Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caritas in Veritate: Charity, Illumined by the Light of Reason and Faith

I've been reading about disclosure and disclaimers lately, so I'll start with one.

I'm a devout Catholic. And, I'm a Catholic layman. My opinions and observations are my own. I do my best to make sure that they're in line with Catholic teaching, though.

Okay. Where was I. Right. section 7 of Caritas in Veritate. Today's first stop: section 8.

It starts with a reference back to Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio encyclical. (Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Development of Peoples (March 26, 1967))
"...He taught that life in Christ is the first and principal factor of development[6] and he entrusted us with the task of travelling the path of development with all our heart and all our intelligence[7], that is to say with the ardour of charity and the wisdom of truth...."
(Caritas in Veritate, Section 8)
Pope Benedict XVI drops the names of a couple other encyclicals, too:Before John Paul II's Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, only Rerum Novarum had been commemorated with a follow-up encyclical. Section 8 ends with this:
"...I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered 'the Rerum Novarum of the present age', shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity."
(Caritas in Veritate, Section 8)
Starting section 9 now. Globalization is happening. No surprises there. There are places where people grow, make, or catch everything they need: but they're getting fewer by the generation. Can't say that I'm sorry about moving out of the stone age, myself: but that's another topic.

Another quote:
"...The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development. Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value...."
(Caritas in Veritate, section 9)
The original had the words I show in bold in italics, presumably for emphasis. Since I've been in the habit of putting quotes more than about a sentence long in italics, I'd have to either change the format of this blog - and others - or find another way to show emphasis. What can I say? I took the easy way out.

Faith and Reason?!

The idea that faith and reason, religion and science are at war with each other is pretty firmly rooted in Western culture: sort of like a persistent wart.

I've written about this before. ("Faith and Reason, Religion and Science" (March 20, 2009), " 'If you must see ghosts ...' Materialism, Being Spiritual, and Uncle Deadly" (December 18, 2009))

Back to Caritas in Veritate, Section 9

"Praxis"?! I can see why some people prefer what I'll call 'sound bite Christianity' - anchoring religious feelings onto a few uplifting, short, and simple phrases. That's not my style, to put it mildly.

"Praxis" means "translating an idea into action". (Princeton's WordNet)

So, why didn't the Pope write "translating an idea into action," if that's what he meant? For one thing, my guess is that we're looking at the official English translation of the original, and that as many terms as practical were left 'as is.' For another, which is shorter: "praxis" or "translating an idea into action"?

But I'm getting off-topic.

When Caritas in Veritate came out, someone said that the Pope was "purposefully vague". (July 18, 2009) There's some truth - a little - in that.

I've said this before: The Catholic Church isn't American. It's quite literally the "universal" Church.

There are Catholics in places like America, Kenya, Argentina and Philippines. Those countries don't all have the same culture, the same local language, and the same economic circumstances.

Which makes this excerpt make sense, I think:
"...The Church does not have technical solutions to offer[10] and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States.'[11] She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values - sometimes even the meanings - with which to judge and direct it...."
(Caritas in Veritate, section 9)
There's a very good reason for not offering (or ordering) "technical solutions" for all churches in all countries.

We're not all alike.

Take liturgical dance, for example. The Catholic Church has very clear teachings on whether or not it's okay to dance as part of a Mass:
  • Yes!
  • No!
It depends on where you are. (January 10, 2010)

That business of not interfering with the policies of states? You won't see the Catholic Church saying something like "Thou Shalt Not Drive upon the Left Side of the Road." On the other hand, when state policy involves infanticide: Then you can expect the Church to bring up moral issues.

There's that thing about truth, again.
"...For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth...."
(Caritas in Veritate, section 9)
It was that sort of passion for truth that led me to the church, decades back. But that's another topic.

Next stop in Caritas in Veritate: Chapter One. Everything up to now's been part of the Introduction. Hoo boy.

Related posts on:
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