Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A 'Sneak Peek' at New Economic Encyclical

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A 'Sneak Peek' at New Economic Encyclical

Article excerpt

Effectively stealing some thunder from his own forthcoming encyclical on social themes, Pope Benedict XVI insisted last month that underneath the current global economic crisis lurks greed, rooted in original sin, and that reform of global economic architecture will be of little use without the conversion of individual hearts.

"Where there are no just people, there is no justice," Benedict said. "For that reason, education in justice must be a priority--perhaps we could say, 'the' priority.... Good structures can't be developed if they're opposed by egoism, including that of people of great technical competence,"

The comments came in a Feb. 26 Q-and-A session Benedict held with priests from the Rome diocese as part of the Vatican's observance of Lent. The "sneak peek" suggests two insights about the new encyclical:

* It will concentrate less on structural analysis than on the ethical and spiritual premises of economic justice.

* Rather than setting social activism and personal piety at odds, sometimes referred to as "horizontal" and "vertical" spiritualities, Benedict seems likely to argue that the two are mutually dependent.

The Vatican is expected to release Benedict's new encyclical letter, the third of his pontificate, later in March. Titled "Charity in Truth" (Caritas in Veritate), the document had been set to appear in September 2008, but the eruption of the economic crisis compelled the pope to revisit the text.

Prepublication materials prepared last fall indicated that the encyclical contains two broad sections: a review of the social teaching of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II; and then Benedict's reflections upon major social concerns such as threats to unborn human life, poverty, issues of war and peace, terrorism, globalization and environmentalism. In his treatment of those issues, Benedict is said to draw upon natural law arguments, designed to be open to everyone, as well as the Bible. …

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