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Document Details :
Title: Caritas in veritate
Subtitle: De komst van de liefde in de sociale moraal
Author(s): VOSMAN, Frans , LEGET, Carlo
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 50 Issue: 2 Date: 2010
With Benedict XVI’s third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (June 2009), the integration of personal and social ethics in the Catholic Church took a small step forward. It is not only the longest of Benedict’s three encyclicals, it is also the longest social encyclical ever written, e.g. it is twice as long as Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Also unique is that this is the first social encyclical to focus on caritas. This word refers to God’s love that permeates humanity, not to charity. Benedict links this with truth or veritas, and thus brings us into rational discourse. Amid the panorama of crisis in a globalising world weighed down under late modernity, the pope draws attention to true love as humanising force from which societies should repeatedly seek their orientation. He does this over the expanse of an introduction, six chapters and a brief conclusion. The introduction outlines an ethical framework. It sees love and truth as starting points for reasoning and sees justice and the common good as outcome indicators. The pope then builds on reasoning in Populorum Progressio (Ch. 1) to address recent developments in the world economy (Ch. 2), the importance of confidence and solidarity in economic developments (Ch. 3), the rights and duties of groups and peoples (Ch. 4), subsidiarity as appropriate principal for ordering the human family (Ch. 5) and the role of technology in progress (Ch. 6). A critical reading of the encyclical highlights several striking points. For one, it has a high level of self-referentiality. This refers as much to the readership addressed, praying believers, as to the sources cited. Second, the notion of reasonableness as developed in the encyclical is ambiguous. In several places a traditional, bland understanding of natural law has taken the place of the internal cultural dissonance that Ratzinger acknowledged in his thinking. A third characteristic of this encyclical is that its social moral forgets the body. Just as Spes Salvi says much about hope but forgets the resurrection of the body, this encyclical exchanges John-Paul II’s phenomenological and physical thinking for an ethic of thinking spirits. This is probably related to the last observation that the encyclical ignores the discrepancy between a dearth of history and a lack of social cohesion.