The documents that came from Pope Benedict XVI’s pen in the beginning of the year have not been revolutionary. The new pontificate, which was first supposed to become a time of unexpected decisions, has turned out in fact rather moderate in all respects.
The only vivid quotation from the Deus caritas est encyclical picked by the mass media are the pope’s words about love between man and woman, ‘where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness’. The pontific, reputed to be a conservative, sings an inspiring hymn to ‘love-eros’ declaring it an ecstasy towards the Divine. And this evokes a positive response, of course, among Christian liberals.
In general however, the encyclical, as well as Benedict XVI’s message on the occasion of the World Day of Peace on January 1, firstly, underline the uniqueness of the Christian doctrine vis-à-vis the other religions and, secondly, distance themselves from the left-wing part of the political spectrum.
The pope in fact links the achievement of peace in the world with a spiritual revival on the Christian basis, with a return to the gospel’s postulates. ‘The full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace’, he writes. Deus caritas est unambiguously condemns such deviations from Christian morality as extramarital sexual relations and generally the indiscriminate or commercialized use of ‘eros’.
Both documents criticize Marxism just as other irreligious ideological and political systems described in the New Year message as ‘aberrant’. The encyclical recognizes the need for the society to move towards more justice but condemns the idea of its revolutionary reconstruction. The alternative offered by Benedict XVI is charity, as well as evolution of socium towards reasonable behavior in politics. The Catholic Church offers her help to politicians in this process but refuses, according to the encyclical, to enter directly in the affairs of state.
In a word, the new pope, unlike his predecessor who liked to criticize the West and the global economy, sees the modern Western state and its model of economy as the most acceptable, just as he finds today’s international organizations, especially the UN, worthy of support, as his 1st of January massage states. The only thing to which Benedict XVI calls is the gradual Christianization and ‘rationalization’ of these institutes. Terrorists and extremists do not have the same way as the new pope.