Last night I started reading Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). I find this teaching to be a bit tough – the abstractions may seem a bit, well abstract for the non-theologian (like me!) – but worth the effort.
I’d encourage anyone who cares about shedding the light of the Gospel on the world in which we live to set aside time to read this – maybe in one sitting, maybe spread out in ten-minute chunks or whatever – while asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts to that which He intends for us to understand.
In any case, here are a few articles which may help in digesting the encyclical. The first two I’d recommend reading before starting, and the second two afterwards (though you are quite welcome to do it in any order whatsoever!).
Before, or First Things First
First, there’s a nice commentary from Fr. Fessio, the founder of Ignatius Press (one of the more exciting groups in Catholic publishing today). Fr. Fessio summarizes the over-arching themes in a way only possible for a trained theologian (and former student of the Pope oh so many years ago). A sample:
Once again, Pope Benedict shows himself to be a theologian of synthesis and fundamental principles. … Pope Benedict has changed the whole framework of the debate on “the social question.”
Second, there’s a good set of ideas to keep in mind when reading the encyclical from Jimmy Akin, head of apologetics for Catholic Answers. Jimmy is a master of practicality, and has a great ability to play nice with both theologians and everyday folks. Here are a couple of his points to keep in mind:
1) Do not put weight on anything you read in the newspaper or on secular talk radio regarding the encyclical. The mainstream media simply does not “get” religion, and they are too incompetent on matters of religion to report accurately anything that the pope says or does. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
11) It is quite likely that a person reading the encyclical will find himself challenged at various points, no matter what his native political instincts are. This is part of the pope’s intention…
Reading this post before tackling the encyclical has helped me quite a bit.
Oh, and one word that might help to know is “integral” (I was definitely confused), so here is the intended definition in this context:
… the essential quality of “authentic” development: it must be integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man
– Pope Paul VI, from the Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio.
As for reading after you’ve read the encyclical, here are a couple of orthodox Catholic thinkers – generally free-market types – who have taken (at least at first) opposite views of this encyclical.
Second, George Weigel ha a decidedly more mixed reaction. Weigel is generally a clear thinker on things Catholic, particularly on the interaction of the Church and ordinary Christians in the public square (see his many books – including the definitive biography of Pope John Paul II – and articles in such great publications as First Things for examples), and so is a voice worth considering.
Hope to finish it tonight, depending upon how long I’m able to write productively (a book project about cloud computing). If not tonight, then certainly in the next couple of days, God willing!