Friday, July 17, 2009

Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth: Keeping it Real

"Trust your feelings, Luke" made a great line in the original Star Wars movie, and there's nothing wrong with emotions. But I make a point of feeling with my endocrine system and thinking with my central nervous system: not the other way around.

I've written before, about emotions and faith. (March 17, 2009, February 19, 2009, for starters) There's nothing wrong with emotions: they're a part of being human. But so is using reason.

I also have good reason to think that facts exist. They may be big, hard, sharp-edged and occasionally painful things: but they are real, and ignoring them isn't prudent. Acknowledging that there is a real world doesn't let me be 'sophisticated' as defined in some circles, but that I can live with.

This somewhat counter-cultural approach to objective reality is part of what drew me to the Catholic church - which is another topic. (April 5, 2009)

Maybe that's why I think that section 3. of Caritas in Veritate is about truth in relationship to charity, and reason being more important than emotion when it comes to charity.

I'm pretty sure I'm right, though:
"3. Through this close link with truth, charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations, including those of a public nature. Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. ... Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word 'love' is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism1 that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word."
(Caritas in Veritate, 3.)
The text I removed discusses truth as "the light that gives meaning and value to charity." It's a light of reason and of faith: ideas which are not at war with one another for Catholics. Charity, seen in this light of faith and reason, is both natural and supernatural. Faith and reason, united, make it possible for human intellect to see charity's "meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion."

So what?

I think it's reasonable to take section 3. as saying - in part - that facts are real, and that both facts and reason should be used when thinking about charity - and when practicing it. There's nothing wrong with emotions, but 'having a good feeling' about something doesn't necessarily make it right.

There's more in the encyclical, about truth and charity. Section 4. starts out with "Because it is filled with truth, charity can be understood in the abundance of its values, it can be shared and communicated...." (Caritas in Veritate, 4.)

I'll read the rest later. I've got other tasks to finish tonight, and I'd like to spend some time with my family before turning in.

Related posts:
Links to other posts about my study of Caritas in Veritate:
1"...'Fideism' is the name given to that school of thought — to which Tertullian himself is frequently said to have subscribed — which answers that faith is in some sense independent of—if not outright adversarial toward—reason...." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) is a Christian writer who flourished in the second and third century. There's little doubt that he was a passionate man, and embraced Catholicism with great emotional energy. On the other hand, that very cautiously worded "frequently said to have subscribed" may be a trifle misleading.

Tertullian's written defenses of Christianity and Christians appealed to reason, and although his writings don't necessarily line up with doctrines of the Church in all ways, he did, to the best of my knowledge, acknowledge that reason existed in God and was not distinct from God. He also, I understand, argued that God created what we live in out of nothing - basing his argument on Scripture and reason.

There's a fairly detailed discussion of Tertullian from a counter-cultural point of view in New Advent's "Tertullian." He's quoted and referred to quite often by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Presbyterian & Reformed-Roman Catholic Dialogue);" "Images of God: Reflections on Christian Anthropology;" "You shall not kill: God's Holy Law." EWTN's website has quite a few references to Tertullian, too, including "Monarchians," a discussion of a heresy of the second and third centuries.

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