Companion to the Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI on "God Is Love"

By Balasuriya, Tissa | Cross Currents, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Companion to the Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI on "God Is Love"


Balasuriya, Tissa, Cross Currents


Pope Benedict XVI's much anticipated first Encyclical has been welcomed as evidence of a more congenial personality, of a less severe figure than his tenure as supervising Cardinal of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had suggested. The Encyclical consists of two parts:

    I) "the unity of love in creation and in salvation history" (nos
    2-18)
    II) "Caritas the Practice of Love by the Church as a "Community of
    Love" (nos 19-42).

It is articulate, well reasoned, reflective, erudite. Its language, personal in style, conveys a sensibility firmly rooted in the Western intellectual tradition: philosophy, Biblical studies, and the classics are amply and dexterously referenced. And its message is highly appealing: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

The reception to the Encyclical has been largely positive (especially considering that the Pope refrains from pontificating here on the divisive issues of sexual morality). He displays a personal understanding of the value and meaning of love in all its multifarious, interconnected complexity, as eros, philia and agape: of love as physical and sexual expression, of love as friendship, and as other-centered in care and service of the other. He links all these to God's love for individuals and humanity, revealed and expressed in Christ. In a spirit of compromise and understanding, he has apparently endeavored to reconcile mutually opposed positions.

Part I has been applauded by those concerned with issues of inter-personal morality. Here the Pope stresses that the excesses of modern life have to be purified and ennobled by Christian and rational values. Part II is very much centered on love as social charity.

While acknowledging a variety of viewpoints, the Encyclical remains firmly grounded in a traditional Western context. Adherents among the many strains of contemporary Christian theology may thus find much to take issue with here. Feminist theologians will object to its occasionally sexist language, along with its arguments with respect to reproductive rights. Liberation theology in the Latin American grain receives no acknowledgment of its unique contribution to the development of Christian teaching over the past several decades (e.g, love as it relates to compassionate activism and efforts at constructive social change). Proponents of liberation theology in its Asian and African incarnations will have much to say about their experience of the "Christian love" imposed on them through Western colonialism. Those seeking inter-religious dialogue may wish to remind the Pope that the traditional Christian interpretation of "God is love" seems not to have applied to them throughout much of Catholicism's history. And those concerned with inter-racial justice, global ethics, and ecology may also find fault with Christian theology and spirituality as they experienced it.

Love and Sexual Ethics

Love as eros and agape are said to be part of God's plan for human relationships. In modern times the Church has confronted many issues relating to family life and sexual morality. Among the most hotly contested of these is the regulation of procreation. The pivotal moment in this debate came with the July 1968 condemnation of contraception by Pope Paul VI. The Pope arrived at his position independently, whereas his predecessor Pope John XXIII had assigned a special commission to advise him. Pope Paul's argument was that natural law dictated a necessary link between the marital act and procreation. Observance of the natural law was necessary for salvation. The Pope claimed the power of interpreting the natural law as willed by God (no.4).

    "the Churches Magisterium is competent to interpret the natural
    law."

    "This kind of question requires from the teaching authority of the
    Church a new and deeper reflection on the principles of the moral
    teaching on marriage--a teaching which is based on the natural law
    as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Companion to the Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI on "God Is Love"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.