Summary: Like Jesus and Stephen, Pope Benedict's words are rejected by a world that cannot admit its need to be changed from within.

April 19, 2010

Caritas in Veritate

The secular world doesn’t get it. In fact, the leaders of society have rarely gotten it in any age, because they don’t understand what people really want. In New Testament times, they resisted the change urged by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in the Church because it didn’t fit their vision of what people want and need. Augustine, reflecting on his wasted early life and conversion, said it best: fecisti nos ad te et inquiétum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.“Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” The leaders hated Stephen because he told them the truth–that Israel had always fought God’s will, and capped the fight by trying to murder God Himself, but that God’s response was love and grace and salvation. Jesus was hated because He could have been the purveyor of free bread and the destroyer of the Romans, but preferred to do things God’s way–by changing human society from within.

As I conclude my lengthy series on Caritas in Veritate, I’d like to reflect on why the secular world, especially atheists like Richard Dawkins, hate Pope Benedict so much. I think it’s for the same reason they hated Christ, and this encyclical is paradigmatic of the conflict. Pope Benedict refuses to reduce human development to terms the world can understand and implement without change to the human heart, without acknowledging the truth–that human development without spiritual growth is a dandelion blown apart by the wind. We cannot by technology perfect our economic and social institutions. In fact, without spiritual and religious development, and religious freedom, we cannot even make them barely tolerable. Materialism ultimately fails the test.

"The supremacy of technology tends to prevent people from recognizing anything that cannot be explained in terms of matter alone. Yet everyone experiences the many immaterial and spiritual dimensions of life. Knowing is not simply a material act, since the object that is known always conceals something beyond the empirical datum. All our knowledge, even the

most simple, is always a minor miracle, since it can never be fully

explained by the material instruments that we apply to it. In every truth

there is something more than we would have expected, in the love that we

receive there is always an element that surprises us. We should never

cease to marvel at these things. In all knowledge and in every act of love

the human soul experiences something “over and above”, which seems very

much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised. The

development of individuals and peoples is likewise located on a height, if

we consider the spiritual dimension that must be present if such

development is to be authentic. It requires new eyes and a new heart,

capable of rising above a materialistic vision of human events, capable of

glimpsing in development the “beyond” that technology cannot give."

In the end, this homily series has been a pretty inadequate look at the words of the Holy Father. To understand it fully, you probably need the Holy Father’s mind. I would recommend you read the whole encyclical along with the relevant footnoted references a couple of times. If you want to see my own words, you can find all of the homilies on But the most important advice I can give you is to read the original. It may take forty years for people to appreciate it fully, but that’s always the way it is with truly prophetic words.

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