Sunday, March 10, 2013

Best of Benedict #9

9) Caritas in Veritate - Charity in Truth, June 29th, 2009

This encyclical certainly was the most controversial of Pope Benedict's three.  Some felt that it had undue influence from the Roman Curia at large because at times, it has been suggested, the encyclical seems to lack the tone and topics that are considered the style of Pope Benedict.  

Much of the encyclical deals with the Church's social to help the poor, how laws ought to be prioritized, the dignity of workers, the respect for life, etc. etc.
What does strike me as odd is the specificity of some of the programs that Pope Benedict lays out in terms of how to help those in developing countries; this is not typically a hallmark of his other writings.  The fact that much of the encyclical contains more specific suggestions for implementing Catholic social teachings seems to be contradicted by the introduction to the encyclical itself, where we read, "The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim "to interfere" in any way in the politics of the States" (10).  Beyond this discrepancy, I see nothing controversial in the letter, and rather see it as Benedict situating authentic Catholic Social Teaching WITHIN and from the HEART of the Church, not something engaged in by Catholic guerillas in third world countries.  

The most controversial suggestions of the encyclical was a reference made to "globalization".  The Holy Father noted: "A sustained commitment is needed so as to promote a person-based and community-oriented cultural process of worldwide integration" (42).  Some of course read that and feared that the Holy Father was referring to some kind of one-world government, and thus added fuel to the fire of those who already saw the Church as the "Whore of Babylon" of the Book of Revelation.  As always, a careful reading of the context of the discussion reveals that such a simplistic understanding of what Pope Benedict was calling for simply misses the boat and is reductionist.