Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Charity in Truth" and "Iota unum"

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

 -- Galatians 1:6-12
"Charity in Truth" is the name of the 3rd and last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. The key to unlocking the fullness of its meaning is a book called "Iota unum" by the theologian Romano Amerio.

Sandro Magister wrote an article in 2009 -- soon after the publication of the Pope's encyclical -- that gives us the key to understanding "Charity in Truth" by means of "Iota unum". Without this key, much of what the Pope writes remains cryptic and the truth that it proclaims is easily lost.

The key that Magister provides is this quote from the theologian and mystic Don Divo Barsotti:
"Amerio essentially says that the gravest evils present today in Western thought, including Catholic thought, are mainly due to a general mental disorder according to which 'caritas' is put before 'veritas', without considering that this disorder also overturns the proper conception that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity."
 Magister follows this up with his own thoughts:
In effect, Amerio saw precisely in this overturning of the primacy of Logos over love – or in a charity separated from truth – the root of many of the "variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th century": the variations that he described and subjected to criticism in the first and more commanding of the two volumes cited: "Iota unum," written between 1935 and 1985; the variations that led him to question whether with them, the Church had not become something other than itself.
The simplest way to restate this is that Truth must come before Love. St John the Evangelist begins his Gospel with:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word, the Logos, the Truth came first and has primacy over everything else -- including Love. Love flows from the Truth.

When the order is inverted and Truth becomes subjugated to Love, we end up with a false charity. And this is the state of the Church today. Social justice (Charity/Love) takes precedence over propagating the faith (Truth/Logos). In many instances the Church does not even teach the fullness of faith to its own members.

In the introduction to "Charity in Truth", Pope Benedict says:
Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.
The Pope echoes Amerio.

Amerio attended the 2nd Vatican Council, and his book is a response to the "aggiornamento" -- which I understand to mean the "modernization" of the Church that Vatican II attempted to bring about.

One of the ways that Vatican II gave precedence to Charity over Truth is at once subtle and blatant. It is the novel language that is used in the documents of Vatican II. This is called "pastoral language" and is the source of much of the ambiguity in its documents.

The Council deliberately chose not to use the traditional "dogmatic" language of the Church in order to be more "modern" and more "charitable". Rather than clearly condemning errors as was done by the Church in the past, the Council chose to attempt to find common ground with those who were opposed to the faith. But in so doing, it relegated the Truth to a lower level.

In case you were wondering, the term "iota unum" refers to Matthew Ch. 5:17-19...

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. "

One final note. I suspect that some of the Pope's final actions were done in preparation for his stepping down -- in particular, the motu propio "On the Service of Charity" (November 11, 2012) where he specifically stated that Catholic charities must act in complete compliance with Catholic teaching.

One would think that such a statement would be totally unnecessary. However, there has been an ongoing scandal of Catholic charities that support organizations that promote abortion, or contraception, or homosexual marriage in violation of Church teaching.

One would think that the encyclical "Charity in Truth" would then have sufficiently clarified the position of the Church. But the pleadings of the Pope in this encyclical were largely ignored by the bureaucracy of the Church's charitable organization.

Therefore the Pope was forced to issue a "motu propio" which according to my understanding has the power of canon law. Pope Benedict wished to be a moral leader -- a papa, a father to his bishops and to his flock. But his hand was forced, and he had to impose new legislation on the Church bureaucracy. And even this continues to be effectively ignored by some prominent Catholic charities.

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