Office of Peace and Social Justice
Diocese of Gary
Vol. XI No. 2
Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical
P ope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus caritas est (God is Love), published on Christmas
Day 2005, represents neither a crackdown on dissident theologians nor a stern reprimand to
the secular world. It is not a programmatic statement at the beginning of a new pontificate. The
encyclical is, rather, a profound and extended meditation on the nature of love: the love that is
God, God’s love for us, the intimate connection between God’s love and the love of a man and a
woman for one another, the connection between justice and charity, and between church and
state in establishing a just society. Across the world, reaction to the letter has been appreciative
Most of the first part of governance, justice can never
the encyclical aims to clarify fully bind a society together.
some essential facts s about the Only love can fill that role.
love which God mysteriously The Church…cannot and must Justice can overcome conflict,
and gratuitously offers to not remain on the sidelines in but it cannot, of itself, create
human beings, together with the union of hearts and minds
the intrinsic link between that the fight for justice... in a social group. The pope
Love and the reality of human Pope Benedict XVI employs this relationship
love. I want to focus, however, between church and state to
on the second part of the develop his understanding of
pope’s letter, particularly on those paragraphs dealing the relationship between charity and justice.
with the relationship between charity and justice. The church, he says, should not take on the
“Relationship” emerges as a key word in political battle for a just society. Justice is the work
Benedict’s discussion. Drawing on Scripture and the of the state, not the church. The proper work of the
practice of the early Church, the pope locates church is charity. The duty to work for justice is the
charitable service on the same theological plane as proper role of lay Catholics, who should participate
celebrating the liturgy and preaching the word of in public life as citizens. Building a just world is not
God. In the early Church there was no single treatise the sacramental church’s prime responsibility.
on the virtue of charity; charity embodied the The church works for justice by forming the
Christian way of social action. Of these three core consciences of lay people. The role of the church is
activities of the church, charitable service was the to help those in civic life see the goals of justice more
responsibility of the entire early Christian community clearly, unclouded by personal ambition or special
(cf. Acts 2:42). interests. Instead of promoting Catholic social
Benedict begins Part II of the encyclical with thought as a political agenda, the church takes on the
a key quote from St. Augustine, “If you see charity, role of teacher and critic. It stands on its social
you see the Trinity.” Charity, in other words, is a doctrine, guides consciences and helps identify the
gateway to God in a way that justice can never be. goals of authentic justice in society. It educates
Even as late as St. Thomas Aquinas, the classical people to respect human dignity and work for the
tradition insisted that while justice signals a healthy Continued on page two
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common good. This is how the church can have an changing hearts. Church and state, he says, are
indirect, yet powerful impact on the state. linked in a complementary relationship. If charity
Does this mean that the church must lies at the root of a just society, then allowing the
withdraw from any direct engagement with political church its charitable activities becomes an essential
authorities? “The Church,” Benedict responds, component in the politics of building justice.
“cannot and must not take upon herself the political Pope Benedict’s first encyclical offers much
battle to bring about the most just society possible. food for thought for today’s world. The document is
She cannot and must not replace the state. Yet at the written in a refreshingly clear, accessible and elegant
same time, she cannot and must not remain on the style. As Peter Steinfels wrote in his New York Times
sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her Beliefs column, “...the eloquent, carefully reasoned
part through rational argument, and she has to case Benedict makes for love, personal, self-giving
reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, love, as the bottom-line character of reality is the
which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and wildest, most astonishing of claims that can be made
prosper. A just society must be the achievement of in an era when scientific materialism and modern
politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of skepticism are commonly thought to foreclose any
justice through effective efforts to bring about such possibility.” Far from being a gentle papal
openness of mind and will to the demands of the valentine, Deus caritas est poses tough challenges to
common good is something which concerns the both church and state.
Church deeply.” (n.28a)* a Thomas M. Gannon, S.J.
Like John Paul II, Benedict sees charity as an * These ideas are further developed in the symposium on the
essential component of the Church’s ministry. encyclical published by America magazine, March 13, 2006,
Hence, he gives priority to spiritual, not political particularly in the article by Richard Ryscavage.
renewal and prefers to change social structures by
Copies of Deus caritas est can be purchased from—
USCCB Publishing, Washington D.C.–www.usccbpublishing.org or 800-235-8722
The Diocese of Gary and the Diocese of Fort Liberté, Haiti
AdelegationThe Diocesevisited Northwest Indiana
last May. of Gary has
been in partnership with CRS/Haiti since
the presidential election last February, Bishop
Langlois said the country is definitely in
transition and in need of stability. He said
since 2001 and groups have visited Haiti the Diocese of Gary is very important to
three times. This was the first visit of a the people of Haiti, who are ready for
group from Haiti. Members of the change.
delegation included Most Reverend The people of the Diocese of Gary
Chilbly Langlois, Bishop of Fort-Liberté, have been very generous. Since the partnership
three priests, a nun and staff from Catholic Relief began, almost $170,000 haw been donated to help an
Services in Haiti and Maryland. The clergy from orphange for children afflicted with AIDS, soil
Haiti represented Caritas, the Bureau of Education, conservation projects and education efforts.
and the Commission for Family and Youth.
Photos taken during the visit are on the next
Bishop Langlois gave a presentation, “Haiti in page.
transition” on May 11 at Purdue University Calumet.
He said Haiti is a very poor country. In his diocese,
which is located in the northeast corner of Haiti, there
is just a little farming and no industry. The people
depend on others to live. The church is responsible
for education and formation of the people. Due to
Issues Page 3
Bishop Chibly Langlois (above left) and the delegation with staff from St. Margaret Mercy
Hospital during their tour of that facility in Hammond.
Greetings on the sign outside the school welcomed the delegation to Bishop Noll Institute (left). Bishop Langlois
was surrounded by students during the visit to Harbor Catholic Elementary School in East Chicago (right).
Bishops Melczek and Langlois (left). The audience for the presentation by Bishop Langlois at
Purdue University Calumet (right).
þ Who are they?
atholic Relief Services (CRS) was founded in United States to fulfill their moral responsibilities by
C 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United
States. Their mission is to assist the poor and
helping the poor, working to remove the causes of
poverty, and promoting social justice.
disadvantaged, leveraging the teachings of the Gospel Two offices in the Diocese of Gary manage CRS
of Jesus Christ to alleviate human suffering, promote efforts. Catholic Family Services operates Operation
development of all people, and to foster charity and Rice Bowl, the annual project during Lent, which is
justice throughout the world. designed to guide participants through prayer, fasting
Working through local offices and an extensive and almsgiving while learning about the challenges
network of partners, CRS operates on five continents and gifts of the poor around the world. Heartland
and in 99 countries. They aid the poor by first Center, in its role as the Office of Peace and Social
providing direct assistance where needed, then Justice, manages the partnership with Haiti, which is
encouraging people to help with their own part of CRS’ Global Solidarity Project.
development. Together, these approaches foster All these efforts are assisted by the newly
secure, productive, just communities that enable formed
people to realize their potential. CRS Midwest office in Chicago. The national
As the official international relief and offices
development agency of the U.S. Catholic community, are in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information
CRS is committed to educating the people of the visit www.crs.org.
Issues is published by The Office of Peace and Social Justice of the Diocese of Gary. Reproduction of articles is encouraged.
Please cite Heartland Center (including our address) as the source, and send us a copy. Thank you!
Voice: 219.844.7515 Fax: 219.844.7566 E-mail: email@example.com
a Thomas M. Gannon, S.J., Director a James M. Dixon, S.J., Associate
a Francine M. Hintz, Assistant Director a John Stankovic, Community Action Coordinator a Cheryl Ward, Research Analyst
Visit us on the web— www.heartlandctr.org