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Compiled by Steve Jalsevac

Note: There are a wide variety of responses to the controversial encyclical. We present below some of the more significant ones to help LSN readers understand this complex and important document, the criticisms levelled against it and the responses to those criticisms.

The Divine Economy: On the New Papal Encylical by Rev. Robert A. Sirico (Acton Institute)
Will the document draw attention to the weaknesses of Western-style capitalist systems? One hopes so. We might expect the pope to call on market forces to be regulated by moral concerns, within a strong juridical framework, and an exogenous apparatus of standards to curb excesses.

But here is the operative question: In what sense would such a call be a blow against the idea of free economic institutions? The short answer is that it will not be.

Will the pope overtly call for a global, centralized, state-based management of economic systems about which would-be central planners have long dreamed? I would be very surprised. This is a man who has stood firm against every form of statist control of society.

AP, Reuters Go Full Tilt in Spinning Latest Writing of Pope
Two major wire services- AP and Reuters- cherry picked excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical on Tuesday to support left-wing economic and political positions, and all but ignored the pontiff’s traditional stances on the family, bioethics, and the environment.

While Pope Benedict did call for a “world political authority” and a “reform of the United Nations,” both authors missed the context of this call.

Earlier in the document, in paragraph 57, Benedict forwarded the principle of “subsidiarity,” which has a clear meaning in Catholic social teaching. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies….

Pope highlights 'strong link' between life issues and social ethics in new encyclical  – CNA

Caritas in Veritate: Why Truth Matters – Acton Institute
Relativists beware. Whether you like it or not, truth matters – even in the economy. That’s the core message of Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

Perhaps Caritas in Veritate’s most important truth-claim about economic life is that the market economy cannot be based on just any value-system. Against all relativists on the left and the right, Benedict maintains that market economies must be underpinned by commitments to particular basic moral goods and a certain vision of the human person if it is to serve rather than undermine humanity’s common good.

The pope describes as “erroneous” the tired notion that the developed countries’ wealth is predicated on poor nations’ poverty (CV no.35) that one hears customarily from the likes of Hugo Chavez and whatever’s left of the dwindling band of aging liberation theologians. That’s a pontifical body-blow to a central working assumption of many professional social justice “activists”.

Nor will they be happy with the pope’s concerns about the ways in which foreign aid can produce situations of dependency (CV no.58), not to mention Benedict’s strictures against protectionism (CV no.42) as well as his stress that no amount of structural change can possibly compensate for people freely choosing the good.

Nor does Benedict regard the market as morally problematic in itself. “In and of itself,” the Pope states, “the market is not . . . the place where the strong subdue the weak. What matters, Benedict claims, is the moral culture in which markets exists.

Benedict XVI Tightens Up the Church's Social Teaching by Deal W. Hudson
There is something here for everybody. For the Left, anxious to set the scene for President Barack Obama's meeting with Benedict in a few days, there are plenty of concerns expressed that fit their agenda. But the pope's criticism of free markets and the pursuit of short-term profits, as well as his support for labor unions, environmental ecology, and the right to food and water, are embedded in an overall account of social teaching tightly integrated with the life issues, moral duties, natural law, and truth. Love, in other words, is wedded to the truth about God and man.

Another somewhat surprising point of insistence in the encyclical is the importance of faith being allowed expression in politics.

Finally, Benedict seems to be preoccupied with the impact of technology in this encyclical—he constantly warns us not to seek merely technological solutions to the problems of human development.

Economy needs to recover ethics and the 'logic of giving,' Pope explains – CNA
New encyclical seeks to place man at center of economy

Supreme Knight criticizes use of Pope's encyclical for political agendas
Carl Anderson, leader of the world’s largest lay Catholic organization, decried the “spin masters who will try to spin the encyclical in one direction or the other” and emphasized that “the Catholic reader should read the encyclical in its entirety” in order to understand the underlying ethical and anthropological foundations that guide it.

Anderson noted that many Americans may see the Pope’s call for “just redistribution” as a left-leaning proposal, but when viewed in a global perspective, the idea takes on a new light.

“When you look in Africa where you see dictators that are presidents of countries that retire from office with billions of dollars in their Swiss bank accounts while their people are living on one dollar a day, is that just redistribution? Is that a question of the left or is that a question of the right?”

Your Life Is a Gift – John Zmirak on Caritas in Veritate
The pope here is insisting that the basic, universal desire for justice, order, and prosperity will come to nothing absent Christ. There is nothing radically new in this document.

Admirably, throughout the document he points out that rights beyond the basic ones (such as food, water, and education) are conditioned by duties; neglect the duty and you forfeit the right it implies.

Perhaps the most “creative” contribution to be found here is the pope's strong emphasis on the need for a rebirth of “civil society,” of non-governmental institutions ranging from the family to charitable organizations, the churches, and even consumer cooperatives.

He rejects the stark polarity between the individual and the State that characterizes American politics, noting that this dismal pairing is a deeply modern error.

There is only one statement in the encyclical that frankly troubles me. Is the pope calling here for a worldwide state, with coercive authority, that will govern all men at once? I cannot help deeply suspecting that any such state would by its very nature begin or (more likely) end as a tyranny. The very monopoly of its power, and the fact that there was not one square inch of the earth from which anyone could escape its clutches, would remove any check or balance from its bureaucrats.

There's only one thing worse than a national bureaucratic tyranny—and that's an international one. A reading of Orwell's 1984 might have reminded Benedict that centralization rarely leads to liberty. And a world-state administered by the kind of people who currently get involved in supranational organizations like the EU and the UN would make its first order of business the liquidation of the Church—which wouldn't even have a Liechtenstein where it could hide. On this point I must say respectfully to His Holiness: Not in this lifetime.

“Caritas in Veritate” – The revenge of Justice and Peace (or so they may think) – By George Weigel
Caritas in Veritate seems to be a hybrid, blending the pope's own insightful thinking on the social order with elements of the Justice and Peace approach to Catholic social doctrine… Indeed, those with advanced degrees in Vaticanology could easily go through the text of Caritas in Veritate, highlighting those passages that are obviously Benedictine with a gold marker and those that reflect current Justice and Peace default positions with a red marker. The net result is, with respect, an encyclical that resembles a duck-billed platypus.

The clearly Benedictine passages in Caritas in Veritate follow and develop the line of John Paul II, particularly in the new encyclical's strong emphasis on the life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryo-destructive stem-cell research) as social-justice issues – which Benedict cleverly extends to the discussion of environmental questions, suggesting as he does that people who don't care much about unborn children are unlikely to make serious contributions to a human ecology that takes care of the natural world.

The encyclical rightly, if gingerly, suggests that thug-governments in the Third World have more to do with poverty and hunger than a lack of international development aid; recognizes that catastrophically low birth rates are creating serious global economic problems; sharply criticizes international aid programs tied to mandatory contraception and the provision of “reproductive health services” (the U.N. euphemism for abortion-on-demand); and neatly ties religious freedom to economic development.

All of this is welcome, …But then there are those passages to be marked in red – the passages that reflect Justice and Peace ideas and approaches that Benedict evidently believed he had to try and accommodate. Some of these are simply incomprehensible, as when the encyclical states that defeating Third World poverty and underdevelopment requires a “necessary openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion.”
On its face, it is virtually impossible to know what it means.

There is also rather more in the encyclical about the redistribution of wealth than about wealth-creation – a sure sign of Justice and Peace default positions at work. And another Justice and Peace favorite – the creation of a “world political authority” to ensure integral human development – is revisited, with no more insight into how such an authority would operate than is typically found in such curial fideism about the inherent superiority of transnational governance.

Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include in his encyclical these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain the peace within his curial household. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear will concentrate their attention, in reading Caritas in Veritate, on those parts of the encyclical that are clearly Benedictine, including the Pope's trademark defense of the necessary conjunction of faith and reason and his extension of John Paul II's signature theme – that all social issues, including political and economic questions, are ultimately questions of the nature of the human person.