When Pope Benedict XVI's third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate
, was released on July 7, it sparked world-wide discussion and commentary. Catholic World Report
*asked a group of leading Catholic intellectuals*
to reflect on the encyclical, its place in the larger body of Catholic social teaching, and Pope Benedict's vision of a well-ordered and just society.
J. Brian Benestad
, Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.
, Richard Garnett
, Thomas S. Hibbs
, Paul Kengor
, George Neumayr
, Tracey Rowland
, Father James V. Schall
, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico
share their thoughts on Caritas in Veritate
J. Brian Benestad:
In 1986 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation
under the signature of its prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The Instruction
says that Catholic social doctrine (CSD) had to emerge from the practice of the Christian faith. “The Church’s social teaching is born of the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands (summarized in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbor in justice) with the problems emanating from the life of society” (no. 72). CSD helps people to know what love and justice require in the various circumstances of life, knowledge that would escape many without instruction. In his book on the morals of the Catholic Church St. Augustine had underscored the difficulty of carrying out the commandment to love’s one’s neighbor: “From this commandment are the duties pertaining to human society, about which it is difficult not to err.” In other words, it is easy for human beings to love one another badly both in personal encounters and in devising proposals for the common good of society. Pope Benedict’s new encyclical builds on the earlier CDF Instruction
by emphasizing that love has to be guided by truth. “‘Caritas in veritate
’ is the principle around which the Church’s social doctrine turns.” If society’s work for justice (“the minimum measure” of love) were guided by truth, argues the Pope, society would not permit abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, the priority of rights over duties, and the exclusion of religion from the public square. Love of neighbor is not compatible with these practices.