One of the positive things about being a Catholic blogger is that I feel a push to read Church documents as soon as they come out. This is good thing for me considering that I have a have a tendency towards procrastination even for things that I want to do. As a result I read the first part of Deus Caritas Est during lunch and the second half later on. First off can anybody read a good sized encyclical right off the Vatican’s page. I mean black text on a mottled brown background is not the most eye pleasing contrast. First thing I did was to copy the text into a text editor and to also convert it to an mp3 with speech-to-text software to be able to go through it a second time later.
It is a sad indictment and a testimony to disorder that Pope Benedict’s first encyclical is getting much less attention than the document on the admittance of homosexual’s in the seminary. The majority of news arguments give more attention to it being his first encyclical than to the contents. Of course this time they have no convenient hook to a hot button issue to be able to exploit. No media meat for "Pope attacks .." or "Pope slams" lead ins. Though some try have come up with some very creative interpretations to create an issue. For example in a overall good Time online article.
At Wednesday’s presentation of the encyclical, veteran Vatican correspondent Marco Tosatti asked Archbishop William Levada whether a reference to the Eucharist was a sign that Benedict was reconsidering Church policy that denies communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. Levada, who has Ratzinger’s old job as the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, politely told Tosatti he was reaching. "I hadn’t even considered it before your question," he said.
Well let us see what the Holy Father had to say in Deus Caritas Est on the Eucharist and marriage.
13. Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man’s real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God’s condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish.
Yes you can easily see how reference to the Eucharist and of it’s sacramental union with God of course means that now divorced Catholics can receive Communion. Surely anybody can see that.
Though there does seem to be some general surprise by some in the media such as this one by Ruth Gledhill.
Every sentence, stop and comma speaks of orthodoxy. It is steeped in the tradition of the ancient Church. The Pope was former head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body once known as the Inquisition. But this encyclical is not the work of an inquisitor. It is the work of a lover — a true lover of God.
Again they expected Torquemada, but what they got instead was the "sweet Christ on earth." Holy switcheroo Batman! Leave aside the inquisitor dig and the fact that the CDF whose lineage traces back to the Holy Office has a different mandate – she at least ends with words of absolute truth.
Legitimate criticism will come from some feminist circles. Although it is biblical, some women will not be happy at being referred to as rib-made helpmeets. His analysis of the role of the Church in bringing God’s love to fruition is also likely to be provoke accusations of implicit replacement theology.
Proof that ideological filters can easily distort any reading. Though it does make me laugh to think of the Pope as calling women "rib-made helpmeets." I mean I can hardly wait to the Pope doing a followup letter to the one JPII wrote in 1995 now called "Letter to rib-made helpmeets." I would also like to see a group Catholic women’s blog called "rib-made helpmeets." Now as to the Pope implying replacement theology – that is really a stretch. I can only guess that she though that replacement theology was the Church replacing the state – something that is antithetical to what the Pope is actually calling for. Those on a theocracy watch can stand down since the Pope called for the Church to help to form consciences in political life and to "help purify reason."
Now as to my own reading of the encyclical I will not give any commentary since it is being done better by others. What I can say is that not only should it be read, but meditated on – especially the first section. I do know that my first reading will not be my last.
Here is one very good summary from AsiaNews.
Update: Carl Olson fisks a NYT piece on the encylical.
Michael Dubruiel gives the rest of the story concening Hans Kung "praising" the encyclical.