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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Caritas in Veritate

Dear Friend,
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate, for two reasons: I had to prepare a staff development session on "Charity in Truth" and today President Obama signed the Health Care Reform bill passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday, March 21st. The encyclical and health care reform are related. Allow me to begin first by referring to the WORD CLOUD to the left which captures the major themes of this 30,000 word encyclical Caritas in Veritate. This magisterial document opens with three powerful sentences: "Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love-caritas-is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth." Repeatedly, the Holy Father states that Charity and Truth need each other. Charity without truth becomes mere "sentimentality" and a "empty shell" of itself. Truth without charity leads to cold rights and duties and ultimately dictatorship.

Without reiterating the whole argument, it seems to me that the political parties and the extreme media on both ends of the political spectrum in this country, all need to heed the wisdom of Caritas in Veritate. By way of illustration and encouragement, bankers in London have made time in their busy schedules to study in small groups the entire encyclical. It is worthwhile for many since it is addressed not only to religious leaders, but to political leaders, financiers, labor leaders, business leaders and aid agencies.

I believe that too often the civility in public discourse and the respect we owe to every human person as a child of God are lacking because we divorce Caritas from Veritate. If one does not have a respect for the truth but rather selects and advances arguments and data that support only one's preconceived conclusion, what good does that do for humanity and the common good? Conversely, if one wishes to save the world with good intentions cultivated in a generous and noble heart but lacks the wherewithal to face the facts and limits of life in the world, little of value is accomplished. Charity and Truth need each other.

Pope Benedict concludes his encyclical with wise and modest reminders. "Development needs Christians with their arms raised to God in prayer. Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate,from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all turn to God's love."

As we near the fifth anniversary of his selection as the successor of Peter, God must take delight in the knowledge one of the most brilliant and holy men alive today is occupying Peter's venerable chair. If you have read this may God bless you and our good Pope Benedict.

With respect,
Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC.

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