The Saturday morning business shows on cable television news
networks always have lively roundtable discussions of the current
headlines as they affect the economy, finances and the everyday lives
of Americans. This time ’round, President Obama’s meeting with Pope
Benedict and, particularly, Benedict’s new social encyclical were hot
topics on one of the shows. ‘Is the Pope left of Obama on capitalism,
free trade and the new world order?’ was one rather
sensational question dropped like a grenade to launch one of the
rounds. The question, and some of the responses, showed how much some
media are still playing it by ear with Caritas in Veritate, and what they’re hearing about it is largely distorted or just….wrong.

This encylical is easy to misread….especially for those who don’t read it, but either skim it for the buzz phrases, or read some of the media coverage about it. I was going to link to a couple of articles from the Acton Institute, one by Fr. Robert Sirico and one by Dr. Samuel Gregg.

But before I got to that, Acton got together a very rich resource page on the pope’s social encylical, which should be bookmarked by anyone interested in understanding it and promoting its wisdom.

In his new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate,
Pope Benedict XVI has strongly reaffirmed and deepened the connection
between morality and the free economy. Benedict has repudiated
practices that led to a global economic crisis in which the love of
truth has been abandoned in favor of a crude materialism.

Don’t miss the PowerBlog there.

As the squabbling continues over the at-times
contradictory policy-suggestions contained in Benedict XVI’s social
encyclical, there’s a risk that the deeper – and more important –
theological themes of the text will be overlooked. It’s also possible
some of the wider implications for the Catholic Church’s own
self-understanding and the way it consequently approaches questions of
justice will be neglected.

Fr. Sirico had this analysis in the WSJ, a necessary clarification.

In his much anticipated third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate
(Love in Truth), Pope Benedict XVI does not focus on specific systems
of economics — he is not attempting to shore up anyone’s political
agenda. He is rather concerned with morality and the theological
foundation of culture. The context is of course a global economic
crisis — a crisis that’s taken place in a moral vacuum, where the love
of truth has been abandoned in favor of a crude materialism. The pope
urges that this crisis become “an opportunity for discernment, in which
to shape a new vision for the future.”

Yet his encyclical contains no talk of seeking a third way between
markets and socialism. Words like greed and capitalism make no
appearance here, despite press headlines following the publication of
the encyclical earlier this week. People seeking a blueprint for the
political restructuring of the world economy won’t find it here. But if
they look to this document as a means for the moral reconstruction of
the world’s cultures and societies, which in turn influence economic
events, they will find much to reflect upon.

Take the time to do that. Obama promised he would.

Here’s another resource to help get into it.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....