Not Bold Enough


This summer witnessed the publication of Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited encyclical on economics. While much commentary has focused on the letter's implications for social policy, I want to emphasize the challenge it poses to the assumptions of the so-called dismal science. Against the skinflint orthodoxies of material scarcity and economic competition, Benedict hints at the conceptual foundations of a political economy of love. The finest parts of the encyclical affirm the rapturous plentitude of creation, and remind us that the human person partakes of God's largesse.

The encyclical's title, Charity in Truth, is simple but significant. Charity, Benedict argues, is inseparable from an account of the real world, without which it becomes “a pool of good sentiments”: pleasant, but shallow and stagnant. If love is a mere sentiment in a hardscrabble world of privation, then it's easily written off as a virtue of the callow, of those saintly few who have never contended with deadlines, payrolls, and cost-cutting measures. But a charity that dwells in truth forms a formidable realism. And the truth, Benedict asserts, is that love leavens the very architecture of creation; that creation is a realm of abundance, and humanity the image and likeness of a triune and infinitely loving God...

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About the Author

Eugene McCarraher is associate professor of humanities and history at Villanova University. He is completing The Enchantments of Mammon: Corporate Capitalism and the American Moral Imagination.