Benedict’s encyclical: man is not an angel

The title of this post is not a quote from Deus caritas est. Rather, it serves to point out an important fact: Benedict understands human nature.


His Excellency
Archbishop Wm. J. Levada
Prefect of the CDF

I am sending this directly from the press conference. Technology is amazing. Here is a taste of the encyclical that I cannot resist sharing right away. Keep in mind that in the press, there will be a great deal of focus on the distinction between human “erotic” love and the higher, sacrificial love of Christian charity which we identify with the word agape.

First, Benedict makes sure to establish clearly that man is BOTH body and soul. To emphasize the one over the other results in an improper view of man himself and, as a result love.

When Pope Benedict talks about the “higher” way of love which is agape, he is not holding up am impossible ideal. He clearly sidesteps any suggestion that man ought to deny his very nature in some impossible attempt to be “angelic”.

In par. 8:

“Fundamentally, “love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love. And when we have also seen, synthetically, that biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions in it.”

Also, in the encyclical is a delightful passage in which he talks about the need of man to experience love from the point of view of being loved and not just giving love to others.

There is in Benedict’s thought a clear grasp of man’s nature. This is a far cry from the criticisms that were rained down on his character at before and around the time of his election.

The encyclical strives in the second part to establish a theological foundation for works of charity, responding to the attitude that “to do something enough”. There are organizations even attached to the Church in some way that seem to act without reference to bishops and the hierarchical Church. This is an intervention of the Magisterium to reestablished the foundation of charitable work in the proper place: a relationship of love with Christ and with those whom Christ commanded us to love through a proper love, a higher love.

More later.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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