Friday, July 11, 2008

For What It's Worth...

That's the title of the Buffalo Springfield song that starts, "There's something happening here..."

Looking in the (Catholic) media the past few days, there are some exciting trends developing, especially for those of us who want to see a greater attention given to Catholic Social Teaching.

I already noted the recent remarks of the Vatican's permanent observer to the Holy See focusing on the World Food Crisis. The prelate welcomed the initiatives approved at the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security.

Well, a few days back, ZENIT published a correspondence between the British Prime Minister and the Vatican. The basic gist? The Prime Minister noted failure on the part of the international community to achieve many "Millennium Development Goals." He mentioned a range of such goals being underachieved. Cardinal Bertone's response was slightly more particular. The Secretary of State referred back to the same food summit in Rome, and particularly to the Pope's remarks to that body.

This latter address is just full of good stuff. The Pope had called on the member states "to globalize... the expectations of solidarity, with respect for and valuing the contribution of each component of society." Quoting his own address to the UN during his apostolic visit to the UN in April, His Holiness had also observed that "it is urgent to overcome the 'paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few.'"

Solidarity and subsidiarity are big news lately. I'll be including these in my upcoming set of basic term definitions, but for the less patient among you, cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1883, 1885, 1894; and, this section, particularly 2437-2442.

Now, of course, a call to "globalize... the expectations of solidarity" might be good advice for Cardinal Bertone to give the Prime Minister, but might the limey leader not retort that he had given many specific examples and received rather more vague answers in return?

Well, two comments on that. First, Cardinal Bertone did focus the discussion in an indirect way by alluding to the summit on world hunger. I see this as a way of identify sort of the top practical priority without stating it in so many words.

Second, perhaps His Eminence was reticent because that more precise sort of guidance is imminently forthcoming. Another ZENIT article just yesterday recalled Bertone's recent insights into the Pope's new encyclical, due this Fall. Then, the Cardinal had said the Pope hoped not merely "to repeat common concepts of the Church's social doctrine, but wants to offer something original, according to the challenges of today."

ZENIT then offers some worthy speculation on what original theological ideas the Pope may be cooking up, which I commend to your reading. I think that the patterns emerging in the Holy Father's statements and letters - such as Deus Caritas Est, his speech to the UN in April, and his address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in May, to name a few - will perhaps receive a sort of focus and "gathering" in this new encyclical. Whether this will be a very "down to earth" and "name-naming" (of social ills, that is) encyclical as many have been in the tradition of such teachings... well, we shall see. It is a fact beyond mere speculation, however, that this Pontiff's powerful mind will bring valuable develop to a body of teaching which desperately needs opening up and exposure in our world.

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