Interview with President of Thomas More College on Encyclical
'Caritas in Veritate' contains lessons for all Christians, not just those involved in the fields of business and politics.
William Fahey, who has a doctorate from the Catholic University of America, spoke with ZENIT about the Pope's third encyclical, released last week.
He noted that the Pope's emphasis on the relationship between love and truth has consequences not only for social action, but also for the work of education and evangelization.
ZENIT: How has the new encyclical been received among scholars in the United States?
Fahey: Thankfully, true scholars have not rushed to make pronouncements. There has been the usual flurry of commentary by media pundits. A few have been thoughtful; most of them attempt to provide a general outline of the letter; and a few have been gravely disappointing.
ZENIT: "Gravely"? How so?
Fahey: Well, there have been some prominent public journalists who have attempted to carve up the encyclical into little portions that are acceptable for their ideologies and portions that are not. I found it distressing that one or two well-known and reputably orthodox writers determined to color the text: certain palatable parts were given a golden "papal" sanction -- these parts are, it was asserted, authentic to Benedict XVI; other parts were tarred with a socialist hue -- these parts can be avoided, it was again asserted.
Interestingly, this sort of ideological carving flies boldly in the face of the Church's authority and integrity as stated in "Caritas in Veritate." There is a section early on in which Benedict XVI states that "clarity is not served by certain abstract subdivisions of the Church's social doctrine." Here, he is speaking directly of the common attempt by some to assert a rupture between the social teaching of the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, but the principle is the same. We do not have the authority to pick and choose from within what Benedict XVI calls the "doctrinal corpus."
Yet some self-appointed guardians of the faith have concluded they can personally divine which sections are worthy of our assent and which should be quietly ignored as stale, old ideas.
ZENIT: So, there is dissent?
Fahey: Well, I am not in a position of determining that. Let's say that there is "near occasion" of dissent, if I can put it in those terms. I hope that it is not dissent. What I found breathtaking was that such facile dismissals of the encyclical appeared within an hour or so of its official release. On prudential matters, of course, the Church expects us to evaluate. But to dismiss sections on the first day strikes me as not the action of a good son of the Church, or even a thoughtful mind.
ZENIT: As an academic, does this social encyclical have anything to say to teachers and scholars outside of the disciplines of politics and economics? It is, after all, a social encyclical.
Fahey: I have only read the encyclical letter once in its entirety. A few key passages struck me as immediately relevant to my own position as a college professor and president.
What are the implications, for example, of a statement such as, "Truth needs to be sought, found, and expressed with the 'economy' of charity?" As the Holy Father goes on to say, this means -- in part -- that those who are the stewards of truth, must love that truth and demonstrate it in love.
Academics do not dwell much on charity or love and its relationship to the truth -- or vice versa. But as the Holy Father reminds us, to know the truth entails a love of the truth; to love the truth means that we will be urged to act, to share the truth. This seems so simple as not to deserve comment, but upon reflection it is profound. As a Catholic educator, when I meditate on this, I perceive more clearly the connection between the intellectual life and the life of grace, the work that chiefly occupies the study or classroom and the broader work of evangelization.
ZENIT: Do you see any connection between the Holy Father's ideas here and the work of your college in particular?
Fahey: Yes, yes, of course. First, there is something perhaps minor concerning the title and the opening paragraphs that I must mention. Benedict XVI frames the encyclical in passages taken from St. Paul: "Each person finds his good by adherence to God's plan for him, in order to realize it more fully. To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, 'rejoices in the truth.'"
That last part is a quotation from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians; it is also the ...
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