The Road from Regensburg

FAITH Magazine March-April 2010

Extracts from recent Papal speeches on key aspects of Caritas in Veritate


To members of the Papal Academies, 28 Jan 2010, some of whom are currently celebrating special anniversaries (our translation).

Looking back to our glorious past cannot be the only approach to [current anniversaries...] Contemporary culture, and even more believers themselves, in fact, demand a continuing ecclesial reflection and action in the various areas in which new issues emerge [...] enabling the whole Church [...] to respond effectively to questions and challenges [...] and promote man in his integrity.

[... Thomas Aquinas'] first biographer, William of Tocco, highlights the extraordinary and pervasive pedagogical originality of St Thomas, with words that can inspire your actions: Brother Thomas, he writes, "in his lectures introducing new themes, resolved issues in a new and clearer manner with new arguments. Consequently, those who heard him teach and deal with new theses, new methods, could not doubt that God had illuminated him with a new light: in fact, you can never teach or write new opinions if you have not received a new inspiration from God."

[... thus] we should study very carefully emerging issues to provide appropriate, creative responses. Confident in the possibility of 'human reason', in full fidelity to the immutable deposit of faith, [...] in order to promote [...] with all the energies and resources available, an authentic Christian humanism.


To the members of the Diplomatic Corps 11 January 2010 on the "continuing" economic "crisis" and "social instability".

[...] In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. [... Twenty years ago, in eastern Europe] the collapse of the materialistic and atheistic regimes [... made it] easy to assess the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air.

[...] It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. [...]

There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation. [...] The Church points out that the response to this aspiration is Christ "the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created" (Col 1:15-16).


To the Delegation of the Commission of European Communities, 19 October 2009.

You have just described, Mr Ambassador, the reality of the European Union as "a zone of peace and stability that gathers 27 States with the same fundamental values". This is a felicitous presentation. However, it is right to point out that [...] these values are the fruit of a long and tortuous history in which, as no one will deny, Christianity has played a leading role. The equal dignity of all human beings, the freedom of the act of faith as the root of all the other civil freedoms, [...] are likewise central elements of the Christian Revelation that continue to model the European Civilisation.

[...] These common values do not constitute an anarchic or uncertain aggregate but form a coherent whole which is ordered and expressed historically on the basis of a precise anthropological vision. [...] Does not letting oneself slip into this forgetfulness mean exposing oneself to the risk of seeing great and beautiful values compete or come into conflict with each other? Furthermore, do they not risk being exploited by individuals and pressure groups desirous of imposing their own interests.


To the English and Welsh Bishops, at their Ad Limina, 1 February 2010.

Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church's moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended.

Extracts from recent commentaries on Caritas in Veritate


From an article by David L Schindler, Dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, Washington, DC on Life, entitled Family and Development: The Anthropological Unity of Caritas in Veritate, in the Bollettino di Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa V(2009) 93-97.

The main presupposition undergirding the argument of CiV is the universality of the vocation to love. We all know that we "are not self-generated" (68). This implies a sense of the Creator which Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict describes in other writings in terms of anamnesis, the memory of God that is "identical with the foundations of our being." This memory of God can be ignored or denied but it is never absent from any human consciousness. In a word, a dynamic tendency toward communion with God, and with other creatures in relation to God, lies in the inmost depths of every human being and not only Christians.

The encyclical's call for a new trajectory of thinking informed by the principles of gratuitousness and relationality, metaphysically and theologically conceived, takes its beginning from this universal anamnesis of love and God (cf. 53, 55): [...] "The principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity" (36); [...] man's being-with God, as creaturely, is first a being-from [...] the radical generosity of the One Who Is.

Here, in what we may call the filial relation associated with the family, we find the root meaning of the encyclical's central category of relation as gift. Indeed, once we see the radicality of this relation, which originates in God as the Creator, we see that it must include not only all human beings, though especially and most properly these, but all creatures and thus also all of the natural, physical-biological, entities of the cosmos. Thus Benedict says that "nature expresses a design of love and truth" (48). It is prior to us ... and speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity. It is destined to be 'recapitulated' in Christ at the end of time (cf. Eph 1:9-10; Col 1: 19-20). [...]

The implications of the constitutive relationality affirmed in CiV are stunning: no relations taken up by human beings in the course of their lives are purely contractual, [...] freedom is an act of choice only as already embedded in an order of naturally given relations (cf. 68) to God, family, others, and nature. [... Man] is intrinsically related to the whole of humanity and of nature. [...]

Technology thus, rightly conceived, must be integrated into ... the idea of creation as something first given to man, as gift, "not something self-generated" (68), or produced by man.

From an interview with Archbishop Crepaldi of Trieste in the German magazine, Amos International.

[...] the mental change [CiV] proposes is no longer to consider persons and the world as something we have produced, but to look upon them from the viewpoint of their vocation. [...] If everything is due to mere chance or sheer necessity, man remains deaf and nothing in his life speaks to him or reveals itself to him. In that case society will be nothing more than a sum of individuals and not a true community. We can produce reasons or motives for being 'neighbours', but producing reasons or motives for being brothers is above and beyond us.

[...] the world is suffering due to a lack of thinking, a shortage of thought. [...] Personally speaking, I think very much still has to be done along these lines. The Social Doctrine of the Church needs to be considered as authentic knowledge, and [...] considered as an instrument at the service of the unity of knowledge, an ever-present requirement also in this age of globalisation.

[...] There is no fraternity without gratuitousness. If this is not experienced in the family - or rather if the family is weakened - it has an impact on society as a whole. [...] The modern economy works because hundreds of thousands of perfect strangers can trust one another. [...] abortion and laws that permit the non-respect of life [... also have] an economic cost over the long term. The approach must be holistic."


On 19 October 2009, one month before he became the first President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy gave a talk at the Belgian University of Liege, on Caritas in Veritate. He brought out the Pope's highlighting of the moral dimension of the current global crisis, and the need to root our solutions in a renewed spiritual vision of Man which can lead to a better balance of solidarity and subsidiarity (our translation):

The goal is a humanism that coheres with the loving plan of God. [...] The Church considers ethical relativism, which implies that no objective value exists, one of the greatest threats to modern democracies [...]

He is convinced that it is precisely the lack of charity that has led us to the current economic and financial crisis: [...] When economic, social or political ideas are based on what is possible and self-determination, they undermine the true liberty of men. [...] Clearly, the only solution is a new humanistic synthesis.

Two other astute online commentaries are those by Elizabeth Carr of Amherst College, Massachusetts, who writes that that the "overarching issue" is the soul's gifted relationality which roots human fraternity in God, and Francois Lacoste Lareymonde in his "Les quatre 'fils rouges' de Tencyclique" in a feature on "The Anthropology of Gift" in Liberte Politique, Autumn 2009.

Faith Magazine

March - April 2010