The Holy Father's long-promised social encyclical was released today (though signed last week and dated on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul). It's not terribly long, as recent encyclicals go--45 pages (plus 9 pages of footnotes!), so you don't have a good excuse not to read it. The document was expected months ago, but Pope Benedict reeled it back in so he could address the social issues raised by the collapse of the markets. This being a social encyclical, the Pope doesn't write so much about money as about people. In glancing over the document as it is going to my printer, I see that he also addresses the social aspects of technology (#69), media(#73) and bioethics (#74).
Never read an encyclical before? Here are some road markers:
The title: "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in truth): the first words of the text itself serve as the Latin title. Another form of the title can be found in the...
Introduction: "On integral human development in charity and truth." The themes of charity and truth are coming to us in both the title and the introduction. This is already a powerful message.
Addressees: "To the bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, the lay faithful and all people of good will." The Holy Father is directing his message not just to the leaders in the Church--or even just to its members--but to anyone, anywhere, who has "good will." This means we can expect him, while drawing on the tradition, teachings and documents of the Church, to present his thought in a way that can be understood by people of different faiths and of no faith. He is trying to speak to as wide an audience as possible.
The first sentence: Right from the beginning, the Pope refers to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This document is not just a detatched sociological analysis, but a way of bringing faith to bear on the current social order.
Ready to tackle it now?