Winter 2010

Introduction: Caritas in Veritate

The editors of Communio are pleased to devote the Winter, 2010 issue to Pope Benedict XVI’s third encyclical, Caritas in veritate. The essays were prepared for a conference on “Family, Common Good, and the Economic Order: A Symposium on Caritas in veritate,” sponsored by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in December of 2010. In this encyclical Pope Benedict suggests that “a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family” (n. 53). At the heart of Caritas in veritate’s development of Catholic social thought is the affirmation that God is love and that “everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it” (n. 2). The essays gathered in this issue explore the anthropological and theological vision of Caritas in veritate in the context of contemporary economic practice and theory. “The great challenge before us,” writes Pope Benedict, “. . . is to demonstrate, in thinking and behavior . . . that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (n. 36).

David L. Schindler, in “The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in veritate in Light of Economic and Cultural Life in the United States,” surveys some early criticisms of the encyclical and then elaborates Benedict XVI’s contribution to Catholic social doctrine: “to recuperate the authentic meaning of social practice as a vision of reality whose most basic content is God-centered love; and in so doing to expose the inadequate alternative visions of reality that are implied in and give the basic form to the conventional economic models of socialism and the liberal market.”

Nicholas J. Healy, Jr., in “Caritas in veritate and Economic Theory,” shows how Pope Benedict conceives the logic of gift not simply as an addition or moral corrective to current economic practice and theory, but as a basis for rethinking the nature of the economy and its goals. Healy argues that an economic analysis of human behavior or markets that prescinds from the question of the objective good of the person and human solidarity assumes a deficient model of economic order.

Andrew V. Abela, in “Caritas in veritate and the Market Economy,” probes the twofold question, “what kind of market economy is consistent with the principles articulated in Caritas in veritate—what sort of regulatory framework should we be looking for?” Abela suggests that the relational anthropology of Caritas in veritate coupled with the principle of subsidiarity offers a promising and realistic path for reforming markets and regulation.

David Cloutier, in “Working With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision,” shows how the writings of Wendell Berry illuminate and concretize one of the most distinctive features of Caritas in veritate—the explicit connection between the Church’s social ethics and her teaching on sexual and “life” issues. The common thread linking the thought of Pope Benedict and Wendell Berry is an understanding of the “gift” pattern of creation.

Allan Carlson, in “Family, the Economy, and Distributism,” recalls a basic principle of Catholic social doctrine from Leo XIII through John Paul II: the “family wage,” which safeguards “the fundamental bond between work and family.” Carlson puzzles over the absence of an explicit treatment of the “family wage” in Caritas in veritate and hopes that this lacuna will be addressed in a future document by Benedict XVI.