“It is exactly this logic—the gift comes first, before us—that Benedict insists is true about the environment, about technology, about sexuality, and about life itself. Indeed, it is a feature at the heart of Benedict’s entire theological trajectory.”
Many have commented that one of the most innovative features of Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical, Caritas in veritate, is making explicit the connection between the Church’s social ethics and the Church’s teaching on sexual and “life” issues. This can be seen especially in the connection drawn between environmental and sexual teachings, which in one place the encyclical calls the “grammar of creation.” However, the encyclical does not go into much detail about how to construe these connections, ones which have been controversial in the recent history of Catholic ethics.2 In this paper, I seek to demonstrate two things: one, how these connections rely on Benedict’s overall theological vision of creation and eschatology, and two, how essayist Wendell Berry’s work fleshes out three ways in which this connection needs to be understood and practiced in contemporary American society: a humility in coming to recognize the complex pattern of creation, the importance of good work as a discipline for revealing and participating in this pattern, and the necessary mediating role of local communities and cultures in forming and reforming us according to this pattern.
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