I do not claim to understand Pope Benedict's writings and I've only read at and about the encyclical. Two passages cited as central to the Pope's message in this encyclical are numbers 15 and 28. In No. 15, he cites the 'strong links between life ethics and social ethics. . . .' Pope Benedict goes on to quote from Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae and writes that,
“a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”
When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good.
'a dictatorship of relativism . . that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure.'
There are a few passages from my own first reading of Caritas in Veritate that I would like to cite. Here in number 52, Pope Benedict explains that truth doesn't come from men but only from God.
Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. . . . That which is prior to us and constitutes us — subsistent Love and Truth — shows us what goodness is, and in what our true happiness consists. It shows us the road to true development.
To the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion we may well have to add . . .the systematic eugenic programming of births. At the other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads as an equally damaging assertion of control over life that under certain circumstances is deemed no longer worth living. . . . .How can we be surprised by the indifference shown towards situations of human degradation, when such indifference extends even to our attitude towards what is and is not human?
And again, the Pope leaves no stone unturned when he writes in number 51 about our current obsession with the environment while we simultaneously wave away concern for human life.
If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves.
It's hard to believe that just a little over a year ago, President Bush (a great friend of the Pope according to our own Father Rutler, himself a frequent White House visitor during the Bush years) was greeting Benedict on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., hosting him in the nation's capital and genuinely endorsing the Pope's message to American Catholics. Obama is not much of a friend to faith of any kind let alone Catholicism, but despite his tenure in the White House there is hope. Not the sentimental, flaccid hope of Obama's sloganeering, but real hope, Christ Our Hope, the theme of Pope Benedict's visit to the United States, as you will most certainly recall.
The text of Caritas In Veritate:
The text of Cardinal Ratzinger's homily of April, 2005: