FRONT ROYAL, VA — “Many leftists cheered when Benedict issued his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, in 2005.” So writes Rocco Buttiglioni, one of Europe’s foremost Catholic lay leaders. “They ignored most of the document, naturally, which insists that true charity is inseparable from Christ and His Church. They focused instead on his condemnation of ‘unbridled capitalism with its cult of profit.’”
Well, the cheering has only increased with the election of Pope Francis – and some prominent conservatives have taken the bait, charging that the new pope was a true-blue socialist.
Recently, New York’s Cardinal Dolan tried to set the record straight in his local newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.
“From media reports,” he wrote, “one might think that the only thing on the pope’s mind [is] government redistribution of property, as if he were denouncing capitalism and endorsing some form of socialism. This … overlooks the principal focus of Pope Francis’ economic teaching-that economic and social activity must be based on the virtues of compassion and generosity.”
Simply put, Francis, like Benedict, rejects all views of man that reduce him to a paltry pygmy in a material world.
Buttiglione puts it bluntly:
The leftist progeny of earlier Liberation Theologians deny what Benedict affirms: that his critique is inseparable from what he calls a ‘Christian anthropology,’ a view that is threatened by the modern resuscitation of an ‘ancient material hedonism’ that flows from ‘a purely horizontal and materialistic view of life.’
Inseparable indeed. After all, the virtues of generosity and compassion are pre-economic: they are noble virtues inherent in man’s social nature, and the good man exercises them in whatever economic and political order he participates.
For Benedict and for Francis, these virtues are uniquely Catholic, in the universal and spiritual sense of the word. Again, Buttiglioni clears the air with refreshing candor:
The world of today wants a Christianity that is kind to everybody and is ready to take at face value whatever everybody wishes in terms of their fulfillment, the meaning of their life. It wants a Christianity that is ready to help everybody to reach their goals. But what they do not want is the Church to have an idea about the truth of man. …They want a love without truth.
A love without truth! The Dictatorship of Relativism – that postmodern spirit so keenly perceived by Benedict – deftly hijacks the Holy Father’s condemnation of a soulless search for profit; but its alternative is just a soulless search for power.
In condemning the deadly sin of greed, it substitutes envy, the engine of socialism.
Benedict will have none of it, says Buttiglione:
The message of Benedict XVI is that true love is a passionate interest in another, a passionate interest that is aimed at the true happiness, true fulfillment of each individual human being. If you really love someone and see that he is destroying himself, you have not only the right but the duty to tell him he is doing wrong.
But wait – isn’t that pretty judgmental?
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