Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brief Synopsis of Caritas in Veritate

I would summarize the new encyclical with one quote of our Lord from the encyclical indicating man's essential need for God (78):

"Apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15:5)

Man needs Christ in order to know the one true God (to see God in the face) and thereby know his own true identity as the image and likeness of God and to know his purpose of perfection in the world and to have the desire and the strength to pursue it authentically. For the economy to be right man must be right because all the essential economic actions are acts of men in correspondence with the acts of God.

We human beings must be grateful to God who has given us every good thing and principally our own human greatness, and our gratitude to Him is the greatest and only true ultimate motive of responsibility for our own actions and relationships with God and in marriage and in the family and with others and with the environment and with all peoples and among nations and even in matters of money and commerce and investment and security. The center of man's gratitude and responsibility to God is manifested in willful obedience and dependence on His mighty hand: i.e. the moral life and the interior life. Because...

"A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism." (78)

I'll quote from the end of the sixth chapter of the encyclical, on the limits of technology, which illustrates the need that the men of our age have for a personal relationship with God, and that it is only the personal holiness of individual men and women that will make our world a just world.

"76 One aspect of the contemporary technological mindset is the tendency to consider the problems and emotions of the interior life from a purely psychological point of view, even to the point of neurological reductionism. In this way man's interiority is emptied of its meaning and gradually our awareness of the human soul's ontological depths, as probed by the saints, is lost. The question of development is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul, insofar as we often reduce the self to the psyche and confuse the soul's heath with emotional well-being. These over-simplifications stem from a profound failure to understand the spiritual life, and they obscure the fact that the development of individuals and peoples depends partly on the resolution of problems of a spiritual nature. Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth, since the human person is a 'unity of body and soul,' (Gaudium et Spes, 14) born of God's creative love and destined for eternal life. The human being develops when he grows in the spirit, when his soul comes to know itself and the truths that God has implanted deep within, when he enters into dialogue with himself and his Creator. When he is far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease. Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors. A prosperous society, highly developed in material terms but weighing heavily on the soul, is not of itself conducive to authentic development. The new forms of slavery to drugs and the lack of hope into which so many people fall can be explained not only in sociological and psychological terms but also in essentially spiritual terms. The emptiness in which the soul feels abandoned, despite the availability of countless therapies for body and psyche, leads to suffering. There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people's spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account, considered in their totality as body and soul.

"77 The supremacy of technology tends to prevent people from recognizing anything that cannot be explained in terms of matter alone. Yet everyone experiences the many immaterial and spiritual dimensions of life. Knowing is not simply a material act, since the object that is known always conceals something beyond the empirical datum. All our knowledge, even the most simple, is always a minor miracle, since it can never be fully explained by the material instruments that we apply to it [e.g. Helen Keller's quantum leap insight to understanding: "w-a-t-e-r"]. In every truth there is something more than we would have expected, in the love that we receive there is always an element that surprises us. We should never cease to marvel at these things. In all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something 'over and above,' which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised. The development of individuals and peoples is likewise located on a height, if we consider the spiritual dimension that must be present if such development is to be authentic. It requires new eyes and a new heart, capable of rising above a materialistic vision of human events, capable of glimpsing in development the 'beyond' that technology cannot give. By following this path, it is possible to pursue the integral human development that takes its direction from the driving force of charity in truth [i.e. from God Himself]."

Our present worldwide economic crisis is a crisis of saints!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guadalupe's Most Worthy Altar

Two Tuesdays ago I landed in Mexico city and went straight to the Antigua Basilica de Guadalupe (the original Basilica) to find a worthy altar at Tepeyac to offer the Holy Sacrifice usus antiquor (with my own pocket Missal of course). To my great surprise and delight the sacristan was happy to set me up immediately to offer the Mass and he even provided his only roman vestment for it (which had been used by San Rafael Guizar y Valencia of Veracruz). Since the vestment was red I offered a votive Mass of Blessed Miguel Pro.
The Mass was on the precious altar of the Capilla del Sagrario, which you can barely see in the picture (it was the best picture I could find on the Internet, if any of my friends can find a better one please send it for me to post: the choir, the grill, the silver altar rail, the gilded altar and silver tabernacle were all magnificent).

The whole basilica is undergoing a complete restoration (apparently to it's original traditional glory) of which this side chapel is a splendid example.

Luis Alberto Rosales Herrera is the most accommodating sacristan. He can be reached (in Spanish only) at or

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fessio's Assessment of New Encyclical

A New Framework for Social Justice
By Father Joseph Fessio, SJ

'Pope Benedict has changed the whole framework of the debate on 'the social question.'

NAPLES, Florida (Zenit) - Benedict XVI has something for everyone in "Caritas in Veritate" -- from praising profit (21) to defending the environment (48). But in these cases, as in all the others, he calls for a discernment and a purification by faith and reason (56) that should temper immoderate and one-sided enthusiasms.

Once again, Pope Benedict shows himself to be a theologian of synthesis and fundamental principles. In the titles of his three encyclicals he has used only five nouns: God, Love, Hope, Salvation, and Truth -- the most fundamental of realities. And in the opening greeting of this encyclical he succinctly describes the contents: "on integral human development in charity and truth."
Note that from this very greeting Pope Benedict has changed the whole framework of the debate on "the social question." This was expected to be -- and is -- his encyclical on "social justice." And indeed "justice" and "rights" find their proper place in a larger synthesis. But the priority is established from the outset, the foundation is laid, with "charity" and "truth." "Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine" (2). "Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power" (5).

Another fundamental principle, and a central theme of this pontificate, is the continuity of the Church and her teaching. Surprisingly, the central ecclesiastical text from the past is Pope Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio," and Pope Benedict makes it clear that we do not have "two typologies of social doctrine, one pre-conciliar and one post-conciliar, differing from one another: On the contrary, there is a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new" (12). This principle of continuity was expressed centrally in Benedict's first address as Pope on April 20, 2005, and again to the Roman curial cardinals on Dec. 22 of that year.
Within this fundamental material context of charity and truth, and the fundamental formal context of the continuity of the Church's teaching, Pope Benedict situates the centerpiece of the Church's social teaching: "integral human development." And by "integral" he means "it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man" (18, quoting Paul VI). Among the important dimensions of this wholeness, he notes that integral human development must be open to the transcendent (11: "authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space.") and it must be open to life (28: "Openness to life is at the center of true development").
The inclusiveness of this integration is emphatically and perhaps surprisingly exemplified in paragraph 39. There, the Pope states that the "logic of the market and the logic of the state," i.e., free economic exchange with political oversight and restraint, are not enough to secure human flourishing. There must also be "solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence, actions of gratuitousness" or, as he says in summary, "increasing openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion." Pope Benedict insists on a "third economic factor" in addition to the market and the state: gratuitousness.
Here is a radiant example of the fundamental, synthetic, and discerning character of Pope Benedict's formulation of the Church's social teaching, one which for me is worth the whole encyclical for its clarity, depth, and common sense: "If there is lack of respect for the right to life and a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational system and laws do not help them to respect themselves" (51).
There are times when one is especially proud of the blessing of the Catholic faith. This is one of them.

* * * Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio is the editor of Ignatius Press and theologian in residence at Ave Maria University. Father Fessio is also a former student of Joseph Ratzinger and belongs to Ratzinger's "Schülerkreis."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Encyclical Out July 7

"Caritas in Veritate" to Cover Social Themes

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2009 ( Benedict XVI's new encyclical, titled "Caritas in Veritate," will be released Tuesday, the Vatican announced.

The Vatican press office confirmed today that the Pope's first social encyclical, which is expected to offer an analysis of the current economic crisis, will be presented at a press conference in the late morning July 7. The text will then be released to the public at midday, local time.

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will present the encyclical at the press conference.

The Vatican also noted that Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, will speak, as will Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The encyclical's release is one day before the Group of Eight will begin an international summit in L'Aquila, Italy.

The Holy Father signed the encyclical Monday, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. That same day, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI explained that the encyclical is a reflection on the conditions necessary for "integral development." He added that it returns to social themes found in "Populorum Progressio," written by Pope Paul VI in 1967.

He explained that it "aims to go deeper in certain aspects of the integral development of our age, in the light of charity in truth."

"I entrust to your prayer this new contribution that the Church offers to humanity in its commitment to sustainable progress, in full respect of human dignity and the real needs everyone has," Benedict XVI said.

"Caritas in Veritate" is the first social encyclical to be written in almost two decades. Pope John Paul II penned "Centesimus Annus" in 1991, a century after Pope Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum."

The encyclical will be released in English, Italian, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Homosexualism Defined

Homosexualism is the promotion, acceptance or tacit approval of homosexuality.
It has become a prevailing ideology.

Call it homosexualism.

Name it!

Christians must name it and Christians must roundly condemn it as do Saint Paul (cf. Romans chapter 1 and Pope Benedict, cf. CDF letter on the pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies ).
To name this error is an act of love for the salvation of souls--especially for those embroiled in the resultant immorality and godlessness: caritas in veritate (cf. Ephesians 4:5 referenced by His Holiness in his homily for the close of the Pauline Year 28 June 2009 and in his Catholic University of America Address 17 April 2008: "We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love. How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call 'intellectual charity'. This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice, 'intellectual charity' upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life".)
To remain silent is a lack of love.
Catholic education is an act of love!
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