Diaz and the Pope
Just in case you haven't managed to carve out the time to read all the way through Caritas in veritate, may I recommend reading the official exchange between Miguel Diaz, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and Pope Benedict XVI? NCR has the full text of both remarks: Diaz's presentation of credentials, and Benedict's response. The latter gets a newspaper-style headline -- "Pope pushes Obama envoy on abortion, conscience protections" -- and that's certainly true; he did stress the importance of the Catholic point of view on those issues. But that's not all he said, and if you read the whole thing you'll find a neatly condensed overview of the themes addressed in Benedict's latest encyclical (and some of his other recent statements). Diaz's remarks also do a decent job summing up many of those themes -- with, of course, a few glaring exceptions. Here's a sample:
Your Holiness, since the beginning of your pontificate, your encyclicals have further developed Catholic social teaching, defending the dignity of all persons and inviting the human family to embrace the power of love in order to overcome conflict and divisions. You have consistently argued that the love of God is revealed in responsibility for others. Most recently, in Caritas in Veritate, you pointed out some critical areas that urgently require human responsibility and action. Your emphasis on moral imperatives is unique in the world. You have called for interreligious dialogue for the sake of peace, authentic stewardship of Gods creation in order to combat climate change and ensure food security, an ethical response to the financial crisis to mitigate its impact on the poor, and international cooperation to address issues related to the migration of peoples. Your urgent priorities coincide with those set forth by President Obama, and as Ambassador of the United States I look forward to working with the Holy See to advance our common interests.
Diaz quotes Obama a little too frequently for some, I'm sure -- but after all, that's basically his job. Anyway, here's the pope, bringing it home:
Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear "is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;" it is "a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good" (Address at the White House, 16 April 2008). ...Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, "a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized" (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15).
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.