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On this page, you will find:
1 - My own Commentary on the Encyclical Caritas In Veritate
2 - My own favorite Short Quotes and Photos a dozen of them
3 - A list of Other People's Commentaries on the Encyclical (English and French)
4 - My own very-quick Outline chapter by chapter
5 - My own Comments on the reactions to the Encyclical

1 - Commentary on the Encyclical: Caritas In Veritate Charity In Truth

What I loved most about Caritas In Veritate is the ability of Pope Benedict XVI to expose and intertwine four crucial truths at the very same time: two sets of issues (developmental social justice and individual moral) and to shed light on them from two angles (faith and reason). The developmental and social justice issues of today, whether they are local or global - and that is the main meat of the encyclical - are linked with the individual moral issues of today (such as openness to life and respect for the whole of man) and both of them are shown to depend on how well we are open to God, acknowledging our own transcendence, and what happens when we don't. Pope Benedict XVI is always expressing his points clearly and logically with constant references to reason, in an on-going effort to use both faith and reason to articulate the faith and expound the doctrines of the Church and to find common ground with non-believers. Because of the "reason" clause, he stressed the "truth" of charity right from the beginning, warning against misconstrued and misinterpreted charity, detached from ethical living.

In 79 paragraphs, the encyclical addresses all the crucial topics of development and the interdependence of the world needing to be matched by ethical consciences, including: religious freedom, the responsibility of the State, the international efforts of peace-building and joint strategies to curb military conflict. It did occur to me while reading the sections on social justice that it should please the "progressives" among us. And when I read his call to respect life, I thought the "conservatives" among us should cheer. But I must admit that because he is so persistent on challenging all of us to do both, talking about "redistributive justice, solidarity and the sharing of goods" and "rejecting demographic control and anti-birth mentality, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, embryo research and cloning" that I started worrying he was going to be rejected by most… But that is my own fear and, hopefully, on the contrary, his encyclical will be welcomed and debated and used as a creative and formative platform for a long time

If it is, then we will all benefit from it because it is a great wake-up call and the timing is absolutely perfect. He is reminding us that no matter the technological and material advances, if care and love and honesty is not part of the deal, eventually, the whole affair will collapse. He challenged two sacred cows: Technology and Psychology, saying that they are not enough, they can even stump our own growth, that because new technologies are fascinating, even intoxicating, there is the danger of turning us all into technocrats whose developmental growth in thinking and moral judgment is actually limited. He also warned of the dangers of neurological reductionism and over-simplifications which cannot answer our deepest needs, the proof of their limitations being in the wide-spread suffering of neuroses and addictions in our modern societies. Don't get me wrong, as far as new technologies are concerned, I'm a big fan of them, I have my own blog and I love facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn, and digital photography was created just for me! But the Pope is right to raise some red flags, he actually devoted a whole chapter to them (# 6).

Not only is this encyclical a kind of wake-up call but it is also a guidebook with many suggestions. A surprising one is a sort of "tax choice". Being able to allocate whether my taxes go to national defense or public schools or international aid? Sounds great! Another bold proposition is the reform of the UN, the World Bank and the International Tribunal of Den Hague; only the UN is actually mentioned by name, but he is referring to all current organizations with a global raison d'etre. Most of these institutions (including the European Union) have already turned into huge bureaucracies and now is the time to ask for more transparency and accountability, streamlined and simplified operations.

He is also asking to find new ways "to manage the global economy; to bring about 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, regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiary and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good". This is quite a bold vision! This is what the G8 and G20 are already trying to do on the political level but I think Pope Benedict is calling for something different, for new ways, based on the system of subsidiary (which is more people oriented) done in a true spirit of charity and solidarity (which is the only way to curb private hoarding and selfish aims). He is asking us to give more, and first of all to give of ourselves. It is quite doable nowadays, thanks to the internet, social networks and cell phones, new charitable troops can be raised in a grassroots manner.

Globalization is not in itself good or bad, it all depends what we make of it, and it is up to all of us to work it out together because that is exactly what the "universality" implied in "Catholic" means, because the call to work together does not come from us but from Him who sent us out to all the corners of the world and said that "He will draw all men to himself" and "He will be with us till the ends of time". I understand - and I agree - that there is much fear involved in facing changes and it often feels nowadays that the whole deck of cards is being re-shuffled too quickly. But I am very grateful for this wonderful and challenging encyclical, outlining the road ahead and the work to do, constantly weaving the 4 truths of social justice for the common good, with the on-going process of forming conscience (starting with our own!) under the watchful light of faith and reason. If you think about it, the responsible, courageous and generous future that he is calling for is already happening since the encyclical was posted on line, for all, for free… As far as the head of the Catholic Church is concerned, we know his name and address and we know his agenda; you can google the words Caritas In Veritate et Voila!

Caritas In Veritate
see English text here
see French text ici en français

Copyright©July-13-2009 Michele Szekely San Francisco

This article above was also published on Catholic.org here on 7/15/2009



2 - Short Quotes and Photos

Here are some of my favorite passages, illustrated with my own photos, hoping that the simple but always astonishing beauty found in nature will give the proper support to the beautiful and profound reflections of this Encyclical on man and on his proper development in the world.


Caritas In Veritate quotes #1


Caritas In Veritate quotes #2


Caritas In Veritate quotes #3


Caritas In Veritate quotes #4


Caritas In Veritate quotes #5


Caritas In Veritate quotes #6


Caritas In Veritate quotes #7


Caritas In Veritate quotes #8


Caritas In Veritate quotes #9


Caritas In Veritate quotes #10


Caritas In Veritate quotes #11


Caritas In Veritate quotes #12


Caritas In Veritate quotes #13

3 - List of Other People's Commentaries on the Encyclical:

4 - My own (very quick) Outline of the Encyclical, chapter by chapter

INTRODUCTION § 1-9
A most beautiful beginning! Charity in truth, in Christ, the heart of the Church's social doctrine; communication and communion; charity is love, creative, redemptive, to become instruments of grace, to weave networks of charity, for justice, for the common good; better be matched by ethical consciences.
Chapter 1: THE MESSAGE OF "POPULORUM PROGRESSIO" § 10-20
Review of Populorum Progressio and others, the apostolic tradition, the universality of the Church, the dangers of relying only on technology; "Humanae Vitae" and the strong links between life ethics and social ethics; "Evangelii Nuntiandi" and human liberation; progress is a vocation; human responsibility; the Christian vision of the human person and growth; establish authentic fraternity.

Chapter 2: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN OUR TIME § 21-33
Rescuing peoples from hunger, deprivation, disease, the malfunction of our economic growth, the superdevelopment of some, the waste; the Eastern countries in 1987, 1991; the new international trade, the new role of State, outsourcing, competition, the dangers of cultural eclecticism, relativism, levelling, the right to food, water; respect life, the errors of some NGO's, religious freedom, social doctrines interdisciplinary dimension, the deterioration of last 40 years, tariffs, decolonization, globalization.

Chapter 3: FRATERNITY, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY § 34-42
Introduces and explores the beautiful and radical concept of Gratuitousness, the logic of the unconditional gift, an attentiveness to ways of civilizing the economy; Labour and technical knowledge are a universal good, globalization in itself is neither good nor bad: steer the globalization of humanity in relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods.


Chapter 4: THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLE RIGHTS AND DUTIES, THE ENVIRONMENT
§ 43-52
Very strong arguments on the limits of "rights" when "responsibilities" are ignored, the dangerous escalation of never ending demands of rights; openness to life being a rich social and economic resources; involve local people in developmental programs, must be transparent about content and expenses, energy, abuse to the individual is linked to abuse of the environment.

Chapter 5: THE COOPERATION OF THE HUMAN FAMILY § 53-67
Terrific chapter on relationships (like in the Trinity), instead of the poverty of isolation, the Church's social doctrines for its "citizenship status", fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers for justice and peace, education, migrants, labor unions, financial ethics, cooperatives, and finally: reform the UN! Urgent need for a true world political authority, regulated by law, with subsidiarity and solidarity, inspired by charity in truth, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations (this last point in the last § being the most controversial).

Chapter 6: THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLES AND TECHNOLOGY § 68-77
Technology: its attractions and its limits, if sole criterion are efficiency and utility; because it is highly attractive, intoxication (I would have said addiction) but true freedom is only when we grow in moral responsibility; the limits of psychology, neurological reductionism, over-simplification which limits our spiritual growth, obscure it; new forms of slavery to drugs, lack of hope; the media and new forms of communications should have a civilizing effect; crucial battleground is bio-ethics, knowing is not just data, every knowledge is a minor miracle, never cease to marvel, need new eyes and new heart to raise above the materialistic vision of human events, to be able to glimpse the beyond that technology cannot give.
Conclusion § 78,79
Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. …The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism; Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as "Our Father!"



5 - My own comments on the reactions to the encyclical...

First I wrote a commentary on the Encyclical and now I am writing a follow up on the reactions to the Encyclical. I am sorry and saddened by the controversy erupting within Catholic circles. I am not talking about the secular media, I am talking about dedicated Catholics. It looks to me that Weigel's piece has taken the position of leader of the pack in the ones criticizing - and dismissing - the encyclical. In some ways (not all, but some) it is similar to the reaction to another encyclical: Humanae Vitae and that is because sex and money are some of the most powerful motors in our lives.

As far as following all advices laid out in HV, some people, usually of a liberal bent, refused some of them and became cafeteria Catholics. For them, and I am talking about people who identified themselves as Catholics and reasonable, as long as they were not committing adultery or incest, things that are clearly wrong, they could not see the good of insisting on chastity before marriage and refusing contraception within marriage. They were adamant about the freedom to stick to their own understanding of sexual relations and practices, as long as they were not hurting someone, they were not going to be docile and follow the Church.

As far as money is concerned (how easily we make it, invest it, how much we get to keep, how much we are asked to give away), some people, usually of a conservative bent, are resisting any changes to the current and most free version of capitalism, any changes to taxes and regulations - and they are being reasonable about it, they are certainly not advocating stealing or cheating others - but they are very adamant on having the complete freedom to do whatever they want with their own money and in insisting on such behavior, they have entered the cafeteria! The idea of one more UN-like organization being a global watch-dog is so appalling to them that they are calling it the arrival of the Anti-Christ.

But let's not throw away the baby with the bath water. The free markets will work best with solid ethical restraints just like our individual freedom needs to rest on a strong sense of responsibility. Pope Benedict XVI is the first one to call on us to use reason, to remind us of our duty to be a "civilizing force" in the world. Plus, it is not quite fair to label these groups liberal vs. conservatives, not only because these are becoming outdated political models, but because they represent weak points in all of us. We can certainly find parts of them in ourselves, depending on the moment, we are constantly tempted to be lenient or tolerant with this or that issue, whatever fits us best. And how do I know this? Because I only need to look at myself and recognize how easily I favor whatever works best for me, how quickly I turn to what is easier for me to understand… and because the temptation to do it alone, to work it out on our own, in our own way, is still the greatest.

O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!
O Holy Spirit, please come and visit us and bring us discernment.
O God, what would we do without your grace? Where would we go without you?


One more update, in August :
By "throwing away the baby with the bath water", I was thinking of "capitalism" or "the UN".
- when capitalism creates a safe space where the exchange of goods and ideas can happen, we all benefit from it. When the competition gets so fierce and relentless that people are brushed aside, when profits drive every exchange, then capitalism needs restraints and reform.
- with the UN every nation has a place at the table and is allowed to speak up, a table where the dialogue is constant and where the working out of consensus is the goal and that is a most noble goal which we should all support. If the weight of bureaucracy and the confusion created by competing lobbies and NGO's is threatening its smooth working, then it needs reorganization and reform.
But each one of them, capitalism or the UN, in and of themselves are great achievement and better not go down the drain with the bath water... or then, we will really be in trouble, much worse than now!


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