You know you're living in interesting times when the pope decides to write about the economy.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Tuesday after Pope Benedict XVI released his 44-page encyclical, titled "Caritas in Veritate"
or "Charity in Truth," popes only address financial issues in encyclicals "during moments of tectonic shift" such as the Industrial Revolution (1891, Pope Leo XIII, argued for workers' rights) and the Great Depression (1931 Pope Pius XI, warning about the dangers of capitalism run amuck).
In the Catholic tradition, encyclicals are open letters written by the pope to the bishops of the church, addressing big issues ranging from dangers to the world at large or the souls of church members. Although the Vatican does an outstanding job of utilizing modern communications -- Pope Benedict XVI has a Facebook page (you can be his friend, but you can't poke him) and his Web site, pope2you.net, offers iPhone content -- videos of the pope's travels and speeches -- encyclicals remain a critical form of discourse.