New Papal Encyclical!

If you haven’t heard, Caritas in Veritate [Love* in Truth] was released today. You can get it in Word format here, and a Vatican summary is here. I’ve only read a bit of it, but it’s worthwhile.

From the press release:

A summary of the Encyclical released by the Holy See Press Office explains that in his introduction the Pope recalls how “charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine”. Yet, given the risk of its being “misinterpreted and detached from ethical living”, he warns how “a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance”.

Some people complain that the Church gets too involved in secular politics: that it’s really not necessary or wise for the Church to take positions on, say, economic systems, or immigration bills, or healthcare proposals. I agree that there are certain areas where the clergy (particularly the USCCB) can be too vocal when it’s not very relevant to their prophetic or pastoral role. I think that their stance on nuclear disarmament in the 80s was na├»ve, well afield of their duties, and a blatant attempt to curry favor with non-Catholic liberals, even at the cost of alienating politically conservative (and particularly military) Catholics. But I still think that the Church needs to focus on social issues, and needs to speak loudly and clearly on the issues which political parties are unwilling or unable to tackle.

After all, faithful Christians can disagree with one another about the methods: is the best way to care for the poor to open a soup kitchen, create welfare programs, or a combination of the two? They cannot disagree about the goal, though: taking care of the less fortunate is something we’re required to do by our Faith – there’s no permissible option to simply “leave them be,” to suffer or die from our lack of charity.

*The Vatican translated Caritas “Charity” (which is technically correct), but they mean it in the older, original sense of the term: “love” better captures that sentiment now, although both are imperfect. They proceeded to translate it as “love” in the first paragraph of the encylical, so they seem aware of the limitation.

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