Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, “Caritas in veritate,” is due out July 7, but has been leaking out in Roman newspapers for several days now. Alas, it has not splashed across the pond and here in the United States we’re left making educated guesses about its contents.
We’re not even sure of its English-language title since Latinates can translate it either as “Charity in truth” or “Love in truth.” Vatican Radio on June 29 used the former, so my money’s on that translation. It is said that every translator is a traitor and no one wants to be the traitor with what may be a key encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy.
Encyclical titles are tricky because their names come from the first few words of the text. Sometimes that works well in translation. Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) in 1963, revealed its content in its title. Pope Pius XI’s Quadregesimo Anno, issued in 1931 to mark the 40th anniversary of the much acclaimed Rerum Novarum, 1891, from Pope Leo XIII, is about reconstructing the social order. People don’t remember it as easily. Its title doesn’t help.
John Carr, director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, made some attempts to figure out what’s coming in the encyclical. Media Relations asked him to do so to help us handle inquiries from reporters who want to get a start on their work before the July 4th weekend. His essay is on the USCCB Media Relations page.
As we get ready for the weekend many of us wish we had a preview copy. We’d even read it at the beach. Carr made his educated guesses after reading comments the pope himself has made on the coming encyclical as well other allusions from Pope Benedict to the current economic crisis. Social encyclicals usually build on previous ones and since “Caritas in Veritate” was said to originally be intended to mark the 40th anniversary of Populorum progressio, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the Development of Peoples, issued in 1967, a look at that encyclical offers signposts for this next one.
The environment was an issue for John Paul II and the issue has become even more urgent, so Carr suggests environmental issues will be important. After all, Benedict, who called for installation of solar panels at the Vatican, is the first “green pope.”
No surprise in the expectation that the pope will highlight the needs of poor people. What other world leader can speak for the majority of people who have only a minority of the resources? Pope Benedict is in a position where he can say that those having the largest share of the money are not automatically entitled to the largest share of the earth’s resources. We’re a world family, and in a healthy family, need determines who gets what.
Anybody with a bootlegged copy of the encyclical, send it my way.