From what little I've read of it(I'll have more on the weekend), it's advocating democracy, a society where hard work and education gives everyone a chance to provide for their families, it's about love, caring for society and our poor, avoiding profit as the exclusive goal, greed and hording riches.

Father Z has a sane round up of encylibites here.

The excerpts I've read from encyclical don't seem straight-forward. It's observations without concrete conclusions. There's just enough ambiguity to exploit, which is never a good thing.

Inside Catholic/American Catholic communist commentator Joe Hargrave spins his usual and customary web here. Wading through his insufferable drivel, Joe has cracked the code - the Pope is giving the nod and the wink to Distributism.

Following his predecessors Benedict renews the call for greater worker participation in business, greater job security, policies that secure the interests of the family against the fluctuations of the market. Distributism, I believe, gets a nod as Benedict, quoting Paul VI, writes:

Business activity has a human significance, prior to its professional one. It is present in all work, understood as a personal action, an “actus personae” which is why every worker should have the chance to make his contribution knowing that in some way “he is working ‘for himself’”. With good reason, Paul VI taught that “everyone who works is a creator”. (41)

Making all things we do an act of love for the people we work with, the product we push out and in an environment where the owners of the business are doing the same "in some way he is working for himself". It's a call to loving service from the top to the bottom. It's a about truth and the sanctity of life. It's a warning about the selfish trajectory we are on whereby we are so desensitized to the pain around us that we no longer have our finger on the pulse of what is human.

But, everything to Joe is a coded message about Distributism. I have no patience for Catholic apostolates giving Hargrave a podium to sell Karl Marx communism as Catholic theology. It's as foolish as stacking catechesis with dissent and hoping the uneducated can find their way through the scandalous to the truth.

Caritas in Veritate Cliff Notes according to Thomas Reese says the Pope wants to architect a new political power - we are done with Christ and Christendom as the model and summit of our life on earth. There is an urgent need for a true world political authority, says the Pope.

Did this thing make it to it's final edit or is it being taken out of context?

It's the United Nations, according to the New York Times.

George Weigel is quite critical out of the starting gate. From the little I've read, I'm afraid I agree with his assessment. God Bless the Pope, but... this encyclical just doesn't seem to pull all it's point together well enough to be a cohesive instrument reflecting Church teachings.

the passages that reflect Justice and Peace ideas and approaches that Benedict evidently believed he had to try and accommodate. Some of these are simply incomprehensible, as when the encyclical states that defeating Third World poverty and underdevelopment requires a “necessary openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion.” This may mean something interesting; it may mean something na├»ve or dumb. But, on its face, it is virtually impossible to know what it means.
The encyclical includes a lengthy discussion of “gift” (hence “gratuitousness”), which, again, might be an interesting attempt to apply to economic activity certain facets of John Paul II’s Christian personalism and the teaching of Vatican II, in Gaudium et Spes 24, on the moral imperative of making our lives the gift to others that life itself is to us. But the language in these sections of Caritas in Veritate is so clotted and muddled as to suggest the possibility that what may be intended as a new conceptual starting point for Catholic social doctrine is, in fact, a confused sentimentality of precisely the sort the encyclical deplores among those who detach charity from truth.
There is also rather more in the encyclical about the redistribution of wealth than about wealth-creation — a sure sign of Justice and Peace default positions at work. And another Justice and Peace favorite — the creation of a “world political authority” to ensure integral human development — is revisited, with no more insight into how such an authority would operate than is typically found in such curial fideism about the inherent superiority of transnational governance. (It is one of the enduring mysteries of the Catholic Church why the Roman Curia places such faith in this fantasy of a “world public authority,” given the Holy See’s experience in battling for life, religious freedom, and elementary decency at the United Nations.But that is how they think at Justice and Peace, where evidence, experience, and the canons of Christian realism sometimes seem of little account.)......
The incoherence of the Justice and Peace sections of the new encyclical is so deep, and the language in some cases so impenetrable, that what the defenders of Populorum Progresio may think to be a new sounding of the trumpet is far more like the warbling of an untuned piccolo.

Perhaps it all means the Vatican is about to divest itself of it's wealth. Sell off it's gold and precious gems and paintings and jewels, sell all it's possessions, redistribute their wealth to the poor. Perhaps the Curia will respond to the urgent need of a new world centralized political power and they'll all become United Nations Ambassadors.

Look on the bright side, at least prolife policies will finally come out of the United Nations.

What is next?

Maybe on Friday, the Pope will join hands with Obama and sing "We are the World, We are the People" behind a Michael Jackson backdrop while the Holy See moondances in the Sistine Chapel.

This world sure is getting to be a crazy place.

In the end, I think it all boils down to this: At one point in Christ's ministry, a rich man asked him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. You know the routine, Christ told him - you can't kill, steal, commit adultery, bear false witness - honor your mother and father, the Commandments. The gentleman responded that he had been observing these Commandments since he was a child.

Christ told him there was one thing left - sell everything he had and give to the poor - and then he would have treasures in Heaven.

The rich man wasn't a very happy camper. I don't think so Dude, what else you got.

Jesus looked at him (now sad) and said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like no one has read the introduction! The Pope explains everything in that. "Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience & responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests & the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present." Well so much for the UN! Further in the intro he states "The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim "to interfere in anyway in the politics of States". see ya later NYTimes - ah don't ya just love the media!

From the beautiful City of Boston said...


I'm anxious to have the right kind of time to read the entire thing in it's context. I'm sure it is rich in context. I think we all get the love/truth/service memes. However, I'm not sure an introduction is going to explain suggestions that the world urgently needs a new world political authority and other citations that are puzzling but I look forward to reading it. The press delights in taking things out of context but there are some crackerjack theologians who have opined that it's written in such a way that there is no possible way to know what he was talking about and therefore open to the wiles of conjecture we now see out there. The conjecture can not be rebutted because the substance and flow doesn't give any indication what he was talking about.

We'll see in about a week or two how it actually pans out.

JP II was a master at writing encyclicals that didn't leave a crumb that could be exploited. This Pope has other gifts and treasures. If it turns out he left a few holes, it's ok to point it out. He is a big boy. He knows we love him.