Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Caritas in Veritate - one year on

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the publication of the Pope`s Encyclical Caritas in Veritate

You may have almost forgotten about the Encyclical. It has not quite "caught on" as the Pope`s other two Encyclicals.

Yet it is probably the most "relevant" and prescient in these challenging economic times when the emphasis is on austerity and cut backs and unemployment looks likely to go through the roof.

The child abuse crisis has overshadowed a great deal of the Pope`s teaching in other fields as well as in Social Doctrine. Perhaps such an effect is not entirely unintended.

Its message has not been to the taste of all.

Yet arguably and (perhaps surprising to learn) much of the Vatican`s effort over the past year has been to promulgate the message of the Encyclical at the highest levels and frequently.

The Pope has of course delivered talks on the Encclical and peppered his talks with references to the Encyclical.

But the individual who has been in the forefront of pushing the Encyclical has been the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone

On 1st June 2010 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood (1 July 1960), the Holy Father addressed the following Letter to Cardinal Bertone:

"Since we are on regular, reciprocal familiar terms that stem from meeting almost every day, it is right and proper to address our heartfelt congratulations to you personally on the 50th anniversary of your ordination to the priesthood. ...

Calling to mind more recent times, we wanted you as our close collaborator, choosing you as Secretary of State, with whom to share decisions and duties. Without any doubt you are doing your utmost with great commitment and expertise to share in our pastoral projects for the universal Church and in our projects for the whole world, so that God's family may be strengthened and the world become more harmonious.

Thus, as we wholeheartedly rejoice in the commemoration of the happy beginnings of your priesthood, we express these sentiments of esteem and our affectionate congratulations while, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Help of Christians, and of St John Bosco, we implore an abundant reward from the Divine Teacher."

It is an affectionate letter and was widely seen of the great confidence and trust which the Pope has towards the Cardinal

It might be said that between the two there is not a cigarette paper`s width of a difference.

Back to the Encyclical.

Recently the Cardinal delivered an important address on the Encyclical at the 7th International Symposium of University Docents, which took place June 24-27 in Rome.The symposium, centered on the theme, "Caritas in Veritate: Toward an Economy at the Service of the Human Family: Person, Society, Institutions," was sponsored by the Vicariate of Rome in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

"The cardinal noted how "Caritas in Veritate" calls for the economy to be understood as "human activity that accords with the integral development of peoples."

He warned that making the economy an absolute will end up "subverting the order between ends and means."

In other words, the prelate explained, the finite is made into a "grave reality, complete and omnipotent," and "the earthly end is confused with the transcendent."

He explained that "in Benedict XVI's judgment, the economy should be thought out, organized and oriented in order to contribute to the realization of integral human development."

The Pope "stresses how the economy, which should foster the common good of the human family, should have as a point of reference a model of development corrected of its dysfunctions and of its technocratic, materialistic and consumerist distortions," Cardinal Bertone pointed out.


He continued, "What, therefore, in a positive vein, is the model of development that should guide the realization of the worldwide common good and, consequently, of the economy?"

The prelate affirmed: "In addition to having present a notion of development defined by material and cognitive indexes, such as income, security of house, health, education -- individuals should be in a position to make good choices.

"In a word, they must have the possibility to act correctly."

He noted that this can only happen when people have access to knowledge of their ultimate end, to have the chance to learn of "the true, the good and God."

"Without reference to the true, to the good and to God, considered as Supreme Truth and Supreme Good, it is not possible to establish a hierarchy between human goods," the cardinal said.

"Hence," he added, "it will not be possible to lead a unified life in the human sense and in human fulfillment."

Cardinal Bertone explained that this implies that, in all its phases, the economy should be structured according to a personal-centered and communitarian dimension, "in a word, according to transcendent dimensions."

He affirmed, "There will be, then, an economy harmonious with the universal common good, an economy that the various social subjects must seek to foster for the unification of the human family." "

But this is only one and the latest of a great number of talks, speeches and addresses which the Cardinal has delivered about the Encyclical.

Surprisingly on the Vatican website man of these speeches are only in Italian but here is a selection:

There is a translation in English and is probably the most important clarification of the Pope and the Vatican`s thinking about the current economic crisis and the philosophy which should underlie any public policy which seeks to guide the economy and society out of the present situation.

There is a translation in English

Rather surprisingly this major speech subtitled "Historical Discourse on the Economic Problems in Europe: Caritas in Veritate for a New Humanism" has not been translated into English: it is only given in Italian and in German

His speech included a wide ranging historical overview. There are also recondite references to Nicolas d'Orèsme (1320-1382), the Jesuits in South America in the 18th and 19th centuries, St Bernard of Chiaravalle, Carta Caritatis (1089), Luca Pacioli, the Prediche Volgari (1427) of San Bernardino of Siena, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola`s Oratio de hominis dignitate.

4th December 2009: Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on the occasion of the Second Review Conference of the landmark Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction [30 November - 4 December 2009, Cartagena - Colombia]

11th December 2009: Eucharistic Celebration for the Directive and Executive Board, Staff of U.I.R. (Rome Industrialist and Enterprises Association) on the occasion of Christmas

This talk is on "Democracy and the Church"

This talk was subtitled "The Social Doctrine of the Church and the New Generations of Catholic Politicians"

In light of this substantial fleshing out of the "Social Doctrine" of Pope Benedict XVI by his second in command, it is diificult to see why the organised opponents of the Pope have reacted so badly to this Pope. His "Social Doctrine" is quite firmly left of centre.

The people who are promising to demonstrate against and disrupt the Pope`s visit to Britain are generally on the left. Regrettably they overlook his teaching on far more important matters than sexual licence and liberty and on which the appear to share some common ground with the Pontiff.

When the Pope comes to deliver his important address at Westminster Hall in London in September, it is likely that he will take an opportunity to speak about Social Doctrine. After all, London is one of the great financial centres of the world and the greatest financial centre in Western Europe.

It would be a pity therefore if the demonstrations promised for the Pope`s visit were to diminish or obliterate the Pope`s message.

For most people at the moment what is the overarching concern ? "It`s the Economy, stupid !"

Some "Vatican insiders" have described Cardinal Bertone as not being intellectually bright. However by emphasising social and economic matters and how the Church can bring to bear its expertise on contemporary social and economic questions, Cardinal Bertone is proving such critics to be greatly mistaken