The hubris of George Weigel knows no bounds. In a breathtaking essay at National Review Online, Weigel concludes that Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate "resembles a duck-billed platypus" because it is, in his view, a bad combination of the Pope’s true thought with those "passages that reflect [the Pontifical Council for] Justice and Peace ideas and approaches that Benedict evidently believed he had to try and accommodate." Weigel suggests that the reader mark out the Pope’s passages in gold and the others in red, so as to discover the real significance of the text. Of course, in his reading, the gold passages are those that agree with Weigel’s worldview while the bothersome red sections are those which the reader should dismiss.

Weigel’s essay resembles nothing so much as the Soviet Union’s remakes of movies during its de-Stalinization period. During Stalin’s long reign, cinematic treatments of the Revolution always showed Stalin at Lenin’s side, even when the historical record had him hundreds of miles away. So, during de-Stalinization, rather than re-make the entire movie, the censors would have a soldier enter stage right and in front to obscure the image of Stalin behind. I go too far: Weigel’s effort is actually clumsier than the Soviet re-makes.

Unsurprisingly, Weigel celebrates Centesimus Annus which he claims "jettisoned the idea of a ‘Catholic third way’ that was somehow ‘between’ or ‘beyond’ or ‘above’ capitalism and socialism – a favorite dream of Catholics ranging from G.K.Chesterton to John A. Ryan to Ivan Illich." Actually, both Centesimus and even more so Caritas in Veritate stress that the "Catholic way" must be prior to the claims of any economic theory, that the disposition for grace and communion must be part of the system, not a mere add-on, that unjust systems produce unjust results, and that a system that produces – at the same time - material wealth and spiritual poverty must be seen as morally and humanly suspect.

Weigel repeats the now common neo-con canard that capitalism is morally wholesome because it is driven not by greed but by human creativity. So, creative like Bernie Madoff or creative like Steve Jobs? Either way, Weigel fails to note that this celebration of wholesome capitalism is not found in the many pages of Caritas in Veritate.

In his denunciations of the passages he dislikes, Weigel is not simply ideologically skewed but downright insulting to Pope Benedict. After citing a series of propositions found in the text the Pope signed that Weigel finds objectionable, he opines, "Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain the peace within his curial household." Funny. Benedict does not seem like the kind of person who would jettison his insistence on truth merely to keep peace in the curial household. Could it be that he was not conflicted about signing the entire encyclical? Could it be that he sees what Weigel does not, that Catholic social teaching, to say nothing of the priests who work at Justice and Peace, is not to be reduced to a prop for democratic capitalism. Weigel applauds Benedict for devoting a large section of the encyclical to a discourse on the relationship between love and truth: Does he think the Pope merely abandoned that insistence on truth to get a document out the door?

Pope Paul VI is as prone to error as Benedict in Weigel’s worldview. The new encyclical was written to commemorate Paul’s Populorum Progressio but Weigel casts slurs upon that work for "misreading of the economic and political signs of the times." Of course, anything on human development written forty years ago, when colonialism was still gasping its dying breathe and communism was still a vital threat, can appear dated. For example, what Weigel considers as the fulsome endorsement of capitalism in Centesimus Annus reads a bit oddly today when the prestige of the market is rather lacking. Ah, but back in 1991, history had ended.

The gravest intellectual problem for Weigel is not his inability to see the validity of the influence of the good monsignori at Justice and Peace, nor that the Catholic social tradition permits several ways of approaching complicated economic and political issues. He claims some passages are "simply incomprehensible" and perhaps they are to him. But, the example he gives is telling. He writes that "the encyclical states that defeating Third World poverty and underdevelopment requires a ‘necessary openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion.’ This may mean something interesting; it may mean something naïve or dumb. But, on its face, it is virtually impossible to know what it means." Gee. I don’t think it is that difficult to understand. It means that the stance of the Christian must be one of openness to the other, especially to the poor, and that we must create shares in the economic sphere for the poor, a share that sees them as a gift from God. We must see our relationship to the poor as one of communion not exploitation. And, does Weigel truly think Pope Benedict would write something "dumb"? Even if you disagree with Pope Benedict, he is never dumb.

Weigel not only misunderstands the relationship a Christian should have to the poor, he misunderstands the relationship a Catholic should have to a papal encyclical. I had thought that it was the Pope and the bishops who had the task of authoritatively interpreting the doctrine of the Church. Silly me. Mr. Weigel, with his gold and red pens, is the official arbiter of what passes as orthodoxy. He labels parts of the new encyclical "incomprehensible," he charges the curia with "fideism" for advocating the necessity of transnational institutions, and he casts slurs upon Pope Paul VI for Populorum Progressio. Benedict is a "gentle soul" incapable of controlling a text that bears his name and he has been duped into signing on to foolishness.

Weigel is wrong on the merits, but he is also wrong in his stance. This encyclical – all of it – bears the Pope’s signature and the respect due to all statements of the magisterium. Weigel’s arguments have long been tedious and are here tendentious. But, it is not only the intellectual dishonesty of this essay that rankles. Behind his knowing Vaticanology, Weigel betrays a disloyalty to Pope Benedict and to the memory of Pope Paul that surprised even me. I have long recognized a certain myopia and a pronounced hubris in Weigel’s writings but he has outdone himself. He should put his red and gold pens away and read the text in its entirety as an invitation to grow in discipleship. As I commented yesterday, Caritas in Veritate has something to challenge everyone.

 

 

Comments

Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 9:02am
Also, I've yet to see any commentary by America on the Pope's striking re-affirmation of Humanae Vitae and condemnation of contraception, as integrally linked to the concept of social justice he explores elsewhere in the document.  This might be a great subject for an article.  
Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 8:39am
The last Post by Nicholas was wonderful to read.George Weigel is an excellent writer and I remain convinced that six days of the week he is a better guide to  catholic Truth than America magazine but the seventh day arrived and Mr Winters was awaitin!The element of division within the encyclical which Mr Weigel allows and even defends as the underlying part of his argument is very much "cafeteria" style.America would be proud of such an attempt to place a dualistic approach so boldly into the Popes writings.Did the Pope write this himself?Most probably not .Did he feel unsatisfied with certain parts of it but say "what the hey" its late and I am tired?He is German.The fact that he writes about Iraq and with a tone of elation that the Pope chose not to condemn it for whatever reasons is saddening.Mr Weigel should dedicate an article describing the tears  Jesus Christ has shed over that War.How can the Church preach convincingly of the slaughter of the unborn if we dont also speak of the horrors of Iraq?.It is disingenuous to speak of this  Pope   or the last one being anything but disgusted by the American approach to that Land.It is akin to the editors of America pretending that the American bishops are getting worked up about nothing over Notre Dame and that the Pope did not condemn it directly. Mr Weigel brings both a scissors and needle and thread to the discussion.The former for Caritas in Veritate and the latter for Rerum Novarum and Populorum Progressio.The challenge awaits all of us,both America and Weigel the question is who will take it up ?
Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 1:41am
Thanks for your comments, Mr. Weigel. I am sorry to challenge them, since I know it's not quite fair to be as outnumbered as you are here! But I think that Mr. Winters is indeed concerned with argument; I mean, if parsing the *Pope's* alleged sins, offenses, and negligences passes as argumentation for you, then why shouldn't it qualify as serious argument here? He is simply, though craftily, responding to your thesis, which is that one must be crafty enough to see which parts of an encyclical are good and which are bad. As you well know, Mr. Winters's piece also participates in an ongoing project of his which denounces what I guess we may as well call the "cafeteria Catholicism of the right." His overall point, developed over a series of posts, does indeed represent a serious argument which is at one and the same time theological, cultural, and political, and I think he is quite justified in pointing out some of your more questionable statements as a means of illustrating to what depths this cafeteria Catholicism of the right can sink.
Thanks, too, for identifying some of the overlooked passages in your own essay - but after all, your praise concerns only some rather minor portions of this encyclical, and besides, Mr. Winters never suggested that you didn't praise the Pope, at least a little. In fact, in calling attention to the laudatory passages in your text, I can't help but wonder whether you aren't (even if not, at all, maliciously or deviously) reinforcing the view that the things you like in the encyclical are the important ones...whether you aren't just wielding your gold pen again and saying, "Look at what should matter most to Catholics who are really concerned with truth." Mr. Winters never said you're explicitly tearing the Pope down; his whole point is that you damn him with such faint praise that it makes it look as though you're not in some sort of schism from the Church on some key dogmatic points, and THAT'S what's so disingenuous about your text.
Finally, your last point could be an interesting one, though I can't escape the feeling that you are throwing around words like "hermeneutics" to lend legitimacy to a theory which you certainly haven't fully developed and which you certainly can't blame Mr. Winters for not addressing. (Not that you do -at least, not explicitly.) I call it undeveloped, by the way, because it seems to me that the Holy Father, who discusses both Rerum Novarum and Populorum Progressio in this new encyclical, seems precisely to be weaving them together with a conscious understanding of their different historical moments and thus demonstrating a continuity between them and the whole of Catholic social teaching over time, right on through to this in many ways revolutionary new document - even if you don't like the fact that his synthesis favors certain quote-unquote "liberal" politics at the end of the day.
But many apologies if I haven't gotten your gist...!
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 8:52pm
How many of you would say that Caritas in Veritate is authority for confiscating all wealth in my bank account and giving it to someone or something else?
Jack, you seem to be so busy looking out for Number One you missed the meaning and certainly the spirit of of the encyclical. Did you even read it?
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 6:34pm
In his long battle with the Pelagians, Saint Augustine never tired of quoting a line from the Apostle Paul—a line that Jack Ryan needs to ponder: "What do you have that you did not receive?"
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 2:39pm
Jack,
I doubt anyone wants to confiscate all of your wealth-that might be a bit of a straw man argument.  And if the 50% confiscation you mention is what you pay in taxes, consider that a large chunk of that goes to national defense, and other money goes to services you can benefit from-roads, police, courts, social security, unemployment insurance in case you lose your job, etc.  I suspect it is a matter between each of us and God what is the right amount to give, but I suspect most of us err on the side of giving too little, at least by the standards Jesus calls us to meet.
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 9:37am
How many of you would say that Caritas in Veritate is authority for confiscating all wealth in my bank account and giving it to someone or something else?  That is charity I take it?  How much should be confiscated?  100%?  90%?  50%?  (oh wait, that already happens).  And when it is confiscated, can I consider myself to have fulfilled my charitable duties to my neighbor?  Or do I still have to give more of what is left over to the point where my labor does not benefit me, but only other people? Just asking some important questions.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 1:35pm
I, too, cannot imagine this pope caving in to get a document out that he did not support.  Or the last one for that matter.  Having recently re-read Populorum Progressio - and being struck at its prescience in so many regards - I found much to reflect on in this encyclical.  The section on the "right to excess" that can characterize affluent societies brought me up short - it should all of us. 
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 9:04am
I am 99% more likely to agree with Weigel than Winters but there always is that 1%.  Weigel has disappointed me greatly with his essay.  Quite insulting to the Holy Father if I must say so myself!  Red ink and gold ink?  Either the Holy Father means what he writes or he writes what he doesn't mean.  The accusation that he is deliberatly writing what he does not believe is quite an accusation!
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 9:01am
Thanks for this response to Weigel. Interestingly enough, I also thought that Weigel's article was also a bit of a slap in the face to his beloved John Paul II, as well as Paul VI and Benedict XVI, as you rightly mention. Just as many of us have seen for years, Weigel conveniently ignores the strand of John Paul II's thought that defended peace and nonviolence. In his most recent article, Weigel (once again) takes an opportunity to criticise his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis as being too heavily influenced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the same culprits guilty for the possibly "dumb" passages in the latest encyclical. Suffice it to say, finally, that it is never a good idea to selectively read ANY document (let alone an encyclical) for authenticc teaching. Weigel should try only one pen when he reads it the second time.
Anonymous | 7/13/2009 - 3:18pm
I just read the encyclical.  In many ways it is very good, even excellent.  However, the Pope's language is heavy and dense at times, which is a shame.  I'm reminded of Camus when he spoke to a group of clergy in Paris.  He said that he was very much involved in seeing to it that children don't suffer and he was waiting for some word from the Church that it too was involved in such work-rather than waiting for heaven.  He said he was told that the Church does speak about this-but in encyclicals, which hardly anyone reads or understands.
It is said that Paul VI put the first sentence in Vatican II's Gaudium & Spes in reply to this.
 
 The encyclical is deeply spiritual-and therefore out of the reach of people like Wiegel who would reduce it to conservative politics, or Michael Novak who tends to see Capitalism as the savior of the world.  Simply put B16 is saying we have to see economics, politics and everything sub specie aeternitatis.  In my language, we are 21st century American expressions of Christ and we should see and do everything within that glorious context-seeing and working with the good that is in Capitalism, etc. and pulling out the corrosive influence that lives within them.
 
  My biggest complaint-and here again I grind my perennial ax-is that the encyclical speaks in principles, which is O. K. but B16 does it to the point where I was crying for some practical material, especially for the laity.  He points out that society is made up of government, business and civil society-the people in general, for me - Catholics.  We need mechanisms to put the principles into practical prophetic action in order to influence government and business.  If not, the sturdy three-legged stool is trying to stay up on two wobbly legs.
Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 9:00am
My point was rhetorical.  There are those who seem to be characterizing the encyclical as some kind of left wing endorsement of redistribution of wealth, and more of that.  But Benedict expressly said that the Church proposes no "technical solutions" (paragraph 9) and does not intend to interfere with the policies of states. When the pope calls on business to respect the interests of workers and not merely management, (a point with which I think we can all wholeheartedly agree), we should remember that one of these interests is the right to enjoy the fruits of one's own labor, rather than having a state entity take all or most of it.  The interests of the state, especially a nanny state seeking to confiscate substantial amounts of employees' own wealth, is just as bad a corporation with corrupt management looking out only for themselves.   
Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 8:56am
I too was surprised and dismayed by Mr. Weigel's comments and dismissive posture toward Pope Benedict and the encyclical.
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It was my impression that Weigel was trying to mix his own nationalistic and economic notions with his ''assessment'' of what (in his opinion)  the Holy Father should have said, meant to say, or perhaps got all wrong.    Yes, 'hubris' seems the best word to describe his effort.
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No amount of editorializing and otherwise parsing words,  will change the fact of a fundamental incompatibility between western deregulated capitalism and the whole fabric gospel message of social justice.    The former actually feeds on injustice as a means to a profitable end.    It is the elephant in the room when Christians attempt to have it both ways in a marriage of politics and religion as co-partners of truth.
Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 8:04am
Mr. Weigel,
Why is it that you're choosing to respond to this post, when you found it so convenient never to respond to this one?  [url=http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=41D0F8E5-5056-8960-3268EF23B1EF7194]http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=41D0F8E5-5056-8960-3268EF23B1EF7194[/url]
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 11:35pm
I just think we need to follow the redistribution of wealth concept to its logical, and frightening conclusion, i.e., the state takes all our money, and does with it what it wants.  Does this happen in the Vatican?  Does the Pope take all of the money of Vatican employees and redistribute it as he sees fit?  Wouldn't this just be another form of statism/communism that harmed mankind so badly in the 20th century?  
On where the 50% goes, most goes to entitlement programs, i.e., charitable programs, not national defense.
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 8:18pm
Dear Mr. Winters,
For the most part your critique of Weigel amounts to a series of ad hominems.  Weigel's essential criticism that there seem to be claims that do not appear to be harmonized is essentially correct.  There was clearly more than one hand in this letter.
I would like to know what you thought of Pope Benedict's introduction of Humanae vitae into the letter.  Do you agree with Benedict's use of Humanae vitae?  Do you assent to Humanae vitae?
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 5:11pm
Jack, having a crisis of conscience?  The Pope does not as much mandate such confiscation - from your paycheck rather than your bank account, as comment negatively on the decrease in both Social Security protection and in systems of public redistribution.  He does not stop there, however.  What he seems to be saying is that business must work toward a system so that such redistribution is not necessary if they wish to be acting in charity and truth.
In other words, if you own, or own stock in a business, how you pay your employees involves some level of moral responsibility.  Simply automating them out of a job is not acceptable.  Engaging in "innovative finance" is not acceptable.  Dumbing down their jobs and shipping the job overseas is not acceptable.  Actually, because we are dealing with truth - none of these things were ever acceptable.  Simply relying on the government to clean up the mess is not what he has in mind.
Most firms do not hire or pay in a free market environment.  There are barriers to entry, discriminatory practices and collusion with other employers to establish a wage below the market clearing price.  This is called monopsonistic competition.  You can actually measure how pervasive it is.  It represents the workers who could be working but who have given up.  Its about 6% of the workforce.
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 3:26pm
For any of you who may be interested in argument rather than in parsing my alleged sins, offenses, and negligences, I append just below the sections of my essay on Caritas in Veritate that the correspondents in this thread have seen fit to ignore:
''The clearly Benedictine passages in Caritas in Veritate follow and develop the line of John Paul II, particularly in the new encyclical’s strong emphasis on the life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryo-destructive stem-cell research) as social-justice issues — which Benedict cleverly extends to the discussion of environmental questions, suggesting as he does that people who don’t care much about unborn children are unlikely to make serious contributions to a human ecology that takes care of the natural world. The Benedictine sections in Caritas in Veritate are also — and predictably — strong and compelling on the inherent linkage between charity and truth, arguing that care for others untethered from the moral truth about the human person inevitably lapses into mere sentimentality.
''The encyclical rightly, if gingerly, suggests that thug-governments in the Third World have more to do with poverty and hunger than a lack of international development aid; recognizes that catastrophically low birth rates are creating serious global economic problems (although this point may not be as well developed as it was in previous essays from Joseph Ratzinger); sharply criticizes international aid programs tied to mandatory contraception and the provision of “reproductive health services” (the U.N. euphemism for abortion-on-demand); and neatly ties religious freedom to economic development. All of this is welcome, and all of it is manifestly Benedict XVI, in continuity with John Paul II and his extension of the line of papal argument inspired by Rerum Novarum in Centesimus Annus, Evangelium Vitae (the 1995 encyclical on the life issues), and Ecclesia in Europa (the 2003 apostolic exhortation on the future of Europe).''
One further theological point, which I intend to develop in another venue. The Holy Father is at pains to stress a hermeneutics of continuity in understanding both Vatican II and Catholic Social Doctrine. One wonders how such a hermeneutics squares with the notion that there are two social doctrine traditions, one issuing from Rerum Novarum and one from Populorum Progressio, with the latter in effect trumping the former. Pardon my, er, hubris in suggesting that such a question is not, in fact, a matter of hubris. Perhaps I may also be permitted to note that Mr. Winters' last foray into Vaticanology led to the ludicrous prediction that Benedict XVI would condemn the U.S. ''occupation'' of Iraq during the Pope's address to the U.N. Caveat lector.
Anonymous | 7/9/2009 - 12:22am
I would usually agree with what Weigel has to say, but this time, he really made a fool of himself. Wasn't that the Pope's name at the bottom? And who was that other guy who talked about redistribution? Oh yeah, JESUS. According to Weigel, Jesus was probably acting under the leftist influence of the Holy Spirit.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 2:55pm
Weigel's post stunned and disappointed me as I read it this morning. Michael Sean Winters is right in every way in his criticism of Weigel's post. It is sad to see ideology trump the truth, and as Winters makes clear this encyclical proposes  that the ""Catholic way" must be prior to the claims of any economic theory." This is, indeed, the truth of the Gospel. Two things came to mind when I read Weigel's post and reflected on it. One, biblical source critics are often criticized for "pulling apart" the Gospel, and there is some merit in this charge if one does not "put it back together" and see it all, regardless of the sources, as the word of God. Does not the Pope's encyclical demand to be treated as a whole word spoken for the whole Church? Second, Weigel is skating very near to the thin ice of the Marcionite heresy, where one only chooses texts amenable to one's previously determined position. We are to be formed by the Church, even when this means challenging our own biases and closely held opinions. Finally, I hope that all of us read this encyclical, meditate on it, and let it challenge us, as Winters says. This takes time. Just imagine what the first recipients of one of the Apostle Paul's Epistles might have said, say the recipients of letter to the Romans, if they had decided only parts of his letters were worth holding, and that after only one day spent reading it.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 2:32pm
David, You might be right but if you are then the "right" is only following the lefts lead.  The lesson to learn is that pick-and-choose, cafeteria Catholicism has no place on the right or left.  I hope that America and its Catholic readers can all agree on this.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 2:08pm
Thank you for this perceptive and accurate analysis.  George Weigel is the favorite commentator of many powerful US bishops and his column is widely disseminated in diocesan newspapers. I look forward to the reaction this gold-red column will produce.  I see a pattern emerging among the Catholic right:  a desperate attempt to reinterpret statements coming from the Vatican-from this encyclical to a curial cardinal's positive assessment of Obama's Notre Dame speech to editorials in L'Osservatore Romano-that confuse them and contradict their world view.  There seems to be genuine shock that the Vatican is not a branch office of the Republican Party.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 3:07pm
I once met George Weigel and found him a very likeable man and mostly agree with his thoughts ,besides this I feel he is a lot less embarrassed to be a catholic than most of those who attack him and that to me is a virtue in itself.But,there is a clear tendency in him and the Michael Novak to ignore the challenge of the Gospel when it comes to fiscal policies.They seem to suffer like so many American Catholics from a form of Americanism ,seeing the role of the Church and the Christian message through a North American optic. This can lead to the blessing of planes set for Vietnam or to the failure to see Abortion as a barbaric act ,to a liberal mentality that believes God has set up a trickle down effect for the poor  enshrined in the markets.He often writes well of a Catholic Antropology but then puts it aside when it comes to the sticky part.It is like those who constantly speak of the poor or the social mission of the Church because they dont like it when the full truth of the teaching on sexuality is brought into light.The No of Benedict to unfettered capitalism is not a concession to some left-leaning people in the Vatican ,just as the No of Pope Paul to artificial contraception was not a concession to a certain Polish bishop.They are of a piece.Those who back their culture against the teaching of the Church (in this case Weigel) do themselves a disservice. I remember being in Croatia and seeing the dissapointment on the peoples faces when Pope John Paul told them that those who harboured hatred against their brothers were not ready for the Body of Christ.He was speaking about the Serbs who had done immense evils and the Pope called the Croats to a higher standard.The did not like it.In my own country Ireland the Pope did the same ,people were caught between their love for the Pope and their well cultivated bigotries towards the English.The Pope was man with a hard teaching"who can accept it?"  .He said "Do not sow hatred   in the hearts of children".Some Irish did not like it.There is a lot not to like in the Catholic Church  and for some Pope Benedict has added to the list.But at the end of the day the crowds  still say "Viva il Papa".
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 10:19am
Wow, hubris indeed.  It is difficult to imagine that Pope Benedict XVI, the same Pontiff who spoke in Regensburg, would give his approval, tacitly or otherwise, to an encyclical just to placate members of the Curia.  He is clearly not afraid to say things that make people, George Weigel included, squirm a bit. 
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 12:15pm
President of Thomas More College (Fahey) seems to share your view, without overtly saying so:
Fahey:
Well, there have been some prominent public journalists who have
attempted to carve up the encyclical into little portions that are
acceptable for their ideologies and portions that are not. I found it
distressing that one or two well-known and reputably orthodox writers
determined to color the text: certain palatable parts were given a
golden ''papal'' sanction - these parts are, it was asserted, authentic
to Benedict XVI; other parts were tarred with a socialist hue - these
parts can be avoided, it was again asserted.
Link: 13 July 09http://zenit.org/article-26446?l=english
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 9:14am
Thank you so much for this, Mr. Winters! As you were posting it, I was commenting on Mr. Ivereigh's post. I said nearly the same thing- Weigel came close to a character attack on the Holy Father. I was angry for the rest of the day yesterday after reading it. I had to call my friends and vent. I'm going to post this evening or tomorrow to my badly-needing-to-be-posted-on blog about how the entire document is fully in line with Ratzinger's theology, in response to Weigel's criticism. I will send the post your way. I've spent the entire past year reading as many works of Ratzinger as possible in order to prepare for some graduate studies in the fall, and the whole of Caritas in Veritate tastes like Joseph Ratzinger. It's brilliant, too. Thank you so much for this post Mr. Winters. I needed to know someone else was incensed over Weigel.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 12:49pm

I simply don't read George Weigel, so I have no problem being troubled by what he writes.  You have to feel for him, however.  He was operating under the delusion that God, or at least the Pope, is a Conservative.  This encyclical pretty much shows that the Joseph Ratzinger of Vatican II is as much Pope as the Joseph Ratzinger of the CDF.  It is pretty much impossible to read Caritas in Veritate and hold to the belief that all government redistribution is socialism, that union busting is good for workers or that the United Nations must be abolished.  I'm not saying that Benedict is a Democrat either - as his stance on abortion would likely get him booed off the stage at any Democratic convention - however his mixing of the Gospel of Life with the social gospel does give hope to those Catholics who voted for Obama for his economic policies.  We pretty much agree with what the Pope says in Caritas in Veritate.  If the GOP ever wants this important swing constituency back, it needs to quit calling redistribution socialism.

Anonymous | 7/10/2009 - 4:54pm
Mr. Ryan, The vast majority of the entitlement budget goes to Social Security programs, which are essentially off budget - although excess funds are lent to the government for spending.  Additionally, although the tax which funds this program is regressive, there is an offset in the normal income tax, called the Earned Income Tax Credit, which offsets these payments with a refund.  There is a mechanism in the tax code to refund this credit with pay - although most companies and taxpayers do not use it.  More to the point, in Chapter 2 of this encyclical, the Holy Father decries the cutting of Social Security funds in some nations as a way to balance budgets.  Are you with the Pope or against him on this matter?
As far as Charity to poor families goes, remaining entitlements are about 8% of the budget.  Military spending and retirement is much higher.
Anonymous | 7/8/2009 - 3:03pm
Coming from Weigel, how is this surprising?  He has always considered himself more Catholic than the Pope.  So now, in his supreme arrogance, he's gone on record saying just that.  It was always easy to suspect that Weigel and his fellow neocons viewed the Pope primarily as a tool to back up their opinions, thereby bolstering their credentials as self-appointed keepers of the orthodoxy. When the Holy Father no longer is useful for that purpose, they quickly throw him under the train. But again, this is hardly surprising.