Friday, July 10, 2009

Recommended reading: John L. Allen, Jr., on "Caritas in Veritate"

Just read John L. Allen, Jr.'s, brief review of Pope Benedict's new encyclical and recommend it for those who are having trouble getting to reading the entire encyclical at this moment in time.

I offer here a portion of Allen's brief synthesis of the Encyclical that I found of particular interest as it pinpoints original and new contributions by Benedict. The highlights are mine:

"Nonetheless, there are a couple of new wrinkles in Caritas in Veritate.

"For one thing, Benedict XVI insists that Catholic social teaching must be seen as a package deal, holding economic justice together with its opposition to abortion, birth control, gay marriage, and other hot-button issues of sexual morality. The pope expresses irritation with “certain abstract subdivisions of the church’s social doctrine,” an apparent reference to tensions between the church’s pro-life contingent and its peace-and-justice activists.

"For the first time in a social encyclical, a pope argues that current demographic trends – in particular, population declines and rapid aging in parts of the developed world, especially Europe and Japan – illustrate the wisdom of Catholic sexual morality.

“ 'Decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called ‘replacement level’, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the ‘brain pool’ upon which nations can draw for their needs,' Benedict writes.

"Benedict called falling birth rates in the developed world a sign of “scant confidence in the future and moral weariness.”

"A second original touch in Caritas in Veritate is Benedict’s description of the emergence of a 'broad intermediate area' between private business firms and non-profit initiatives, made up of business enterprises that operate not just from the profit motive but also out of a sense of social responsibility. The pope explicitly cites the 'Economy of Communion,' linked to the 'Folocare' movement founded by the late Italian Catholic laywoman Chiara Lubich, which links almost 800 businesses worldwide in a commitment to pool a share of their profits in order to fund development and formational programs.

“ 'It is to be hoped that these new kinds of enterprise will succeed in finding a suitable juridical and fiscal structure in every country,' Benedict writes. 'The very plurality of institutional forms of business gives rise to a market which is not only more civilized but also more competitive.'

"Third, despite the argument of some social theorists that the nation-state may become obsolete in a globalized age, Benedict argues that 'both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State.' In fact, the pope says, the current economic crisis may mark something of a renaissance for the state, as public authorities once again assert control over economic life.

"One interesting twist to Caritas in Veritate is that Benedict XVI managed to pen a 144-page reflection on the globalized economy without once using the term 'capitalism.'

"Caritas in Veritate is the first social encyclical of the 21st century, and the third encyclical letter from Pope Benedict XVI, after Deus Caritas Est in late 2005 and Spe Salvi in 2007. The new encyclical carries the date of June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul."

-- John L. Allen, Jr.

For the whole review, go here.

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