Spe Salvi analysis

Many of the principal Catholic internet services offer good workmanlike summaries of the encyclical Spe Salvi but I would encourage anyone just to pick it up and read it. Pope Benedict's writing is not difficult; in fact, it is disarmingly straightforward. I think that some people find that his work is not easy reading simply because it is packed with ideas: he doesn't waste a word.

Having read it carefully myself, I was interested to see what others made of it. John Allen sees the encyclical as a 'Greatest Hits' collection of core Ratzinger ideas which he lists as follows:
  • Truth is not a limit upon freedom, but the condition of freedom reaching its true potential;
  • Reason and faith need one another – faith without reason becomes extremism, while reason without faith leads to despair;
  • The dangers of the modern myth of progress, born in the new science of the 16th century and applied to politics through the French Revolution and Marxism;
  • The impossibility of constructing a just social order without reference to God;
  • The urgency of separating eschatology, the longing for a “new Heaven and a new earth,” from this-worldly politics;
  • Objective truth as the only real limit to ideology and the blind will to power.
Rorate Caeli describes it as the Anti-Gaudium et Spes quoting a translation of part of an article by Antonio Socci (full text in Italian)
A bomb. It is the new encyclical of Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, in which there is not a single quotation from the Council (a choice of huge significance); in which at last Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory are spoken of again (and even the Anti-Christ, even though in an excerpt of Kant); in which horrors are called by their name (for instance, "Communism", a word which, at the Council, it was forbidden to pronounce and condemn); in which, instead of greeting the powerful of this world, the powerful witness of Christian martyrs, the victims, is mentioned; in which the rhetoric of the "religions" is wiped out, by affirming that the Savior is only one; in which Mary is shown as the "star of hope"; and in which it is shown that blind faith in progress (alone) and in science (alone) leads to disaster and despair.
Perhaps it is over-egging the pudding a little to describe the encyclical as una bomba but it is an intriguing point that the Holy Father does not quote Gaudium et Spes or indeed any of the texts of Vatican II directly. I have not the time to go through and check but anyone interested might want to look up the numerous quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism often quotes the council documents and it could be that the Pope is encouraging his readers to see the Catechism as a "sure point of reference" for the teaching of the Council.

Damien Thompson refers us to an article by Christopher Howse in the Telegraph. I liked the opening sentence:
A colleague, staring at the Pope's latest encyclical, remarked, "There's no news here. It's all about God."
In contrast to much religious journalism in England, Howse offers his readers a competent and sympathetic summary of the encyclical. It is good to know that a secular newspaper has given such a balanced treatment.

Damien also laments the lack of any press release about the encyclical from our Catholic Communications Network. Well, "no news there" either, I suppose. But with an annual expenditure of £315,286 (thats 648,372 of your American dollars at current rates) it is important to be reminded now and again how the money given by my parishioners to the annual collection for the "National Catholic Fund" is used. The latest news and press releases does have a press release for Friday 30 November: a report on the Autumn Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of COMECE. What? The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, silly! (Actually I didn't know either.)

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