Thursday, August 23, 2007

The New Encyclical of Benedict XVI

News is out that Papa Benny's next encyclical is on the way, and it is about (wait for it) social and economic justice. According to Timesonline:
It will focus on humanity’s social and economic problems in an era of globalisation... The encyclical, drafted during his recent holiday in the mountains of northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), issued 40 years ago. In it the pontiff focused on “those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance and are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilisation”. He called on the West to promote an equitable world economic system based on social justice rather than profit.
When is he going to get around to writing that hard-hitting, reform-of-the-reform, Rottweiler dogmatic treatise we've all been waiting for? Has the Holy Father gone all leftie on us?

Of course there was a lot of surprise when the first encyclical came out. But anyone who had read anything written by Joseph Ratzinger (other than the edicts of the CDF) was not surprised that his first encyclical was on love. The same goes for this new encyclical (if the reports are correct). There are clues all over the place.

Last night I was reading through Benedict's "Jesus of Nazareth", and just came across this line in the Sermon on the Mount chapter:
Of course, this brings up the whole question of the relationship between faith and social order, between faith in politics. (p112)
Yesterday I was also reading the Holy Father's August 1 general audience on the topic of St Basil. After treating (briefly) Basil's theology of the Trinity, the Holy Father went on to treat at some length Basil's theology of Justice. In fact, he said
We see that St Basil is truly one of the fathers of the church's social doctrine.
basically the audience is one quote after another from St Basil regarding our duty of charity towards our fellow human beings. He concludes:
Dear brothers and sisters, I think one can say that this Father from long ago also speaks to us and tells us important things.
In the first place, attentive, critical and creative participation in today's culture.
Then, social responsibility: this is an age in which, in a globalized world, even people who are physically distant are really our neighbours; therefore, friendship with Christ, the God with the human face.
And, lastly, knowledge and recognition of God the Creator, the Father of us all: only if we are open to this God, the common Father, can we build a more just and fraternal world.
I would be very disappointed the next encyclical was simply a restatement of the social doctrine of the church are ready to be found in the Church's compendium of social doctrine. But I would be surprised if this was all it was.

I believe that we have some clues in this general audience on St Basil and the chapter on the Sermon on the Mount in Benedict's book on Jesus. The chapter of the Sermon on the Mount shows that the confession of the divinity of Christ is at the centre of Jesus moral teaching. The Pope's citations from St Basil show that social doctrine is firmly based on the Church's doctrine of the holy Trinity. Both methods would seem to suggest that as with the last encyclical we will receive something in two parts: the first part being a dogmatic reflection and the second part the practical conclusions that we must draw from this theology.

5 Comments:

At Friday, August 24, 2007 12:14:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I would be very disappointed the next encyclical was simply a restatement of the social doctrine of the church are ready to be found in the Church's compendium of social doctrine. But I would be surprised if this was all it was.

I would be disappointed too. I've just begun reading Jesus of Nazareth so you are a bit ahead of me but I am hoping and praying that Benedict isn't imbued with the overoptimistic humanism that John Paul II exhibited.

The social teachings of the church are of course important but it seems to me these days we need a whole lot more emphasis on sanctifying our lives in a world that has rapidly become relativistic.

Witness the following which was posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

United they stand

Sisters of St. Joseph form new congregation


By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ARCHDIOCESE - Through a faith-filled decision that will enable them to ensure the future viability of their mission and combine resources to better address the many needs of today's world, seven communities of Sisters of St. Joseph have come together as one to form the new Congregation of St. Joseph.

The new community is comprised of seven formerly independent congregations - the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio; LaGrange, Ill.; Nazareth, Mich.; Medaille (Ohio, Minnesota and Louisiana); Tipton, Ind.; Wheeling, W.Va.; and Wichita Kansas.

All seven founding congregations share a common history, which makes their decision to "be and act more as one" particularly meaningful.

. . . .

"Although we were seven autonomous congregations, we all trace our roots back to the first Sisters of St. Joseph established in LePuy, France, in 1650," explained Sister Phyllis Manda, former president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille. "And, we are all dedicated to the same mission from LePuy: to work for unity and reconciliation among all people and unity and reconciliation of all people with God. Today, we think of that as being inclusive of all God's people and reverencing all cultures and religions."

It is worth noting that I don't see too many "younger" members of the Congregation in the picture posted with the story.

Peace, justice and luv just aren't attracting new members, nor is the implication that we're all headed in the same direction anyway.

 
At Friday, August 24, 2007 7:46:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Re the Encyclical, I expect it will be precisely about how our life as social beings can be sanctified by God's grace.

Re the Sisters to whom you refer: that "faith-filled decision" sounds more like an act of desparation than an act of faith.

Re "reverencing all cultures and religions", I wonder if they "reverence" the Scientologists and the Moonies...

 
At Friday, August 24, 2007 11:22:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Well, the caption beneath the photo read:

The Sisters share in an Aymara Ritual . . . weaving provides ways of looking at relationships - those that bind and those that free - during a morning prayer at the inaugural Chapter.

Here's a group of self-professed "religious" weaving strands of yarn or whatever in imitation of Bolivian/Andean native culture, with nary a mention of Christ.

Unfortunately, the Sisters of St. Joseph aren't the only orders so afflicted but it is ironic that those that are pushing the hardest to liberalize the church are the ones that are dying out.

 
At Monday, August 27, 2007 11:09:00 pm , Blogger LYL said...

News is out that Papa Benny's next encyclical is on the way, and it is about (wait for it) social and economic justice.

Excellent! I look forward to it. And in response to Christine's first comment, I'd just like to suggest that in its own right the social teaching of the Church is potentially a great tool in evangelisation and also as a means to sanctify our lives. Living justly ought to help us be more holy. I really think these things are deeply interconnected: communion, holiness, prayer, liturgy, evangelisation, mission, catechesis, social justice, personal witness etc.

 
At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 3:39:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I'd just like to suggest that in its own right the social teaching of the Church is potentially a great tool in evangelisation and also as a means to sanctify our lives. Living justly ought to help us be more holy. I really think these things are deeply interconnected: communion, holiness, prayer, liturgy, evangelisation, mission, catechesis, social justice, personal witness etc.

Oh absolutely right, lyl. Unfortunately some folks try to pit social justice against the holiness that the Liturgy also imparts to us. Of course they are ideally two parts of a whole.

 

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