... to the world at large.
Today, at the noontime Angelus, which followed this morning's Pallium Mass, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had signed his third encyclical, "Charity in Truth." Some apparent excerpts have already been leaked by an Italian newspaper. The encyclical is expected to be released on July 6th or 7th, shortly before President Obama is scheduled to meet with the Holy Father on the afternoon of July 10th.
Already there is growing discussion of how the encyclical will play with "liberals" and "conservatives." Such discussion is understandable to some degree, but I'm willing to bet it will be overused and overdone, and will, for the most part, be rather misleading and of little significant help when it comes to reading Caritas in Veritate. Labels are often necessary and sometimes helpful, but the key question, I think, whenever assessing beliefs about anything—politics, theology, philosophy—is to seek out essential principles. And when it comes to Catholic social doctrine, the basic principles are outlined quite clearly in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
161. These are principles of a general and fundamental character, since they concern the reality of society in its entirety: from close and immediate relationships to those mediated by politics, economics and law; from relationships among communities and groups to relations between peoples and nations. Because of their permanence in time and their universality of meaning, the Church presents them as the primary and fundamental perameters of reference for interpreting and evaluating social phenomena, which is the necessary source for working out the criteria for the discernment and orientation of social interactions in every area.
162. The principles of the Church's social doctrine must be appreciated in their unity, interrelatedness and articulation. This requirement is rooted in the meaning that the Church herself attributes to her social doctrine, as a unified doctrinal corpus that interprets modern social realities in a systematic manner. Examining each of these principles individually must not lead to using them only in part or in an erroneous manner, which would be the case if they were to be invoked in a disjointed and unconnected way with respect to each of the others. A deep theoretical understanding and the actual application of even just one of these social principles clearly shows the reciprocity, complementarities and interconnectedness that is part of their structure. These fundamental principles of the Church's social doctrine, moreover, represent much more than a permanent legacy of reflection, which is also an essential part of the Christian message, since they indicate the paths possible for building a good, authentic and renewed social life. (pars. 160-162)
A helpful, short introduction to Catholic social doctrine can be found in "What Is Catholic Social Teaching? A Review Essay on An
Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching", by Mark Brumley. Of course, once the encyclical is available, I'll be posting about it with as much economy as possible. Ignatius Press will be publishing the encyclical in both books form and electronic form. More information about that will be coming soon.