Pope Benedict XVI: Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth")

Caritas in Veritate online

Pope Benedict XVI signs his new Encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate

Helpful Summaries

Press Conference Accompanying Encyclical's Release

Guides for Study

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offer free small group study guides - for stand-alone use or as a series, as well as an action guide on putting Caritas in Veritate into practice.

Additional Commentary

First Things Online Symposium - August 21, 2009

Press and Periodicals

Blog Discussions

The Weigel Controversy

On the question, "How 'authoritative' is a Catholic social encyclical?"

Charles Carroll -- America's Catholic Founding Father

Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later United States Senator for Maryland. He was also the only Catholic to have signed the The Declaration of Independence. One of the wealthiest men in the colonies, it is reported that -- upon fixing his signature,
a member standing near observed, "There go a few millions," and all admitted that few risked as much, in a material sense, than the wealthy Marylander.
(The Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832, by Kate Mason Rowland).

A new biography, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Lives of the Founders) (ISI) will be published in February 2010. (Tip of the hat to Carl Olson). The author, Dr. Bradley J. Birzer, was recently interviewed by the Washington Times:

Q: Carroll was the last of the signers to die. What did he have to say about America at the end of his life?

A: He was so critical of what happened to the republic after the founding. He's very critical of the democratic element in the American republic - he's worried that self-interest and greed are replacing republican virtue. So from the late 1700s, Carroll starts being called "the hoary-headed aristocrat." He starts to be seen as a relic of an older age. But after Carroll dies, there's a resurgence of his reputation. All across the country, the headlines read, "The last of the Romans is dead."

And he was one of Alexis de Tocqueville's main informants. So there are moments in de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (Penguin Classics) when he is being critical of the democratic spirit, and it seems very clear to me that he is taking that from his interview with Carroll.

Q: What does history get wrong about Carroll?

A: I'm always amazed at how much our own history, especially [in] our textbooks, tends to portray the founders as merely enlightened figures. And there's no doubt they were. But the vast majority were Christian - Franklin and Jefferson being the exceptions that so many focus on. And the American people were intensely religious, mostly Protestant, at the time of the founding. I think it's dangerous that we secularize the founding so much. We need to know the context - we need to know what inspired them to fight for liberty.

Read the whole thing.

This would make the second book published recently about the Catholic founding father, the first being Scott McDermott's Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary (Scepter Publications, 2001).

McDermott, a circulation librarian at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, writer and convert, began studying about Carroll after he came into the Church -- In 2005, Zenit News interviewed him about his biography and Carroll's influence on the founding fathers (Part I | Part II).

* * *

I concur with the observation that the religiousity of many of our founding fathers is sadly overlooked and much neglected. Michael Novak made an important contribution to restoring a proper recognition to the religious roots of America's founding with his On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (2001), followed by Washington's God, a study of the religious faith of the pre-eminent 'Father of our Country'.

So, about this website ...

"Is Pope John Paul II too LIBERAL?" -- That was the question National Catholic Reporter journalist John Allen Jr. posed on August 22, 2003:

The question cuts against most conventional wisdom. If the man who said “no” to women’s ordination, gay marriage, and decentralization of power isn’t a conservative, many people would insist, then there’s no such animal.

But what if one has in mind not the sense in which Ted Kennedy is “liberal,” but in which virtually all Westerners are “liberals,” i.e., the classic notion of liberalism as belief in democracy, human rights, and free markets? If that’s the standard, then John Paul, though not uncritically, stacks up as a basically “liberal” pope.

Witness his proud claim that Christianity actually shaped the core tenets of liberalism in his August 17 Angelus address: “The Christian faith gave form [to Europe], and some of its fundamental values in turn inspired ‘the democratic ideal and the human rights’ of European modernity,” the Pope said.

Not everyone in the Catholic world approves. Although the movement has largely flown under media radar, John Paul faces a growing conservative opposition to this embrace of liberalism, understood in the classic sense. . . .

It was in fact John Allen's column which inspired this website and our homegrown investigation of the relationship between the Catholic faith and what has been called America's experiment in "ordered liberty." Such questions as:
  • What are the religious and philosophical foundations of the 'The American Experiment'?
  • Is the liberal tradition (understood in the sense of democracy, human rights and the free market) a help or a hinderance to the life of the Church and evangelization?
  • Is there a middle ground between capitalism and socialism? Is there such a thing as a "Catholic Libertarian"? Is the "free market" compatible with the social teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • What is the proper role of religion in the public life of America today and how ought we to interpret the 'separation of Church and State'?
  • What is the proper understanding of freedom, conscience and religious liberty in Catholic tradition?
This debate occupied two prominent groups of Catholics during the 1990's-2000's -- those loosely classified as "Whig Thomists" or Catholic neoconservatives (George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, prominently featured in the journal First Things) and another loose set of individuals: David Schindler of Communio, the philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre, and "Augustinian Thomist" Dr. Tracey Rowland. For a summary of the debate from the Augustinian Thomist perspective, see "The Church's Response to Modernity" (Zenit News interview with Dr. Tracey Rowland 07/25/05).

Please note that the purpose of this website is to serve as an archive of articles and resources available online, and to other helpful websites pertaining to this important discussion -- a depository of pertinent information for those interested in these issues.

Furthermore, while the debate between the 'Catholic neoconservatives' and their critics has expanded into issues of foreign policy (such as the Iraq war), this website is by and large confined to theoretical matters of political and economic philosophy. Those interested in the debate over just war may refer to another archive and chronicle of the 2002-03 "just war debate".

As always I welcome comments and criticisms. If you encounter online articles I may have missed, please don't hesitate to email me.

Update: June 13, 2014

We have come a long way since this website was founded, with the passing of Pope John Paul II, the election of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI (who had much to contribute on these issues, both in his past writings as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as well as during his pontificate). And now with the abdication of Benedict XVI and the subsequent election of Pope Francis, we have a new voice weighing in.

In light of which, it seems appropos that we spend some time redesigning this website, with additional content and features. Your patience is appreciated.