The Novelty of "Caritas in Veritate"

Vatican Official Considers Innovative Themes

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ROME, JULY 8, 2009 ( Though “Caritas in Veritate” is in step with a long tradition of magisterial teachings on Catholic social doctrine, it also offers something new, says the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, just named the archbishop of Trieste, Italy, was one of those who presented Benedict XVI’s third encyclical during a press conference Tuesday.

The prelate affirmed that “economy and work, family and community, natural law instilled in us and creation placed before us and for us, should be seen as a call,” because social doctrine views development as a “vocation” that implies a “solidary taking up of the responsibility for the common good.”

Archbishop Crepaldi highlighted that for the first time in a social encyclical, the right to life and to religious liberty are explicitly and clearly placed in relation to development.

“Procreation and sexuality, abortion and euthanasia, the manipulating of human identity and eugenic selection are evaluated as social problems of primary importance, which, if they are handled according to a logic of pure production, deform social sensitivity, undermining the sense of law, corroding the family and making it difficult to welcome the weak,” he explained.

The encyclical affirms, the archbishop continued, that it is no longer possible “to implement development programs that are exclusively about economics-production, which do not systematically take into account as well the dignity of woman, of procreation, of the family, and the rights of the unborn.”

Saving the planet

Archbishop Crepaldi also reflected on another novelty of this social encyclical: focus on protecting the environment. He noted how this issue “should be freed from certain ideological drawbacks — present in many versions of ecology — that consist in neglecting the superior dignity of the human person and considering nature only in a materialist sense, produced by coincidence or necessity.”

Another novelty is the encyclical’s consideration of technology, which often leads to a mentality that could be called “technicity.”

“The risk,” the prelate said, “is that an exclusively technical mentality reduces everything to pure doing and is united to a nihilist and relativistic culture.”

The Vatican official characterized “Caritas in Veritate” as a great cultural proposal at the service of authentic development, which encourages employing resources that are not only economic, but also immaterial and cultural, regarding attitudes and decisions.

In this context, he said, it demands a new perspective on man that only God who is Truth and Love can give.

The encyclical, Archbishop Crepaldi concluded, has the great merit of rising above outdated ideas and the oversimplification of complex problems. Attention is directed again to man, the object of truth and love and himself capable of loving and knowing the truth.


The Vatican official was asked why “Caritas in Veritate” was delayed in its publication. He answered that “Centesimus Annus,” the last social encyclical by Pope John Paul II, took five years to publish, while this encyclical required half that.

Also asked why the theme of peace was not included in-depth, the archbishop replied that it is an “encyclical not an encyclopedia.”

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