The Road from Regensburg

FAITH Magazine September-October 2009

Papal Dialogue in Search of a Modern Apologetic


The Pope's latest Encyclical letter Caritatis in Veritate argues:

• That true human development will only take place upon a truly renewed vision of man.

• Against those dominant views which deny man's spiritual soul, and his call to relationship, primarily with God.

• That science and technology have a key place in modern man's useof reason. He affirms the importance of metaphysics as something which emerges from this use.

• In favour of some specific approaches to the balance of solidarity and subsidiarity, life issues, sexual morality, globalization, the redistribution of wealth, labour unions, financial markets, the environment and other modern social issues.

As a significant step in the Papal magisterium's development concerning the use of reason today, we present some quotations from the Encyclical on the first three themes above. The bold is ours, the italics the Pope's. The quotations begin with their paragraph reference.

A useful overview comes at the beginning of Chapter Five "The cooperation of the human family":

53. Pope Paul VI noted that "the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking". He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man's transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.


4. Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis.

9. Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church's social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity.

19. Hence, in the pursuit of development, there is a need for "the deep thought and reflection of wise men in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew."

21. The different aspects of the crisis, its solutions, and any new development that the future may bring, are increasingly interconnected, they imply one another, they require new efforts of holistic understanding and a new humanistic synthesis.

25. the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity.

33.  Charity and truth confront us with an altogether new and creative challenge, one that is certainly vast and complex. It is about broadening the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing [...] powerful new forces.

34.  "Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals" [Catechism 407 ...] The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from "influences" of

a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way.

43. It is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence.

54. The Christian revelation of the unity of the human race presupposes a metaphysical interpretation of the "humanum" in which relationality is an essential element.

55. Truth unites spirits and causes them to think in unison, attracting them as a unity to itself.


26. What eclecticism and cultural levelling have in common is the separation of culture from human nature. Thus, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them, and man ends up being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.

29. God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to "be more". Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved.

31. Paul VI had seen clearly that among the causes of underdevelopment there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis, for which "a clear vision of all economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects" is required. [...] The "broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application" is indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems.

68. The development in question is not simply the result of natural mechanisms, since as everybody knows, we are all capable of making free and responsible choices. Nor is it merely at the mercy of our caprice, since we all know that we are a gift, not something self-generated.

76. 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 health with emotional well-being. [...] Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors.


Some of the Pope's significant epistemological reflections, in paragraphs 34, 48, 69, 70 and 77, are quoted in our current editorial, and their implications for a renewed philosophy of science discussed, mainly under the subtitle "Immediate Intuition".

51. Nature, especially in our time, is so integrated into the dynamics of society and culture that by now it hardly constitutes an independent variable.

74. The rationality of a self-centred use of technology proves to be irrational because it implies a decisive rejection of meaning and value.

Faith Magazine