Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More on Benedict XVI and Economic Life

What is Pope Benedict XVI's attitude toward economic life, and is he "to the left of" his predecessor on such matters?  An early search of some statements by then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

From a 2004 interview:

Rome, May. 07, 2004 (CWNews.com) - "The world economy is totally dominated by materialist principles," according to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (bio - news).

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an interview with the Italian Catholic agency SIR, said that world economic affairs are driven by a form of economic liberalism which "specifically excludes the heart." More important, he continued, this outlook also excludes "the highest faculty of human intelligence," which is "the possibility of seeing God, of introducing the light of moral responsibility, love, and justice into the worlds of work, of commerce, and of politics."

Much attention has been given to the 1984 Instruction on Certain Aspects of "Liberation Theology" (available in full here), in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Ratzinger, criticized many features of liberation theology.  A few key passages:

The present Instruction has [as its purpose] to draw the attention of pastors, theologians, and all the faithful to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought.

This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the "preferential option for the poor." It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice. It is, on the contrary, dictated by the certitude that the serious ideological deviations which it points out tends inevitably to betray the cause of the poor. More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom, and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters. More than ever, the Church intends to condemn abuses, injustices, and attacks against freedom, wherever they occur and whoever commits them. She intends to struggle, by her own means, for the defense and advancement of the rights of mankind, especially of the poor. . . .

The acute need for radical reforms of the structures which conceal poverty and which are themselves forms of violence, should not let us lose sight of the fact that the source of injustice is in the hearts of men. Therefore it is only by making an appeal to the 'moral potential' of the person and to the constant need for interior conversion, that social change will be brought about which will be truly in the service of man. [33] For it will only be in the measure that they collaborate freely in these necessary changes through their own initiative and in solidarity, that people, awakened to a sense of their responsibility, will grow in humanity. The inversion of morality and structures is steeped in a materialist anthropology which is incompatible with the dignity of mankind. . . .

The class struggle as a road toward a classless society is a myth which slows reform and aggravates poverty and injustice. Those who allow themselves to be caught up in fascination with this myth should reflect on the bitter examples history has to offer about where it leads. They would then understand that we are not talking here about abandoning an effective means of struggle on behalf of the poor for an ideal which has no practical effects. On the contrary, we are talking about freeing oneself from a delusion in order to base oneself squarely on the Gospel and its power of realization.

But in addition to this substantially critical letter, the CDF under Ratzinger issued a second document in 1986, the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, which sets forth a positive vision on, among other things, economic matters.  To keep this post from reaching unacceptable length, I'll post passages from that document separately.

Tom Berg


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