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Pope Francis published his first encyclical today. Lumen Fidei ("The Light of Faith"), comes in the middle of the Year of Faith. The Pope told bishops,  "It's an encyclical written with four hands, so to speak, because Pope Benedict began writing it and he gave it to me. It's a strong document. I will say in it that I received it and most of the work was done by him and I completed it."

The full text is here: Lumen Fidei.pdf

Pope Benedict set out to write encyclicals on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Two have been done and Lumen Fidei completes the course of study.

Thus Deus Caritas Est on charity in 2005 and Spe Salvi on hope in 2007. 

Pope Benedict's, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), published in 2009 focused on Catholic social teachings of the Church.

Lumen Fidei was presented Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Their presentation is here in various languages.

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In this context, the theme of integral human development takes on an even broader range of meanings: the correlation between its multiple elements requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples. Often it is thought that development, or the socio-economic measures that go with it, merely require to be implemented through joint action. This joint action, however, needs to be given direction, because "all social action involves a doctrine". In view of the complexity of the issues, it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within. Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be "seasoned" with the "salt" of charity. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile. Indeed, "the individual who is animated by true charity labours skilfully to discover the causes of misery, to find the means to combat it, to overcome it resolutely." Faced with the phenomena that lie before us, charity in truth requires first of all that we know and understand, acknowledging and respecting the specific competence of every level of knowledge. Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.

This means that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand, and that charity must animate them in a harmonious interdisciplinary whole, marked by unity and distinction. The Church's social doctrine, which has "an important interdisciplinary dimension", can exercise, in this perspective, a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics and science to come together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity. It is here above all that the Church's social doctrine displays its dimension of wisdom. 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 excessive segmentation of knowledge, the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences, the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions. 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.

(Caritas in veritate, 30-31; emphasis mine)

How is Caritatis in Veritate (CV; Truth in Charity) binding on the consciences of Catholics or anyone else? CV is a teaching document that is addressed to clergy and all people of good will. If you want to talk about it binding a person's faith and reason it comes only in the willingness to accept the pope's vision of life expressed in this teaching. Its ability to influence the reader lies in how receptive the reader is to that which is presented in love.

CV is a document of the Church's ordinary magisterium and therefore not in the realm of being an infallible teaching. It is not an infallible teaching for one reason: encyclicals by nature do not define dogma, that is faith and morals, but it may explain in contemporary terms what the Church believes and teaches about a piece of dogma. Encyclicals like this one which deals with the social teaching of the Church and therefore integrates faith and morals developing new data. New information requires a contemporary application. That which is taught in CV does not bear directly on salvation. Furthermore for a teaching to be infallible a pope has to include in the teaching the threefold formula of "we pronounce, declare and define." Ultimately, we see that CV is signed by the pope himself therefore it is an official papal document and official teaching but not on the level of dogma.

Some readers will find this work a bit difficult, that is dense. There are few things to remember at CV: it's a committee document, it's lengthy (about 30K words), and it has theological depth. Further and most important, CV has what some will call a theological tour de force because it's a "classic Ratzinger theology" because you see his insistence on the integration of faith and reason.

We can never get away from truth known as a Person ( Jesus Christ). In this current work of Benedict there is an insistence on our seeking truth which is found and expressed, according to the pope, in the economy of charity.

For ages now we should know that the Church has no expertise secular mechanisms but in humanity particularly moral and doctrinal; its mission to man's dignity and vocation. In Benedict's own words we hear the echo of what has always been believed, that "The Church does not have technical solutions to present but, as an expert in humanity, she offers to everyone the teaching of the sacred Scripture on the truth about man and proclaims the Gospel of Love and justice." In another place the pope also said that "The solutions to the current problems of humanity cannot be merely technical, but must take account of all the needs of the person, who is endowed with soul and body, and must thus take the Creator, God, into consideration."

CV clearly celebrates and applies in contemporary terms Pope Paul VI's 1967 encyclical Populorum progressio and the Pope recognizes today's situation is different and therefore adapts the church's approach to social matters.  This encyclical a work of continuity in Church teaching. That is to say, Pope Benedict is taking his lead from the continuous teaching of the Church and therefore awakens our attention to a clearer sense of responsibility for shaping the 21st century according to the virtue of peace born of truth and justice. Consistently through the years the Church demands from us a heightened consciousness of our own freedom particularly a freedom wrought by Jesus Christ by indicating the scandals of injustice that exist when man and woman are blinded by sin.

The Pope Benedict links man's religious and human freedom with life issues. If you have to think about a subtext, CV is a synthesis of the whole of theology. In this encyclical we see the notion that human dignity is anchored in truth; man and woman has to be at the center of every decision. As Pope John Paul II said in Centesimus annus, man is mankind's greatest asset. Speaking of the Church's interest in humanity, John Paul said: 

Her sole purpose has been care and responsibility for man, who has been entrusted to her by Christ himself: for this man, whom, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, and for which God has his plan, that is, a share in eternal salvation. We are not dealing here with man in the "abstract", but with the real, "concrete", "historical" man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one for ever. It follows that the Church cannot abandon man, and that "this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission ... the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption."

Catholics, indeed all men and women of good will, have to make the connection with reality that humanity is radically connected with the divine. But also, Catholics will come to see in CV that Pope Benedict believes in a companionship that is essential if we are to really thrive as a people with a common destiny; our job is to be mindful that there is truth in genuine friendship (cf. the other encyclicals of the pope). I think as we progress in this millennium we have to regularly consider with faith and reason who man is according to method of faith and reason viz. what those who are constructing a globalized sense of society say man is or is not. In other words, whose understanding of humanity is more reasonable, more loving and more life-giving? The Church's or Citigroup's? Increasingly we hear how bad the world has been or is becoming and little on how a true Christian responds to such anxieties. Sadly, many homilies we hear the priest or deacon speak more of a reduction of man's faith and the radical nihilism man faces than salvation history wrought by Jesus Christ. CV opens the doors for us to live as God wants us to live by reminding us that the truth in freedom lies in the adherence to God's discoverable plan.

CV in the Pope's words

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"Caritas in veritate", said Benedict XVI, "does not seek to offer technical solutions to the enormous social problems of the modern world. ...What it does do is recall the fundamental principles that are indispensable for building human development over coming years". Among these principles it highlights "concern for the life of man, seen as the centre of all true progress; respect for the right to religious freedom; ... and the rejection of a Promethean vision of human beings which sees them as the sole architects of their own destiny". (VNS)

Caritas in Veritate

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Pope Benedict's 3rd encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, was published today. You may read it here. See the video clip about the pope's new work.

"In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth."

Today is also the 2nd anniversary of the publication of the Pope's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

As expected, today the Pope signed off on his latest encyclical, Charity in Truth. This latest work of the Pope's is a social catechesis that will address issues of concern for the poor, globalization, solidarity with brothers and sisters. The work will be published soon (when the translation can be settled on). It's expected before the G8 meeting (hopefully around July 6 or thereabouts). 

The said in part introducing his work: "The publication of my third encyclical is now near, which has the title Caritas in Veritate. Taking up the social themes contained in Populorum Progressio, written by the Servant of God Paul VI in 1967, this document -- which is dated precisely today, June 29th, the Solemnity of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul -- aims to deepen a few aspects of integral development in our age in the light of charity in truth. I entrust to your prayers this new contribution that the Church offers to humanity in her commitment for sustainable progress, in full respect for human dignity and everyone's real requirements."

John Allen's article on the forthcoming encyclical.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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