Caritas est quidditas

Print More

Tom Reese has gotten the first peek at Pope Benedict’s long awaited encyclical on the economy, Caritas in veritate, and on his reading, it’s firmly in the tradition of the social encyclicals of Leo XIII. That is to say, there’s no new enchantment with the magic of the market, but rather, persistent worries about the effects of capitalism on human well-being. Where Leo worried about industrialization, Benedict worries about globalization. Here’s a taste, from a Reese email.

The pope disagrees
with those who believe that the economy should be free of government regulation.
“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,” he writes. “In the long term, these
convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon
personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice
that they promise.”

Benedict even
supports “a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration; for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated
some years ago.”

While Benedict
acknowledges the role of the market, he emphasizes that “the social doctrine of
the Church has unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive justice
and social justice for the market economy.” He unflinchingly supports the
“redistribution of wealth” when he talks about the role of government. “Grave
imbalances are produced,” he writes, “when economic action, conceived merely as
an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a
means for pursuing justice through

Now commences the predictable punditry, with liberals enthusing and conservatives looking for ways to claim that the pope is not really saying what he seems to be saying. Here’s American Catholicism’s foremost apologist for capitalism, Michael Novak, having at Reese and company a few days ago. Will he have at the pope with equal scorn and glee?

Update: Whispers has it up.

1. The pope is pro-union: “Through
the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations e
greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the
interests of workers, partly because Governments, f
or reasons of
economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity
of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more
and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the
Church’s social
doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum
for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their
rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past,
as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new fo
of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local

2. Man does not live by bread alone: “There is another aspect of moder life that is very closely connected to development: the denial of the right to religious freedom.”

3. New world order: In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making.

4. Culture of Death: In vitro fertilization, embryo research, the possibility of manufacturing clones and human hybrids: all this is now emerging and being promoted in today’s highly disillusioned culture, which believes it has mastered every mystery.

Overall, the pope seeks to lay out a broad program of what he calls “Christian humanism,” placing economics within the social and moral order generally. There’s something for everyone–but pretty cold comfort for economic conservatives.