Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 8, 2010
Jesuit wants latest encyclical to spark social transformation
Caritas in Veritate called a prophetic document that should lead us to love
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - Pope Benedict's latest social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate could launch a revolution of divine love, says a Harvard-trained economist and Jesuit priest.
Speaking at Saint Paul University March 1, Father Bill Ryan urged parishes and dioceses to launch small group study of the document to bring about Church renewal.
"You won't 'get it' by yourself," he said. "You'll 'get it' by sharing in small groups." He urged the contemplation of the document in a setting where people could "tell the truth" rather than debate.
"The truth is we need a revolution," said Ryan whose service has included a stint as general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and as Jesuit provincial for English Canada. "The system we have is not going to get us through."
Calling the encyclical "prophetic," he added: "We're either going to love each other or we're going to die."
Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), published in July 2009, is a "beautiful document," a "new experience in Catholic social teaching," he said.
The pope's holistic approach includes the whole person, and focuses on a notion of charity or love that "far exceeds simply giving to the poor," he said.
"It's a Summa of the Church's social magisterium," because it weaves together the Church's pro-life and social justice teachings, including a respect for ecology, and is "driven by the dynamic of divine love," he said.
The document should be "contemplated rather than analyzed," but he feared many were focusing on individual sentences instead of Benedict's "fiery vision" of divine love.
He urged people to see the pope's vision of divine love as energizing the encyclical.
Pope Benedict "makes love and justice inseparable," fusing social justice with the preaching of the Gospel, he said.
He described the pope as a "compassionate critic" who sees clearly the self-destructive drives rooted in original sin, yet proclaims divine charity as "the driving force" in integral human development. The ultimate model, Ryan said, is Christ himself.
LOVE OR SENTIMENT?
The encyclical says love has to be enlightened by faith and reason or else it degenerates into sentimentality, he said.
The document "opens up a vast new place for civil society," so that the human response to divine love goes beyond the obligations to the state and to self-interest, he said.
Benedict's notion of gratuity or gift is the antithesis of a trend to monetize or put a price on everything, he said. That gratuity makes free markets possible.
Lack of gratuity underlies the present economic crisis, Ryan said.
Ryan also spoke on the controversial section of the encyclical that called for a global authority "with teeth" to effectively manage investment, trade, migration and other institutions. He noted this thinking has been around for decades in the Church and compared this body to the kind of agency that regulates air traffic control worldwide.
The encyclical also reminds us of the duties to the next generation, including how the poor of the world will have adequate sources of energy and how the social costs of energy use should be borne by those who use it, he said.
The pope reserved his harshest critique for the improper use of technology, especially biotechnology, warning of a tendency for ethics to "run after" instead of guide its development.
Ryan said the encyclical challenges the core truths of neo-liberalism that the solution is always more economic growth and more trade and that economic development happens automatically. He pointed to the "staggering debt" that is bringing about a shift of power from the West to China and India and is transferring debt to future generations.
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