The new encyclical

Some sites are posting little excerpts of the encyclical.  Fine.  I want to wait and absorb this a little and think about it before posting too much.  There is a lot going on in the encyclical.  I would rather offer something substantive.

Be patient… I’ll get there. 

You can stop sending me e-mails telling me there is a new encyclical out.  o{]:¬)  I know.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Predictably, the media is spinning the encyclical as a socialist-globalist masterwork.

  2. Maureen says:

    Given all the various things the Pope says to make heads on all sides explode….

    …I think he’s been biting his tongue a lot at seminars, to prevent fights on irrelvant issues. For years. And now, he gets his revenge! :)

    Well, maybe not. But he sure did shake that bottle of soda before giving it to us. :)

  3. Father, Father, there’s a new encyclical out! Do you need a link?


  4. Cory says:

    I’m wondering how liberal Catholics will interpret both articles 28 and 44. It seems that what the U.S bishops said last year is true, that the abortion issue takes precendence over all other social justice issues.

  5. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    I agree that this one requires some digesting – and serious parsing to separate the Benedictine wheat from the J&P chaff. GW has something helpful in this regard over at NRO, and I have something up at mine, the Lazy Disciple, dealing with Fr. Reese’s predictable knee-jerk reaction.


  6. Ann says:

    I am only 26 pages into the encyclical but I do not find it supporting socialism at all. In fact, it seems to me to be quite encouraging of well managed and ethically driven free markets where business leaders look to the sustainability of economic improvements in the locality in which the business resides. This strikes me as a really good idea for all involved, business owners and stock holders as well as for the local work force and the tax revenues for the governments as well. I think economically everyone would benefit if they put into practice more of what this encyclical urges. But of course, I am only roughly half way through the encyclical. :)

  7. Kradcliffe says:

    Hey, Father Z! Didja know there’s a new encyclical today?!

  8. Peggy says:

    I have only skimmed the chapter topics. This is not a mere pronouncement on economic matters. It is a wide-ranging document that also considers migration, tourism, environment, and technology with consideration for the individual and family at the center of it all. I don’t have views yet as to its detail.

  9. Brian says:

    Its one thing to accurately diagnose a disease, another altogether to treat it correctly.

    I think the Pope has the diagnosis right, but his recommended treatment — giving more teeth to a reformed UN — will only make the patient sicker.

    Evangelicals and fundamentalists are already labeling his call for increased power at the UN a call for the antichrist.

    Only the Church can fulfill the role that he is handing to a worldwide secular governing body. Surely the Pope could see that?

  10. Hidden One says:


    I think the key is “reformed”, perhaps?

  11. Dear Brian,

    The “World Political Authority” language is indeed rather…perplexing.


  12. Me says:

    I find the timing of the encyclical Providental (considering the topics it covers) in relation to President Obmam’s visit the the Vatican!

    Blesed be God!

  13. Me says:

    Whoopps…that’s Obama :) I promise I know who our Presdient is, even though I am not a fan!

  14. Matthew Kennel says:

    I’m only partially done the encyclical, but what has struck me as powerful so far is the Pope’s ringing endorsement, in paragraph 12, of the hermeneutic of continuity as the proper way of reading Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium. It’s not that this surprises me – it’s simply that it is such a powerful statement of support for the importance of viewing the current situation in the light of Apostolic Tradition.

  15. I am not Spartacus says:

    According to John Allen Jr., Benedict’s critique of capitalism comes as no surprise to those familiar with Joseph Ratzinger’s earlier work (National Catholic Reporter May 13, 2007):

    In 1988, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published a collection of essays under the title of Church, Ecumenism and Politics. In it, he argued that capitalism is little better than national socialism or communism, in that all three propose false idols (prosperity, the Volk, and the state, respectively). Ratzinger said that to build a humane civilization, the West must rediscover two elements of its past: its classical Greek heritage and its common Christian identity.

    I have been too busy to read the Encyclical but it will be interesting to read Messers Woods and Novak trying to spin this Encyclical, as proof that the Catholic Church has, finally, come around to favor Free Market Capitalism, or The Austrian School

  16. Bill Haley says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Thank you for not commenting right away. This approach of the media to kill the text with commentary causes the encyclical to get caught up in the here today, gone tomorrow. This needs digestion, not soundbites.

    I look forward to your commentary. I hope to have it read by then.

  17. Fr. Charles says:

    It gives joy to my Franciscan heart to see the Holy Father using fraternal as a way to describe a Catholic vision for human society and economy.

  18. LCB says:

    But Fr, But Fr!

    The *words* of the document are not important.

    I *don’t* need to read the document to know what it says.

    I know all about the *spirit* of the document, and that’s what really matters.

    And the *spirit* of the document confirms all positions I hold on every topic. That’s my favorite part about the Church, it never requires me to change in the least!

  19. Jordanes says:

    I am not Spartacus said: it will be interesting to read Messers Woods and Novak trying to spin this Encyclical, as proof that the Catholic Church has, finally, come around to favor Free Market Capitalism ***

    If they ever do that, it probably would be more interesting that reading the usual suspects trying to spin this encyclical as proof that the Catholic Church has finally come around to condemning free market capitalism . . . .

  20. Michael J says:

    Not Spartacus,

    Have you read ” Church, Ecumenism and Politics”? I am wondering if the then Cardinal Ratzinger truly said that “capitalism is little better than national socialism or communism” or if this is what John Allen interpreted.

  21. peregrinus says:

    Fr. Z. I am the same way. Unfortunately, we are getting bombarded with the pits from the cherry pickers.

  22. A Random Friar says:

    I just noticed that the Holy See added a Chinese section to the front page! Interesting (And the characters say “Holy See (as in seat) / Chinese Writing”

  23. David Andrew says:

    Shame on Mark Belling, who sat in for Rush Limbaugh today, who commented on the encyclical, but not on the text itself, rather on the excerpts and commentaries included in the NYT.

    Unfortunately, he fell for the “socialist-globalist” spin that the NYT et. al. have put on this, taking issue with the quotes the Times included, and suggesting that the Holy Father doesn’t understand how a free market system works on a global level.

    I’m hopeful that he’ll read the actual document more carefully before flaying the Holy Father and falling right into the trap the progressivists at “Hell’s Bible” have set.

  24. Phil Atley says:

    Perhaps John Allen left out the modifier “laissez-faire” from capitalism. A lot of people do. The Church has condemned laissez-faire capitalISM since Leo XIII if not before. Both the laissez-faire part and the “ism” party (economism, making man into homo economicus) are problematic for Catholics. But I don’t see any intelligent Catholics arguing in favor of laissez-faire capitalISM today. I do see a lot of socialist Catholics claiming that their opponents advocate laissez-faire capitalISM.

    Exactly what Ratzinger was condemning decades ago I haven’t the faintest idea. I hope he wasn’t so foolish as to lump all advocates of free markets in with laissez-faire capitalism.

    I defy anyone to find me an example of laissez-faire capitalISM functioning anywhere in the world. Or being seriously advocated by anyone, certainly not by the usual suspects, Novak and Weigel. Of course the anti-Weigelists routinely accuse them of advocating “brutal laissez-faire capitalism.” It makes for better newsfodder. (Maybe they should tone down their rhetoric a bit. :-) )

  25. I hear that right after the encyclical was released the Holy Father hopped a plane to Los angeles to see if he could crash the Michael Jackson Memeorial Service. I don’t think he won a ticket.

  26. Rellis says:

    I’ll be the first to say it. “Caritas in Veritate” is just another PR disaster for the Holy See. It was the long-delayed culmination of left-wing curial intrigue fighting against the instincts of the Holy Father. Weigel is right. [I am not convinced of that. You would have to make a far better case for that claim.]

    This document is too long, too dense, and too liberal. It’s his “Laborens Exercens.” It will go on history’s bottom shelf.

  27. kgurries says:

    Wow! A lot to absorb. It’s both old and new at the same time. It certainly stresses the classical principles of “subsidiarity” and “solidarity” — and applies them anew to the modern phonmenon of globalization. It also stresses that “we” can’t solve these problems on our own without charity and Truth — without God.

  28. Maureen says:

    Oh, this encyclical is just full of fun. I was particularly amused by the contention that the Church’s teaching is that you can’t just sit back and claim that there are no personal feelings in business. Also, there was a definite declaration that you can’t trust the hidden hand of the market to do everything and also make shadow puppets. I enjoyed that one a lot.

    But of course, there were also tons of pokes and slams against socialism, tyranny, and the like.

    Still, I’m pretty sure my favorite line was the one about “the great Paul VI”. I enjoyed mentally picturing conservatives and liberals both choking on their coffee at that, either from violent disagreement or from violent dislike of B16 saying it.

    I call it “Paulusmagnusfreude”. :)

    Mostly, though, I want to compare the English text against the Italian and German in several places. There are some translation oddities that would repay closer study.

  29. kgurries says:

    This is classical social teaching with a Benedictine twist:

    “The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.” (Cf. #58)

  30. kgurries says:

    There are some “new” contributions with this encyclical that give food for thought. For example:

    “The exclusively binary model of market-plus-State is corrosive of society, while economic forms based on solidarity, which find their natural home in civil society without being restricted to it, build up society. The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift.” (Cf. #39)

  31. kgurries says:

    This also cought my eye. We can’t effect authentic human development by our own power — it has to be received as a gift from God and this is also partly what it means to have an truly integral (Christian) humanism.

    “Paul VI recalled in Populorum Progressio that man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism[157] that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.” (Cf. #78)

  32. mpm says:

    So far, I’ve completed everything through Chapter 2. I came across two terms in #32 that I can not quite grasp. a) “structural insecurity”, in the sentence “Economic science tells us that structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources”; and b) “the reduction of cultures to the technological dimensions”, in the last paragraph, although I think it refers to the concept of “business culture” within an organization, so that the value of colleagues is depreciated to be their value as big-hitters, or something like that.

    If anyone knows specifically what they refer to, or has a good guess, I’d like to hear what they have to say.


  33. I am not Spartacus says:

    Have you read ” Church, Ecumenism and Politics”? I am wondering if the then Cardinal Ratzinger truly said that “capitalism is little better than national socialism or communism” or if this is what John Allen interpreted.

    I haven’t read it. I found the Allen quote on “Against the Grain.”

    While I do not always agree with Mr. Allen he is, usually, reliable

  34. I am not Spartacus says:

    If they ever do that, it probably would be more interesting that reading the usual suspects trying to spin this encyclical as proof that the Catholic Church has finally come around to condemning free market capitalism .

    Jordanes. You may be right. And, it may be the case that the encyclicals will be seen through with biased eyes on the part of those who have told us the Pope is cool with capitalism.

    In any event, I’d like to see in America, in addition to the Lord Acton Institute, and The Von Mises Institute, The Pesch Institue.

    After all, it is to he work of Fr.Pesch, and his followers, that more than one Encyclical has adopted re.its insights and proposals and philosophical orientation whereas Lord Acton and Von Mises? : not so much.

  35. kgurries says:

    Spartacus, funny that you mention the German Jesuit, Fr. Pesch. He certainly contributed much of the raw material that formed the encyclical Quadragessimo Anno. He basically developed the twin principles of subsidiarity and solidarity that have been used by the Church ever since. His thought has certainly found some expression in Pope Benedict XVI. Some of my favorite extracts from Pesch are here:

  36. Tom says:

    Somewhere I read that Benedict had an uncle, a priest, who wrote on economic matters and was very much of the Pesch school of thinking.

  37. kgurries says:

    I can’t say whether he is related to Benedict, however, Pesch is considered by many as the “Father of Catholic Economics”. His 5 volume work on economics or “summa economica” is still in print and available in English thanks to the translation and scholarship of Dr. Rupert Ederer. The publisher gives the following intro:

    “This is the first English translation of the works of Heinrich Pesch, SJ (1854-1926). Pesch, a German Jesuit scholar and economist, wrote the longest, most exhaustive economics text ever written, one that deserves to be regarded as a kind of Summa Economica. The five-volume Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie examines all serious economic thinking up until Pesch’s time, culling what was deficient, retaining what was worthwhile, and filling in what its author perceived to be lacking. The result was a design for an economic system that is opposed to both classically liberal capitalism and state socialism, based instead on Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical premises. Pesch developed many of the basic principles which emerged in the social encyclicals of the Catholic Church.”

  38. kgurries says:

    I know that many are instinctively suspicious when it comes to any notion of an “International Organization” (especially given the experience of the UN) and are more or less scandalized that a Pope would promote such a concept. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that this notion has roots in Catholic social teaching even prior to Vatican II. Here is a sampling:


    Things being thus restored, the order required by justice and charity re-established and the nations reconciled, it is much to be desired, Venerable Brethren, that all States, putting aside mutual suspicion, should unite in one league, or rather a type of family of peoples, calculated both to maintain their own independence and safeguard the order of human society. What especially, among other reasons, calls for such an association of nations, is the generally recognized need of making every effort to abolish or reduce the enormous burden of the military expenditure which the State can no longer afford, in order to forestall these disastrous wars or at least to remove the danger of them as far as possible. So would each nation be assured not only of its independence but also of the integrity of its territory within its just boundaries. (Benedict XV, Pacem Dei Munus, 1920)

    Never perhaps in the past have we seen, as we see in these our own times, the minds of men so occupied by the desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together, and which is a consequence of our common origin and nature. For since the nations do not yet fully enjoy the fruits of peace — indeed rather do old and new disagreements in various places break forth into sedition and civic strife — and since on the other hand many disputes which concern the tranquillity and prosperity of nations cannot be settled without the active concurrence and help of those who rule the States and promote their interests, it is easily understood, and the more so because none now dispute the unity of the human race, why many desire that the various nations, inspired by this universal kinship, should daily be more closely united one to another. (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928)

    62. The decisions already published by international commissions permit one to conclude that an essential point in any future international arrangement would be the formation of an organ for the maintenance of peace, of an organ invested by common consent with supreme power to whose office it would also pertain to smother in its germinal state any threat of isolated or collective aggression.
    63. No one could hail this development with greater joy than he who has long upheld the principle that the idea of war as an apt and proportionate means of solving international conflicts is now out of date.
    64. No one could wish success to this common effort, to be undertaken with a seriousness of purpose never before known, with greater enthusiasm, than he who has conscientiously striven to make the Christian and religious mentality reject modern war with its monstrous means of conducting hostilities. (Pius XII, Christmas Message, 1944)

    Your movement, gentlemen, dedicates itself to realizing an effective political organization of the world. Nothing is more in conformity with the traditional doctrine of the Church, with her teaching concerning legitimate or illegitimate war, above all in the present emergency. It is necessary, therefore, to arrive at such an organization, if for no other reason than to put an end ot the armaments race in which for many tears peoples have been ruining and exhausting themselves through sheer waste. (Pius XII, Address to delegates of the fourth annual Congress of the World Movement for Federal Government, April 6, 1951)

  39. Jamie says:

    Does it not disturb anyone that this is so typical of the post-VII Church? An encyclical that can be interpreted to support socialism – or to condemn socialism. Why do we need to dig so deep to understand this? Have our Popes lost the ability to speak clearly and in no uncertain terms?

  40. laminustacitus says:

    “Does it not disturb anyone that this is so typical of the post-VII Church? An encyclical that can be interpreted to support socialism – or to condemn socialism.”
    Keep in mind that many disagree about what “Socialism” is. Surely, for some, the answer seems obvious, but it is surprising the meaning some can put into the term.

    ” Have our Popes lost the ability to speak clearly and in no uncertain terms?”
    I think that it is in the very nature of social theology (before, and after Vatican II) to be able to be interpreted in so many ways. Rerum Novarum, of course a pre-Vatical II document, itself can be read through so many political lenses, and a manifold of perspectives can each take their own little bit from the encyclical.

  41. Hidden One says:

    Alas, Jamie, it is not so much that anymore, as that the spinmeisters are much better now.

  42. dymphna says:

    So let me get this straight. If I marry a Baptist or a Muslim or an athiest I’m married but if I marry someone in an SSPX chapel I’m not married?

  43. Alice says:

    Yes, Dymphna, if you marry a Baptist or a Muslim or an atheist, with the permission of the local bishop in the case of a baptized non-Catholic or a dispensation in the case of an unbaptized person, and according to the form of the Catholic Church, which includes an officiant (ordinarily a priest or deacon) with faculties from the local bishop, you are married. If you do not get such permission or choose to have an officiant without faculties, you are not married. If two Catholics choose to marry before an officiant without faculties, their marriage is invalid, whether or not the officiant is ordained, hence both SSPX and rent-a-priest marriages are invalid for Catholics.

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