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Allen Back on his Game

John Allen received some mild criticism on this blog for his report on the new Motu Proprio entrusting the ongoing dialogue and discernment regarding the Society of Saint Pius X to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.Evidently stung by the perceptive remarks of a number of the comments on the thread, John has stepped up to the plate and hit a triple with his new column from Rome. The most interesting part is his further reflections on Caritas in Veritate. Here is a passage that particularly caught my attention:

Yet if there's a $64,000 question left hanging by Caritas in Veritate -- a point where Benedict's teaching seems interesting and important, but cries out for more meat on the bone -- it's probably this: What exactly would the "true world political authority" urged by the pontiff actually look like?In keeping with papal social teaching as far back as John XXIII's Pacem in Terris in 1963, Benedict XVI argued that the development of a global system of governance is an urgent priority, both "to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis" and "to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration."Yet for a bit of counsel that's been around at least for 46 years, the outlines of what popes mean by a "true world political authority" are notoriously fuzzy.Popes themselves -- including, it must be said, Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate -- often don't seem terribly clear what they have in mind. Sometimes it seems like they're talking about a formal, constitutional one-world government -- a sort of United Nations on steroids. Yet in the same breath, popes usually invoke the principle of subsidiarity, which implies a devolved system of decision-making at the lowest possible level. How to square these two points remains a bit of a mystery.

The rest is here.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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"How to square these two points remains a bit of a mystery."Mystery, for sure. The teaching on subsidiarity notwithstanding, neither this pope nor his predecessor has felt comfortable with putting this principle into practice. "Talk is cheap," as they say. Over the years, we've seen anything but subsidiarity. Instead, we've seen increasing centralization in Rome. The bishops function as nothing more than functionaries of the Vatican. I'm guessing Benedict has in mind (as Allen suggests) a "United Nations on steroids" that would mirror the Catholic Church.

The human race is not yet, perhaps never will be, ready for the enactment of such a scheme. It would be folly to make a concrete proposal, since it would almost inevitably be unworkable and certainly unacceptable. Is there any credit in pointing out that a concept is desirable without offering a concrete plan. Not much, I think.

I think lack of precise policy details is precisely the stuff of Papal social teaching, which limits itself to principles and does not prescribe detailed technical solutions, as Caritas in Veritatis itself clear states.I'm surprised John Allen seems to have missed this point.God Bless

What if the principles are obvious but the devil is, as often, in the details?

I have heard it said that after photo ops and exchange of gifts, the Pope and the President will have about one half hour of face to face time. It would be intriguing if, rather than a romp through disparate issues, the question Allen raises were to be the focus of their exchange.It seems to me that the passage from principle to detail is a challenge to the creativity of the world's political leadership. It is just possible that the Vatican discerns in Mr. Obama some of the requisite creativity.

I'm not sure what the Pope has in mind, but when I look down the road 20 years, I see one nation powerful and rich enough--and holding all our mortgaged assets--to be an aggressor against the world. And that nation is no friend to the Pope's religious freedom agenda.When China almost certainly makes a move (have the challenges from N Korea been test balloons?) will there be a coalition strong enough to maintain places of freedom in the world?

The principle of subsidiarity is a formal principle: as much freedom as possible; as much authority as necessary, is how John Courtney Murray summed it up. OK, we're not supposed to take from an individual or small community responsibility for what they can do well and make it the responsibility of a larger group. But who decides when the individual or small group is not doing well what they should be doing? And by what criteria? The principle itself does not supply answers to these questions, and so does not substitute for the exercise of intelligence and reason. If you want to see how difficult it is to apply the principle, look at the European Union whose Maastrick Treaty invokes it.As for its application within the Church, some Anglicans say that it is honored in their idea of the autonomy of their provinces. Others point out that the principle requires the intervention of a higher authority when the autonomy threatens the Communion, and, to the dismay of the first group, they urge that greater authority be given to the Lambeth Conference or to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I think what the Holy Father has in mind is some sort of juridical structure with teeth that would uphold and enforce international law and agreements, which have been severely damaged -- and almost totally disregarded -- by the United States over the past 50 years or so, but increasingly so over the terms of our last five presidents. U.S. officials, both elected and non-elected (such as military officers) should not be exempt from war crimes trials.

John Allen's piece is also a testimony to how important he is in the Catholic world, because he is able to identify the spin on each side, and then get to the real teachings and challenges.It seems right to say that it is not in the purview of encyclicals to present exact policy or structural proposals, but rather to outline certain broad directions. The Pope in the encyclical states directly that solidarity and subsidiarity need each other - this has always been an implication of CST, but Benedict states it with a directness that is helpful. The "solidarity" side is something like the world authority - concrete ways to manifest "the responsibility of everyone for everyone." The "subsidiarity" side is something like the micro-organizations of grace (e.g. Focolare, cooperatives) that also appear in the encyclical. The vision here is for both. Some will see this as contradictory, as wanting two things that don't go together. Maybe it is - CST has always been a bit utopian (though surely Catholic teaching on lots of other things is pretty utopian, too!). But it is instructive to see what this world solidarity/gratuitousness subsidiarity alliance has as common ground: BOTH are alternatives to the "market-plus-state" regime. That is, both very large and powerful economic entities and very large and powerful states (i.e. today's world) are the threats to BOTH a world authority (imagine if environmental agreements could be enforced in all countries! imagine if military actions were more constrained by the UN!) AND to small-scale economies of grace (e.g. capitalist markets devour companies that might care for their workers, regulations make it impossible for small farmers to band together and create a small-scale food processing plant for local consumption).So, is the takeaway that "solidarity-plus-subsidiarity" means moving away from "market-plus-nation-state"?

David,I share your high regard for John Allen. Needless to say, my opening remarks on the post were tongue in cheek.Joseph Komonchak's appeal to "the exercise of intelligence and reason" echoes, of course, Bernard Lonergan's analysis of intellectual conversion. Caritas in Veritate also stresses the need for moral and religious conversion. For example, in number 71 the Pope writes:"Development will never be fully guaranteed through automatic or impersonal forces, whether they derive from the market or from international politics. Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good. Both professional competence and moral consistency are necessary."And in number 79 he writes:"Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if hearts of stone are to be transformed into hearts of flesh (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth divine and thus more worthy of humanity. "There are simply no shortcuts or facile solutions. Nor are there guarantees that we will respond intelligently, reasonably, and responsibly to the challenges we face.

Dantes thoughts on world government repay study. For a long period he advocated strong rule by the emperor as a counterweight to the hated Boniface VIII (and also aas a means to tame the rising power of France). His De Monarchia presents this theme in abstract terms based on a sharp distinction between two ends of man, natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal. But even then, at the very end of his treatise Dante added a proviso that has always puzzled commentators, to the effect that the emperor should reverence the Pope as an elder brother, thus seeming to undermine his advocacy of a robust separation of church and state.Later, with the death of Emperor Henry VII, Dante appeared to lose hope in his favored solution and instead turned to Franciscan apocalypticism (though with Bonaventuran caution). The spiritual regeneration of souls rather than political solutions dominated his later thought. He retained his anti-clericalism, of course, but no longer put much hope in secular causes. He also seemed to revise his view of man, what Benedict might call his theological anthropology. He no longer stressed two separate beatitudes, to be achieved independently of one another in isolated structures, but rather described shipwrecked souls with a natural desire for God who are sadly unable to find lasting satisfaction in merely human efforts. In tracing his own conversion, one that would end only with the beatific vision, he instructed not only the fourteenth century but our theologically less sophisticated age as well.

The last sentence should read the fourteenth century, of course (Dante, 1265-1321), and I meant that our age is a theologically less sophisticated age.

Patrick,you will not be surprised that I find the Dante reference quite apposite! And I think, what you say of Dante's later development in the "Divine Comedy" -- "he no longer stressed two separate beatitudes, to be achieved independently of one another in isolated structures, but rather described shipwrecked souls with a natural desire for God who are sadly unable to find lasting satisfaction in merely human efforts." -- is true of the integral humanism sketched in "Caritas in Veritate."You may recall that, speaking of his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict said that he sought to do, in a small way, for our age (to use your words, "our theologically less sophisticated age") what Dante did for the 14th century.

All this stuff about world government and subsidiarity seems painfully abstract.Even more so is the way Benedict connects "social doctrine" with the Trinitarian relations and spiritual exercises. as in passages like the following:"Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon Gods providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if hearts of stone are to be transformed into hearts of flesh (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth divine and thus more worthy of humanity. "I feel there is a constant metabasis eis allo genos going on throughout, a putting of carts before horses, of which Paul VI, fresh from the Council, would never have been guilty. The prophetic edge is gone, even in the parts of the Encyclical that are more Justice & Peace oriented.

Dante. good God! What century are we living in now? The last time I looked it was the 21st.

"our theologically less sophisticated age" -- ????Dante's Inferno is a theological fiasco; his Purgatorio and Paradiso have beautiful things. but they have little bearing on current realities. Since Dante we have lived through the Reformation, Trent, the Enlightenment. the French Revolution, German Idealism, Romanticism, Catholic and Protestant liberalism, Marx-Nietzsche-Freud, two shattering World Wars, the historical critical retrieval of the scriptural world, dialectical, liberation, feminist, existential theologies, respectful opening up to the wonders of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism -- none of which Dante would have even begun to understand.Benedict's Encyclical has drawn a lot of this kind of neomedievalist praise, a clear symptom of its inefficacity.

Joseph O'Leary,Paul VI, of most happy memory, "fresh from the Council," would have appreciated that Gaudium et spes is inseparable from and theologically unintelligible without being rooted in Lumen gentium whose first chapter is a splendid exposition of the Trinitarian mystery from which the church and the world originate and which is their eschatological destiny.The last time I looked the Gospels are products of the 1st century. Ergo?

The "sharp distinction between two ends of man, natural and supernatural" is something you do not find in the Gospel's message of the Kingdom, and it is also a dualism that Vatican II and Paul VI were striving to correct. That Benedict should restore it, in the most extreme Augustinian form, is of a piece with his theological outlook. It is what blinded him to the merits of Liberation Theology.

The Gospels are 1st century, to be sure, and more than that they come from a very remote Jewish-apocalyptic context. But the preacher -- if he/she does the job properly -- finds contemporary relevance therein. Dante does not require such aggiornamento since he is not used by the Church as a canonical text. Reading Pop Prog and the new encyclical side by side, I find Pop Prog refreshingly modern and the new encyclical rather dusty and archaic. Paul VI is just so much more in touch with the prophetic thrust of Scripture, the needs of the modern world, and the task of the Church to aggiornare the Gospel.

How odd that this view of Dante and his great work should come from a professor of literature!

Just want to say that I'm not sure that John Allen is back on his game (see my post in the thread below), nor do I want to get involved in the Dante imbroglio here.I keep getting the overall impression that Benedict's call for a conversion, a new way of moving towards our global interconnectedness through justice, charity and truth continues to be met on a wide scale by those who want to cling to their own beliefs/ideologies rather than rethink,If change is needed, it needs a strong starting point grounded in ideals, though some will easily flip them off as utopian. The rexamination will further be complicated by how hard our divisions are.Finally, the question of how well we practice what is being sought here will also be thorny.But operating in this ever more closely knit world will take change nevertheless if we want to procede not only productively but rightly.

Its difficult to respond to Joseph OLearys scattershot approach to Dante and perhaps unnecessary. But one point I hope to clarify. Dante eventually rejected the sharp distinction between the natural and supernatural that he advocated in his earlier writings and I was not advocating a return to this doctrine That earlier view seemed to have been based upon the teachings of some of his Dominican teachers at Maria Novella in Florence, Remigio de Girolami most prominently, and indirectly inspired therefore by Thomas Aquinas. Echoes of this view might be found in the more contemporary writings of Garrigou-Lagrange and Ralph McInerny.This separationist approach is not a contemptible view and has certain advantages in reaching a liberal ordering of church-state and religious freedom issues. Moreover it led Dante to a positive evaluation of the achievements of classical civilizations. But it seems to have been abandoned in Dantes later writings. And I find it especially difficult to find any endorsement of this approach in the teachings of either Augustine or Benedict in the way OLeary so confidently asserts.By the way, the fact that Dantes Monarchia was placed on various lists of forbidden books, most often at the instigation of Dominicans, might recommend it to those like OLeary who seem to feel that our advanced mentality can find little to learn from officially endorsed sources in the Middle Ages.

My view that Dante's Inferno is a theological fiasco is shared by Hans Urs von Balthasar.I have been reading the Commedia since I was 15 (Dorothy L Sayers first, then the original) though not the prose writings. Of course it contains poetry of the highest order. But to talk of Dante in connection with the social problems of humanity today sounds rather frivolous to me -- as does the Pope's jejune comments on trinitarian relations and the like. He simply does not have anything like Paul VI's sense of social realities. Paul VI was the inspirer of Liberation Theology (look at Gutierrez) and Benedict XVI was the one who slew Liberation Theology; that he should now posture as Paulus redivivus is rather nauseous. Moral theologians who know their economics (Paul Surlis for example) will be giving a seasoned judgment on Benedict's encyclical in due course.

The fact that Dante was on the index means nothing -- almost everything was on the index and even Thomas had some trouble in 1277. But even to quote Thomas as the answer to today's problems would likely be frivolous. Benedict is clearly far more concerned about his stale ideas of orthodoxy and continuity than about the challenges facing humanity at present -- he presents the former as the nostrum for the latter!

"His De Monarchia presents this theme in abstract terms based on a sharp distinction between two ends of man, natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal. But even then, at the very end of his treatise Dante added a proviso that has always puzzled commentators, to the effect that the emperor should reverence the Pope as an elder brother, thus seeming to undermine his advocacy of a robust separation of church and state.""This separationist approach is not a contemptible view and has certain advantages in reaching a liberal ordering of church-state and religious freedom issues. Moreover it led Dante to a positive evaluation of the achievements of classical civilizations. But it seems to have been abandoned in Dantes later writings. And I find it especially difficult to find any endorsement of this approach in the teachings of either Augustine or Benedict in the way OLeary so confidently asserts."There seems to be some confusion here. In his Jesus book Benedict opposes the prophet Isaiah's aspiration for justice and peace, as a merely this-worldly goal, to Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom -- which means God. In his Encyclical he has a similar bad. unbiblical dualism.That is why I wrote: "The sharp distinction between two ends of man, natural and supernatural is something you do not find in the Gospels message of the Kingdom, and it is also a dualism that Vatican II and Paul VI were striving to correct. That Benedict should restore it, in the most extreme Augustinian form, is of a piece with his theological outlook. It is what blinded him to the merits of Liberation Theology."However, it is true that the political separation of Church and State is unaugustinian and unRatzingerian, a rather different issue. One would wish Ratzinger to be more Thomist in recognizing the autonomy of the natural order. But one should neither consign the Gospel concern with Justice & Peace to a "merely" natural sphere nor subordinate it to the exercise of "supernatural" charity -- both of which Benedict does. Liberation Theology, inspired by Paul VI and Vatican II, tried to find a more integrated approach. That approach begins by taking the question for justice and peace with total seriousness, refusing to leap beyond it to immaculate spiritual concerns. It is within this realistic concern for human dignity and the future of the world that the distinctively Christian notes of charity. forgiveness, repentance. prayer, eschatological hope and trust, redemption can emerge anew in a more authentic form.

In short the distinction I was attacking was the Augustinian one between the civitas dei and the civitas terrena (or diaboli) not the Thomis one to which Patrick Molloy was referring; apologies for my hasty reading of Patrick Molloy's initial remarks.All these lofty principles are intrinsically confusing. The fog of confusion was surprisingly absent in Paul VI, because of his secure sense of Scripture, moral theology, social conditions in the lands he had visited, and the Church's mission to the world (cf. Ecclesiam Suam). He wrote at a privileged moment.By constrast. who can claim that the fog has not returned in the musing of the new encyclical?

Balthasar on the Inferno: There is no question, absolutely no question of Hell in its innermost structure having been transformed by Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Dante does not distinguish theologically between pre-Christian Hades (Sheol) and the Hell of the New Testament. The reader follows simply the footsteps of Virgil rather than of Christ.

Joseph writes:The sharp distinction between two ends of man, natural and supernatural is something you do not find in the Gospels message of the Kingdom, and it is also a dualism that Vatican II and Paul VI were striving to correct. That Benedict should restore it, in the most extreme Augustinian form, is of a piece with his theological outlook. It is what blinded him to the merits of Liberation Theology.Two comments: 1. the confusion between "distinction" and "dualism," is surprising and unwarranted. Ratzinger was both student (in the sense of indebted to) and colleague (in the founding of "Communio") of de Lubac.2. your claim to find in an encyclical, whose golden thread is integral humanism, the restoration of an extreme dualism (which you also purport to unearth in Augustine) verges on the baffling.We may come closer to an issue when you write:"It is within this realistic concern for human dignity and the future of the world that the distinctively Christian notes of charity. forgiveness, repentance. prayer, eschatological hope and trust, redemption can emerge anew in a more authentic form."Here your fondness for the horse and cart metaphor may indeed have some traction. I would invert your words as approximating what I take to be Pope Benedict's thrust:It is within the distinctively Christian notes of charity, forgiveness, repentance, prayer, eschatological hope and trust that a realistic concern for human dignity and the future of the world can emerge in a more authentic form.Now, one can argue about the proper order, but to react dismissively as I read you to do, is indeed to squander energies in internecine strife all in the name of promoting peace in the world.You might leave aside for the moment von Balthasar on Dante and consider again what he had to say about the "anti-romische Affekt."

Dante grappled with the problems of world government, spiritual regeneration of individuals and institutional reform in his own day. His thought developed over a lifetime and he engaged philosophical and political ideas of considerable complexity and the utmost importance. Obviously he does not offer recipes for global institutions in our time but insofar as Marx-Nietzsche-Freud and all the other isms that OLeary lists have not solved our problems either its worth more that a hurried glance at one of Catholicisms foremost observers at a critical turning point in history. We can learn something from todays micro finance experiments or from Allens recommendations but it would be unforgivably myopic to ignore a thinker on the grounds that he was unfamiliar with OLearys favored liberation theology.Balthasar on Dantes Inferno is an interesting topic for another post (and Balthasars view is hardly authoritative or uncontested) but, I believe, irrelevant to the topic of world government. But since OLeary favorably cites Balthasar perhaps we can agree with the latters overall assessment of Dantes importance:We can class Dante with the great cathedral builders of the Middle Ages, with whom for the last time ethics and aesthetics peacefully coexisted and furthered and strengthened one another. And yet, whatever view one takes of the integration achieved by Dante, there is always an excess over and above the constitutive elements; despite its structure, his work is not a sum-total but an indivisible prime number, and it is this insoluble mystery that has bestowed upon him his power over history.The Glory of the LordA minor note: OLeary claims that Dante could not begin to understand the glories of Islam. To the contrary, it has been for some time acknowledged that he shows considerable familiarity with Islamic writings (gained perhaps through the influence of Brunetto Latini who sojourned in Spain) which has even led some to accuse (unjustifiably IMHO) Dante of plagiarism of those materials.

"Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good.Fr. Imbelli -It seems to me that the development of the internet shows what can be done when competent people (the tevchnicians who dreamed up the internet)also have the common good as their greatest motive and when the politicians are willing to forego unnecessary regulation. From what i"ve read, the governments mainly got out of the way of the development of the net, and allowed the extraordinarily generous inventors (who might have licensed some of the technology) to set up the system that is proving such a boon to humanity. I also wonder whether the "web" can provide us with a metaphor for some new social organizations, whether political or religious. Yes, we need hierarchy, but the electronic web has some things to teach us, I suspect.

Come to think of it, the Church has always taught (has it really????) that the family is the primary organization in society, and on reflection I think that extended families are webs and are of great social value.

Dante like Thomas and many others of his time appreciated Islamic philosophy (egad, they'd better, for they owed it their Aristotle) but Dante was not a visionary as far as interreligious dialogue is concerned -- unlike Ramon Llull or Cusanus; the proof whereof is his most memorable contribution to it -- Mahomet in Hell.Dante is a great Cathedral builder -- quis negaret? But that does not make him relevant to the progress of peoples in the 21st century.This "anti-Roman affect" stuff is cheap polemic. I do believe the Vatican bureaucracy is corrupt and that ultramontanism has been a disaster and that centralization is stifling the life of the church (Benedict offers mere lip service to subsidiarity), but on the other hand I deeply love Rome, and I admire Vatican II, John XXIII and Paul VI, so the stereotype does not quite fit.

"2. your claim to find in an encyclical, whose golden thread is integral humanism, the restoration of an extreme dualism (which you also purport to unearth in Augustine) verges on the baffling."Augustine is dualistic in that he sees the earthly kingdom as the realm of the devil and locates the Civitas Dei only in the holy gathering of the elect. Vatican II on the contrary saw the world and its aspirations as a place where God's spirit was moving and as the primary locus of the coming of the Kingdom. The Church was at the service of the world, a beacon of the Kingdom, a lumen gentium.Benedict is going back to Christendom and its dualistic theocracy. He writes in sniffy tones: "Man does not develop through his own powers nor can development simply be handed to him" (Caritas in veritate 11).He recuperates the entire human quest for justice and peace within his own favored paradigm of charity rooted in doctrinal truth -- I insist that this is contrary to the perspective of Paul VI and is putting the cart before the horse.

Integral humanism for Benedict means, to judge from his Jesus book, that one puts GOD first, and then turns to social situations as fields for the exercise of charity. Vatican II is closer to the method of immanence, beginning with human aspirations of Justice and Peace, as voiced by the Prophets, and then letting God emerge as God, that is, as a Liberator of his people, not as a brute dogmatic donnee.One of the huge changed brought by the Council was that it helped us recover God the Father as a liberating force, "God the future of man" -- before that he was Monarch and Judge and we took refuge from him in the Sacred Heart and the BVM.

Benedict. to repeat my rather simple point, makes a very "sharp distinction" between Isaiah's prophecy of world peace, which he considers obsolete (shades of Marcion -- John XXIII or Paul VI would never, never have written those pages) and Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom. which concerns GOD and has only a trickle-down effect on justice and peace as the truth about GOD inspires acts of charity. This is a case of Rome fiddling while the world burns.

The Wrath of O'Leary now extends to the Sacred Heart and the BVM, all in the name of Paul VI and the liberation of peoples.

I have read a book by a Belgian theologian arguing that De Lubac errs too much in the Augustinian direction in his interpretation of Thomas, failing to respect the autonomy of "Nature" -- but whatever the rights and wrongs of that, it has no bearing on the topics of a social encyclical. My impression is that Benedict is trying to make high-flying theological concepts do work they are not suited for. Unlike Paul VI he does not show any sign of an adequate social analysis of the world today, nor should this surprise us -- it is not his kind of thing. Instead he writes paragraph on paragraph about charity, truth, the Trinity etc. etc. In presenting such theologoumena as a direct contribution to social problems he is being mystificatory and reactionary in practice.

Patrick Molloy, I have a lifelong devotion to the SH and the BVM -- but I merely point out the huge lacuna in my childhood piety -- I was born in 1949. The Catholic discovery of Yhwh as the one who sustains his people was a big change in spirituality after the council.My wrath is reserved for the Vatican insofar as it has betrayed Vatican II, squandered the energies and good will of Catholics, and cheated and alienated millions of sincere believers, including the mothers and grandmothers of Ireland. Vatican II is not to blame for this massive tragedy.

Joseph OLeary,Ill now bow out of this exchange having said my prayers to the SH and the BVM that I may be preserved from liberation theologians per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Preserved also from Populorum Progressio, thanks to Benedict's rewriting thereof? Please read Gutierrez.

Actually the failure of the Catholic world to offer a critique of the weakness of the social part of Deus Caritas Est may have contributed to the increase of this weakness in the new encyclical -- the main weakness being again the reduction of justice to charity. Theologians seem to have thought they should encourage Benedict by suspending critical judgment. Or maybe they thought criticism was futile and would be poorly received.

A quick tally:Patrick Molloy posted five comments before bowing out (in exhaustion?).Robert Imbelli had posted five. Does this sixth count as he wearily waves the white flag?Joseph O'Leary with an overwhelming 18 leads the field by far; and, lo, stands alone.Addio -- I'm off to read Gutierrez.

I have to agree in part with Fr. O'Leary's concern about the influence of Dante on the religious imagination--not because of irrelevance but because his schematic is so powerful.In the Gospel the Lord gives a picture of the last things, in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. But how can this simple outline compete with Dante's geographically detailed world?The imagination accepts this vivid painting, one that unfolds over time during the reading of the Trilogy. And yet, the mind judges the story to be fictional, at least in part. If the reading is not done with very careful discernment, it seems to me that the mind and imagination could easily be walled of from one another, leaving no unified place for the whole person to think about heaven.Sometimes my sympathy lies with Bultmann, I suppose. Can faith be true if the imaginative schema is unbelievable?

How does the following paragraph from the Encyclical reduce justice to charity?"First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is mine to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is his, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot give what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1], and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, the minimum measure of it[2], an integral part of the love in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us. On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving[3]. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world."

There you go again, Komonchak, always appealing to specific texts! What kind of blogger are you anyway?

An essential hermeneutic step one must take in judging this encyclical is to compare it with the various passages of Populorum Progressio that it pretends to interpret but subtly distorts.Justice in the Prophets and in the teaching of Jesus is a primary mark of the Kingdom -- it does not come after charity or after orthodox faith. It is not presented as one of the four cardinal virtues that are implementations of love of neighbor. Actually "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" in Leviticus first emerges as a PROMISE -- IF you practice Justice you will enjoy an integral human community in which you shall love your neighbor as yourself.Benedict might seem to be saying this when he writes: "First of all, justice" -- but of course what the Encyclical says is. first charity, then justice. This is clear if you recall the paragraph immediately preceding the one quoted:"6. Caritas in veritate is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns, a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that govern moral action. I would like to consider two of these in particular, of special relevance to the commitment to development in an increasingly globalized society: justice and the common good."This reduces the justice language of Paul VI to a higher language of caritas in veritate, a quite new first principle in the context of social teaching. It then further reduces justice to being primarily a criterion of moral action rather than a prophetic response to the cry of the poor as it was in Paul VI and the liberation theology he inspired. Justice moreove becomes just one of the criteria... (In JP2's first encyclical there is a list of the encyclicals of his esteemed predecessor -- Pop Prog does not figure on that list!) First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice."This is in line with the skepticism expressed in his Jesus book about the possibility of establishing claims of justice clearly -- (I do not have the text to hand)" Charity goes beyond justice,"Justice is reduced not to charity but to a mere local application of charity, lacking in ontological dignity compared with charity -- this is not the optic of Scripture!" because to love is to give, to offer what is mine to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is his, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot give what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice."Benedict is saying, first let us practice justice, the pass course, and then go on to loftier gratuity, the honors course. The task of justice is subordinated to the practice of the Gift, in the lofty angelistic style of Communio, Balthasar and Marion etc., who notoriously have nothing to say about justice and peace issues." If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1],"Here is what Paul VI wrote in the passage footnoted at this point:"Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth: "God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all." (20) NOTE -- UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF JUSTICE AND IN THE COMPANY OF CHARITY"All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty. "23. "He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (21) Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: "You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich." (22) These words indicate that the right to private property is not absolute and unconditional. "No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life. In short, "as the Fathers of the Church and other eminent theologians tell us, the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good." When "private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another," it is for the public authorities "to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups." (23)"BENEDICT continues: "On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving[3]. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests Gods love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world." AN EVEN GREATER AND MORE FUNDAMENTAL EXTENT here is the phrase that engineers the subordination of justice and peace agendas to a secondary role in respect of a lofty culture of gratuitousness. Moreover commitment to justice appears to have no THEOLOGICAL AND SALVIFIC VALUE unless thus subordinated. Benedict has been writing like this for a long time, notably in the documents against liberation theology. He is a past master in the art.

Ah, I see, your basic problem is with this "lofty culture of gratuitousness", or, as earlier suggested, "lofty angelism." Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets in the command to love God and neighbor, not in terms of justice. Perhaps the difference you sense (but certainly don't demonstrate above) could be put in these terms. The liberation theologians insisted that justice could not be achieved without structural reforms; Ratzinger/Benedict has argued that structural reforms are not going to happen without inner reforms, and, with some historical evidence behind him, that without inner reform they are likely to be as bad as the system they replace. Hence, the priority of covnersion of heart--living out of love of God and neighbor. Perhaps the question is: How far are people going to pursue justice if they don't love?That charity/love can promote an earthly city to a "greater and more fundamental extent" than "relationships of rights and duties" is what the Pope says. And for myself I don't know how anyone can deny it. This is hardly to deprive work for justice of theological or salvific value but to keep it anchored. When you comment on this statement of Benedict: " Charity goes beyond justice, by remarking, "Justice is reduced not to charity but to a mere local application of charity, lacking in ontological dignity compared with charity this is not the optic of Scripture!" I wonder if you should be quite so quick to criticize Benedict for misrepresenting another's thought.In all this, I don't see how justice is reduced to charity; if anything it is elevated in dignity and becomes itself an expression of love. When I was studying, the renewal of moral theology was promoted in one stream by insisting that "love is the form of all the virtues" and attempting to show how they all--including justice--were articulations of the first and greatest commandment and of the second, which is very much like the first.

In volume four of "A Marginal Jew," John Meier has a long and careful (it goes without saying) discussion of "The Love Commandments of Jesus."He concludes:"the historical Jesus extracts and orders Deut 6:4-5 and Lev 19:18b as the first and second commandments of the Torah, above all other statutes of the Law. This is startling and innovative enough. This is sufficient proof that Jesus the Jew reflected not only on individual halakic questions alive in Judaism at his time but also in a truly creative fashion on Torah as a whole in relation to its parts. And, in the end, his reflection led to love specifically, to love of God and love of neighbor as supreme. All you need is love? Hardly. For Jesus, you need the Torah as a whole. Nothing could be more foreign to this Palestinian Jew than a facile antithesis between Law and love. But love, as commanded by the Law, comes first and second." (p. 576)Earlier he had stated:"Unlike a good deal of American theology toward the end of the last century, Jesus avoids reducing love of God to the level of love of neighbor or even, worse still, collapsing love of God into love of neighbor. The two loves remain distinct and ordered: God first, neighbor second. At the same time, Jesus joins these two loves closely together and sets them above every other commandment in the Torah." (p. 494)

"Perhaps the difference you sense (but certainly dont demonstrate above) could be put in these terms. The liberation theologians insisted that justice could not be achieved without structural reforms"I did not refer to this; but I would say that indeed the Encyclical seems to think that practicing charity (and justice as a consequence of it) within existing structures is all that a Christian should think about.He does not think structurally about society." Ratzinger/Benedict has argued that structural reforms are not going to happen without inner reforms, and, with some historical evidence behind him, that without inner reform they are likely to be as bad as the system they replace."In his attacks on liberation theology he in practice used this as a red herring to avoid any talk of reform, other than vague recommendations of the rich helping the poor. This was at a time when John Paul II had lent his moral authority to Reagan's deathly policies in Nicaragua, and when the policy was set up that led to hundreds of "leftist" theologians in South America and Spain being shafted and many progressive South American bishops having as their successors sectarian reactionaries." Hence, the priority of covnersion of heartliving out of love of God and neighbor. Perhaps the question is: How far are people going to pursue justice if they dont love?"The Gospels seems rather to ask how far people can claim to love if they do not pursue justice. and the Prophets had the same emphasis. OF COURSE love is the highest commandment but when you pounce on the prophets in the name of love you are making love the bourgeouis individualized charity much criticized by leftists and failing to recognize love in action (consider JP2's failure to recognize it in Oscar Romero).

"In all this, I dont see how justice is reduced to charity; if anything it is elevated in dignity and becomes itself an expression of love. When I was studying, the renewal of moral theology was promoted in one stream by insisting that love is the form of all the virtues and attempting to show how they allincluding justicewere articulations of the first and greatest commandment and of the second, which is very much like the first."To talk of justice being elevated in dignity is to miss the fact that in Scripture Justice is already the highest reality imaginable, to be hunger and thirsted for as an absolute -- yes individual righteousness and integrity is co-included with the thirst for justice in society. That Benedict should treat justice as a moral virtue that is lacking in dignity until touched by love shows he is tonedeaf to biblical emphases as he is to liberation theology and -- to Populorum Progression.In Moral Theology the rediscovery of the Primacy of Love was of course a major source of renewal after the Council. But in the field of social doctrine if you adopt the order: first we must love God and Truth, then we must love our neighbor, then as an expression of that love we must practice justice, I do not think you are reestablishing priorities in a wholesome and salutary way (as Benedict thinks he is, correcting the falsehood -- as he sees it -- of liberation theology). The basic point is that we cannot talk of God in abstraction from his biblical selfpresentation as liberator of his people -- the God of Ratzinger's Jesus-book suffers from a fatal abstraction because of this initial bracketing of justice as something for a later application. Ratzinger actually reduces the Kingdom of God to the divinity of Jesus, the autobasileia -- the justice and peace aspect stressed by Isaiah is actually declared secondary (Isaiah's vision is thus regarded as an obsolete aspect of the Torah world -- whereas in the eyes of Jesus it would be a primary if not the primary aspect of Torah that the message of love confirms and fulfills -- consider the many utterances on poverty and wealth in St Luke as a vivid example of the centrality of concrete justice-concerns to the Gospel's idea of God and love).

"When you comment on this statement of Benedict: Charity goes beyond justice, by remarking, Justice is reduced not to charity but to a mere local application of charity, lacking in ontological dignity compared with charity this is not the optic of Scripture! I wonder if you should be quite so quick to criticize Benedict for misrepresenting anothers thought."Well, I wrote that quickly very late at night here in Japan, so I may not have done full justice to the Pope -- I am not writing an Encyclical with 40 years of time to reflect. Paul VI created Benedict a Cardinal, so he perhaps feels some duty to revere him; but it is clear that his entire policy spells the ruination fo Paul VI's (as the Bologna school have documented) so his efforts to show loyalty are rather off-key."A mere local application of charity" sounds harsh; "justice consists only in the application of charity, so liberation theologians should tone down their Marxist-sounding anger about injustice, redolent of the now obsolute attitude of the Hebrew Prophets, and instead focus on cultivated the spirit of charity in docility to the Church's doctrinal magisterium" would be perhaps what one should say.

cultivated SHD BE cultivating

obsolute SHD BE obsoleteBut perhaps the word "obsolute" is one looking for an application...

Komonchak writes:"Ratzinger/Benedict has argued that structural reforms are not going to happen without inner reforms, and, with some historical evidence behind him, that without inner reform they are likely to be as bad as the system they replace. Hence, the priority of conversion of heartliving out of love of God and neighbor. Perhaps the question is: How far are people going to pursue justice if they dont love?"I have long been fascinated by the revolutionary appeal to the creation of "the new man" throughout history. My first encounter with it was in the writing of some who promoted the French revolution, but I'm sure it antedated that. It re-appears in the propaganda about the "new Soviet man," the new Aryan super-man, the new "Maoist man," the new Cuban etc. etc. -- all with decidedly bloody results. So to gloss Komonchak's question: in what direction and to what extremes will people pursue justice if they don't love?Joseph O'Leary concedes:"Well, I wrote that quickly very late at night here in Japan, so I may not have done full justice to the Pope ..."Tolle, lege denuo!

Fr. OLeary:May I ask where in Scripture, and particularly in the New Testament, you find it set out that Justice is the highest reality imaginable. When in the early 1970s I was helping introduce liberation theology to North American Catholics and when later I was teaching courses on the Church and social justice, one of the objections made was that the NT lacks the powerful exhortations to justice that one finds in the OT prophets. I thought, and think, that the objection can be met not by appealing to overlooked NT texts but by working with a fuller, more concrete anthropology than the one that underlies efforts to spiritualize and individualize the notions of sin and salvation. I do not think that justice is the primary, highest reality, either in God or in us. I think it is lovethe love that goes beyond what justice could be content with Its the older son in the parable who invokes what justice ought to require the father to do with his errant son. Justice cant comprehend the parable of the workers in the vineyard or the parable of the forgiven but unforgiving servant. Its an excess of love that goes far beyond mere justice that marks the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in the great antitheses. When you say that individual righteousness and integrity is co-included with the thirst for justice in society, you are rightly relating to one another what have been too often separated. But I think that according to the Scriptures individual righteousness and integrity is achieved through love of God and love of neighbor. We become righteous, integrated, when it is such love that directs our lives, and the standard for such righteousness, integrity, is the God whose righteousness is mercy. People who love will be able to discern what needs to be done whether that is the next needy person they encounter or a whole vast structure that needs to be dismantled or transformed. I do not think that the Pope has reduced love to charity in the sense of the individual effort and most of the recent Encyclical is devoted to thoughts about what both charity and justice require to be changed in the world economic system. I think you have caricatured his thought.

I always thought of justice as the accountant's highest virute. For the Cubs fan, it's patience.

For the Prophets justice is the highest reality imaginable in the sense that it is intimately linked with God and cannot be surpassed in the name of a higher reality such as charity. In the Gospel too Jesus and Paul never put anything higher than justice, dikaiosune. Paul, after expounding his doctrine of justification, does not say "I will now show you a higher way -- love!"When people talk of transcending justice, one should be wary of their intentions. Paul VI got is right: social thinking and action are led by justice attended by love. Ratzinger has always made a great todo about the danger of justice without love and this has been the basis of his crushing of liberation theology (at a time when John Paul II had lent his support to the Contras and was ignored Oscar Romero -- thus showing an exquisite prophetic attention to justice and charity). He has also fought a crusade against the alleged danger of godless humanism he saw lurking in Liberation Theology -- in the cry of the poor -- apparently hearing in it only what Fr Imbelli calls "the revolutionary appeal to the creation of the new man ... propaganda about the new Soviet man, the new Aryan super-man, the new Maoist man, the new Cuban etc. etc." Liberation theologians were quizzed ad nauseam about "in what direction and to what extremes will people pursue justice if they dont love?" while they were being undercut and shunted in every way by the Vatican. "May I ask where in Scripture, and particularly in the New Testament, you find it set out that Justice is the highest reality imaginable. ... one of the objections made was that the NT lacks the powerful exhortations to justice that one finds in the OT prophets. I thought, and think, that the objection can be met not by appealing to overlooked NT texts but by working with a fuller, more concrete anthropology"Agreed, the NT does not yield its meaning to an atomistic focus on prooftexts but only by attention to its total image of the human condition, in light of our own experience and knowledge of that condition. And of course scripture texts always appeal to the imagination as well -- they are invitations to vision, not blueprints.Bring that fuller perspective to bear and one will find reams of stuff in Luke-Acts to begin with -- social justice in the sense of casting down the rich and raising up the poor, selling all you have an giving to the poor, attending to Lazarus and his sores, having all goods in common, curbing the motive of greed etc. is not a mere application of charity or spirituality in Luke, but is just as primordial as in the prophets if not more so.

"I do not think that justice is the primary, highest reality, either in God or in us. I think it is lovethe love that goes beyond what justice could be content with Its the older son in the parable who invokes what justice ought to require the father to do with his errant son."The elder son does not show any sense of justice in the Lukan sense; he is associated with the Pharisees who are proud of their own righteousness and thus enemies of justice. Creating an inclusive community in which outcasts are embraced. sinners pardoned (for all are equally sinners in the eyes of the forgiiving God), the proud humbled and the humble exalted, is how Gospel justice operates -- as liberation theologians would be the first to point out." Justice cant comprehend the parable of the workers in the vineyard or the parable of the forgiven but unforgiving servant. Its an excess of love that goes far beyond mere justice that marks the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in the great antitheses."Again, "mere justice" is an unbiblical idea. The Sermon begins by tallking of hunger and thirst for righteousness -- the old law is surpassed not in the name of stepping beyond justice but in the name of perfect justice. As far as I know, there is NO opposition or rivalry between justice and love in scripture, yet Ratzinger has made such an opposition central to his social thinking and to his exegesis of the message of Jesus."I do not think that the Pope has reduced love to charity in the sense of the individual effort and most of the recent Encyclical is devoted to thoughts about what both charity and justice require to be changed in the world economic system. I think you have caricatured his thought."His concrete proposals may be valuable -- though one esteemed moral theologian I know tells me that the Encyclical's social analyses are very inadequate. But the set-up that presides over them -- especially when we note its contrast with that of Paul VI -- is likely to undercut the power of the concrete proposals and make them a mere ragbag.

I see that you have not cited any texts which assert the superiority of justice, so you'll forgive me if I remain with Jesus and his response to the question about the first and greatest commandment. And with Paul, who does say that love is the greatest gift, not, it is true, in Romans but in I Cor. Or are these mere poof-texts, too. And if you can write this sentence, with which I quite agree--"As far as I know, there is NO opposition or rivalry between justice and love in scripture"--then I do not understand why you have made such a fuss about this. It is clear from the paragraph I cited above from the new Encyclical that Pope Benedict also is not placing them in opposition to one another.

"Superiority" of Justice? The whole Old Testament is about justice, "zedekah" or "mishpat"and commandments about justice are followed by "I am the Lord" -- the Lord defines Himself as the one who upholds justice. Liberation Theology have spread awareness of this beyond the camp of OT scholars. The righteousness of God was something the people of the Covenant trusted in -- their love of justice was thus pretty much identical with the love of God.The NT takes over and presupposes the OT concept of justice. The antitheses of the sermon on the mount are not a rejection of Torah-righteousness but rather bringing out its core in love of God and neighbor etc. Jesus in Matthew refers to the weightier matters of the law as "justice and mercy and faith" (23.23); even mercy, or forgiveness, is considered to be already implied in Torah-righteousness (for the just God is rich in mercy, as the Bible tells us from the start).I Corinthians 13 and the Double Commandment in no way contrast love and justice; the entire biblical record associates the two so closely that a contrast would be very difficult to maintain. The justice of "an eye for an eye" or the discontented laborers in the vineyard, or the elder son in Luke 15 are not effective counter examples, for these rather denote failures to understand true justice.Now, to return to Benedict, if one thinks of Justice in the sense most prevalent in the Bible and in Justice & Peace thinking (and in Liberation Theology) one does not feel the need to issue anxious warnings that Justice is inauthentic unless guided by Charity (and Truth). Benedict, if I am not mistaken, puts a huge emphasis on this, whereas Paul VI, again as far as I remember, did not make it a major theme in his preaching. The biblical presumption would be that those who love justice already love God and neighbor with charity. That is why Paul VI says our concern should be led by justice and accompanied by charity.Consider if someone in a document on the sacredness of human life were to say: Concern for life is admirable but it must be rooted in charity or it is inauthentic. Would they not by that very token be somehow undercutting the sacredness of life, making it contingent on a higher consideration?

My answer to the question in your last paragraph is No.

Well, on rereading the question I think it does not make the point I thought it did. In fact a prolife encyclical that warned against a life-fanaticism divorced from charity would be quite wholesome. Is there a justice-fanaticism divorced from charity that is rife today (and that in papal eyes has been personified by Liberation Theologians)? The discussion of the encyclical here; http://www.amconmag.com/schwenkler/2009/07/11/reading-caritas-in-veritat... getting into quite complex issues;I wonder who will have the intellectual energy to keep up with it.

German Jesuit social ethicists are outspokenly critical:http://fuerwahrheitundrecht.blogspot.com/2009/07/schock-nicht-mal-papst-...

Joseph, if our Salvation was based on justice and not God's Love and Mercy, God would not have sent us his only Son to redeem us and show us the Truth of Love.

Nancy, divine justice is the principle of salvation in Scripture. "I am the Lord" is attached to declarations on justice (which includes salvation at all levels); God is identified as the one who upholds justice for his people. In Paul the Righteousness of God is the principle of our being clothed in the righteousness of Christ and so justified in God's eyes (Luther's discovery that the righteousness of God was not only that of a judge but had this positive saving force was the pivot of his conversion). Nowhere in Scripture will you find statements opposiing justice to mercy or justice to love -- that is our weary western platitudinous thinking, quite foreign to Scripture. Hence my disappointment with the Pope's rather unthinking subscription to the "charity transcends justice" theme, which goes hand in hand with his tone deafness to liberation theology and to Paul VI.

Charity transcends Justice because if our Salvation was based on Justice alone, we would all be in trouble. Thank God for His Love and Mercy!

I think it is more biblical to say that charity is the fulness of justice; see the use of the terms just and justice in Romans 8 -- the chapter in which Paul spells out most fully what the state of being Saved is like: Romans 8:4, 10, 30, 33.

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