Thoughts on Caritas in Veritate: Part 1

July 10, 2009

Again, you can read the encyclical here. Whenever I quote, I’m going to only stick in the most striking part of a section or paragraph for the sake of space. I am also going to delete any links the text has, which is mainly references. If you want to look at them, go to the original text and find where I quote.

Section 2:

“I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility. Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate(Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.”

Amen. Without the Truth, charity is worthless. Without meeting the needs of people though charity, the truth is worthless to them. One has no time to think of Christ when one is agonizing in hunger.

Section 6 is a mess:

“First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice.”

I’m sorry, but charity is an act of mercy, not justice. Justice demands our eternal punishment for, as my pastor would say, “our cosmic treason to the Creator of the Universe” (id est, our sin); mercy is getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve shelter, nourishment, comfort, or the myriad other things that are charitably given. I did not deserve that bed that was mysteriously given to me (though I am grateful of it); I did not even deserve the mattress that messed up my back. Claiming that people deserve even what they have shows a false sense of God.

And, after talking at length about how Truth is absolute, how can he say that every society draws up their own definition of justice?

So, this is supposed to develop things lined out in an earlier encyclical? Let’s look at the summarizing points (Section 11):

“The first is that the whole Church, in all her being and acting — when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity — is engaged in promoting integral human development. She has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities: all the energy she brings to the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity is manifested when she is able to operate in a climate of freedom. In not a few cases, that freedom is impeded by prohibitions and persecutions, or it is limited when the Church’s public presence is reduced to her charitable activities alone.”

Amen. You exclude the Message of the Gospel from the Body of Christ’s activities and the Church’s efforts are for naught. For that to happen, the Church needs the freedom to do it’s thing.

Though I am not quite sure what that “integral human development” nonsense is about.

“The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity. Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him. In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity’s right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that “becomes concern and care for the other.””

Huh? I’m sorry, but this does not quite make sense to me. Is he saying that institutions of charity are necessary, but need to be run in a Godly way and designed to create encounters with God or they are worthless? Did I read that right?

Section 15:

Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.””

Amen. You cannot promote charity AND genocide simultaneously (like the UN currently does with the Millennial Development Goals).

“Paul VI clearly presented the relationship between the proclamation of Christ and the advancement of the individual in society. Testimony to Christ’s charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part and parcel of evangelization, because Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person. These important teachings form the basis for the missionary aspect of the Church’s social doctrine, which is an essential element of evangelization. The Church’s social doctrine proclaims and bears witness to faith. It is an instrument and an indispensable setting for formation in faith.”

Again, Amen. If you don’t mercifully provide for the basic needs of people, the Gospel would be useless to them. Notice that charity is a part of evangelism and not a end in and of itself.

Section 17:

“Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility. The “types of messianism which give promises but create illusions” always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal. This false security becomes a weakness, because it involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means for development, while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy, because it sets them free. …This freedom concerns the type of development we are considering, but it also affects situations of underdevelopment which are not due to chance or historical necessity, but are attributable to human responsibility. This is why “the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance”. This too is a vocation, a call addressed by free subjects to other free subjects in favour of an assumption of shared responsibility.”

The freedom to be charitable is important. If the system forces one to give, it is not charity, it is coercion. It does reduce people to subservience; it makes the well-to-do submit to it and the not well-to-do rely on it for sustenance.

On the other hand, “assuming shared responsibility” would also deny the humanity of the poor. Saying it is the fault of the well-to-do that one is poor is wrong. People need to take responsibility for their own actions and station in life. Merciful charity would help the poor improve their lot on the initiative of the poor, not subsidize bad behavior. Removing the pressure to develop is a cruel, cruel thing to do.

Section 18:

“Besides requiring freedom, integral human development as a vocation also demands respect for its truth. …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””


Section 19:

“Paul VI, in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order. He invited us to search for them in other dimensions of the human person: first of all, in the will, which often neglects the duties of solidarity; secondly in thinking, which does not always give proper direction to the will. Hence, in the pursuit of development, there is a need for “the deep thought and reflection of wise men in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew”. But that is not all. Underdevelopment has an even more important cause than lack of deep thought: it is “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples”. Will it ever be possible to obtain this brotherhood by human effort alone? As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is.”

God needs to be the societal glue for charity to have any real value. Trying to develop it without Him in the mix will only lead to Satan’s Evil Empire, no matter how “good” the intentions are.

And that is the end of Chapter 1. Seeing as I’m at a bit over 1800 words and only a quarter of the way through the encyclical, I’ll continue on with my thoughts later in separate posts.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on Caritas in Veritate: Part 1”

  1. Tony G Says:

    Like I said before, you’re going to disagree with a lot of it because you’re not Catholic, but it’s nowhere to the left of Obama Socialism that it was made out to be…

  2. liberexmachina Says:

    I do realize that I am going to have theological differences with the text. You know I am a guy that sides with the Orthodox in the Catholic/Orthodox differences (not that I am doing so to be ornery). I know I am going to see things in there that someone more anti-Papist than I am would call heretical. That is why I am only focusing on the most salient points to the argument being presented and not falling into the various rabbit holes I could go into.

    I am going to reserve judgment on that until I finish reading it. Having only gone through the Intro and Chapter 1, I have not gotten to the meat of the encyclical yet (as far as I know, but I doubt the argument was front-loaded in the “look who cohesive we are being” chapter).

    We will see if comic books distract me from getting Part 2 out tomorrow…

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