A gracious respondent to my critique of Weigel’s critique of “Caritas in Veritate,” responds again:
“His criticism of the new encyclical's "confused sentimentality" is not so much an attack on Christian personalism as it is on the apparent application of "personalistic" language to economic systems. Even in this regard, Weigel does not object to any particular statement in "Caritas"; he simply notes that we cannot really comprehend what is being said.
“I wonder if the ambiguity of this supposed "economic gratuitousness" is itself intentional; the question of this application of "personalistic" language to economic systems therefore is left open to the individual layperson. I do affirm, of course, that a papal encyclical is provided as "an act of the Magisterium that speaks the Word authoritatively". Cardinal Ratzinger himself was always careful to uphold this authority, while also recognizing its nuances and implications. For instance, in his 1998 doctrinal commentary on the "Professio fidei" (Ad Tuendam Fidem) he writes, "all those teachings on faith and morals presented as true or at least as sure, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Such teachings ...require religious submission of will and intellect..." He then goes on to suggest examples: "the articles of faith of the creed, the various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas; the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic celebration; the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman pontiff; the doctrine on the existence of original sin; the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being."
Now, my question is: how can the economic-political issues cited by Weigel, viz. redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a "world political authority", plausibly be included in such a group? How can technical problems concerning public policy and governance be coherently treated as matters of faith and morals, as issues also requiring the submission of a layperson's will and intellect?
My response to Janice is the following:
1) the “ambiguity” results from the expectation that the Magisterium speaks rationalistically, when it speaks in terms of consciousness. It is speaking on a level deeper than concepts can make intelligible. If you want to call that “intentional,” so be it. The Magisterium can only speak Christ as the revelation of the Father. Hence, it speaks “Person” which is not “personalistic philosophy,” and “Person” means relation to the Father in the Trinity. As it is difficult to speak person as constitutive relation of whom we have no sensible perception, and therefore no abstraction to form a concept, so also we know Person by experiencing ourselves in morally free action. It is of this “I” of ourselves that we are conscious. If that morally free action is self-gift to God as reception, then I will also know what you suggest above: I will know Christ as I know myself, and will be able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). That done, I will be able to receive the conceptual articulation by the Church of that consciousness: "the articles of faith of the creed, the various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas; the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic celebration; the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman pontiff; the doctrine on the existence of original sin; the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being."
You now ask: “how can the economic-political issues cited by Weigel, viz. redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a "world political authority", plausibly be included in such a group? How can technical problems concerning public policy and governance be coherently treated as matters of faith and morals, as issues also requiring the submission of a layperson's will and intellect?”
And I answer: “those technical problems” are problems of persons who are “other Christs” and must be addressed on the level of person. This is the level of self-gift, since the person is not a substance and his or her actions are not accidental appendages of and to that substance. The meaning of person is in the Trinity is relation as total self-gift. The Person of the Logos is relation as total self-gift in obedience and glorification to the Father by the assimilation of a human will as “His.” Jesus Christ is the meaning of the human person (Gaudium et Spes #22), and therefore, the meaning of the human person is GS#24: find self by gift of self.
The self and the act are one and the same in Christ. As Ratzinger says in “Introduction to Christianity:” “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty;’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I.’”
This Christological anthropology is at the basis of the entire social doctrine of the Church, and it always has. What has not been articulated is the relational character of the anthropology that is the underlying metaphysical and phenomenological framework. And it is precisely this which Benedict is alluding to in his three encyclicals.
If I am not mistaken, this is exactly what you are driving at in your presentation of general and universal “truths” of the faith to which we must give a religious assent of intellect and will, and then the prudential particularities of concrete instantiations of those truths which would be outside the pale of Magisterial authority. My most blunt answer is that Weigel is working with a non-converted mind. Benedict has given four major addresses between 2006 and 2008 on the topic of “Broadening Reason,” beginning with
This experience, conditioned by new cultural and ideological situations, is the place in which theological research must evaluate and upon which it is urgent to initiate a fruitful dialogue with philosophy.
The understanding of Christianity as a real transformation of human existence, if on the one hand it impels theological reflection to a new approach in regard to religion, on the other, it encourages it not to lose confidence in being able to know reality.
The proposal to "widen the horizons of rationality", therefore, must not simply be counted among the new lines of theological and philosophical thought, but it must be understood as the requisite for a new opening onto the reality that the human person in his uni-totality is, rising above ancient prejudices and reductionisms, to open itself also to the way toward a true understanding of modernity.
Humanity's desire for fullness cannot be disregarded. The Christian faith is called to take on this historical emergency by involving the men and women of good will in a simple task. The new dialogue between faith and reason, required today, cannot happen in the terms and in the ways in which it happened in the past. If it does not want to be reduced to a sterile intellectual exercise, it must begin from the present concrete situation of humanity and upon this develop a reflection that draws from the ontological-metaphysical truth.”
I propose that the Church has always been speaking about the whole man as intrinsically relational in its social doctrine. I offer some statements of the Magisterium from Leo XIII on which testify as much:
(Leo XIII) Rerum Novarum #25: “it is the Church which draws from the Gospel the teachings through which the struggle can be composed entirely, or, after its bitterness is removed, can certainly become more tempered. It is the Church, again, that strives not only to instruct the mind but to regulate by her precepts the life and morals of individuals, that ameliorates the condition of the workers….”
(Pius XI) Quadragesimo Anno #41: “(P)rinciples which Leo XIII so clearly established must be laid down at the outset here, namely, that there resides in Us the right and duty to pronounce with supreme authority upon social and economic matters. Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed" the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns"; however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to Us and the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law, and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject to Our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic activities themselves.”
(Pius XII) Radio Broadcast – Pentecost 1941: “(The Church) has the undisputable competence [to] decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord with the unchangeable order which God our Creator and Redeemer has fixed both in the natural law and revelation.”
(John XXIII): Mater et Magistra #23: “Finally, both workers and employers should regulate their mutual relations in accordance with the principle of human solidarity and Christian brotherhood. Unrestricted competition in the liberal sense, and the Marxist creed of class warfare; are clearly contrary to Christian teaching and the nature of man.”
(John Paul II): Solicitudo Rei Socialis #21 & #28. 21: “This happens with particularly negative effects in the international relations which concern the developing countries. For as we know the tension between East and West is not in itself an opposition between two different levels of development but rather between two concepts of the development of individuals and peoples, both concepts being imperfect and in need of radical correction. This opposition is transferred to the developing countries themselves, and thus helps to widen the gap already existing on the economic level between North and South and which results from the distance between the two worlds: the more developed one and the less developed one.
This is one of the reasons why the Church's social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism. For from the point of view of development the question naturally arises: in what way and to what extent are these two systems capable of changes and updatings such as to favor or promote a true and integral development of individuals and peoples in modern society? In fact, these changes and updatings are urgent and essential for the cause of a development common to all.
Countries which have recently achieved independence, and which are trying to establish a cultural and political identity of their own, and need effective and impartial aid from all the richer and more developed countries, find themselves involved in, and sometimes overwhelmed by, ideological conflicts, which inevitably create internal divisions, to the extent in some cases of provoking full civil war. This is also because investments and aid for development are often diverted from their proper purpose and used to sustain conflicts, apart from and in opposition to the interests of the countries which ought to benefit from them. Many of these countries are becoming more and more aware of the danger of falling victim to a form of neo-colonialism and are trying to escape from it. It is this awareness which in spite of difficulties, uncertainties and at times contradictions gave rise to the International Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, which, in its positive aspect, would like to affirm in an effective way the right of every people to its own identity, independence and security, as well as the right to share, on a basis of equality and solidarity, in the goods intended for all.”
#28 and 29: The Magisterium enters full tilt here into the meaning of “development” on the economic as it affects the “humanum.” It displays the distinct anthropology that is at work in the Magisterium when speaking on empirical concretions like economics and politics. In a word, the economic is not simply an activity like an accidental performance of a substance that would be ruled by an empirical mechanism like market forces of supply and demand. Rather, economics is an activity of a constitutively relational being who “develops” or “finds” self by the by mastering self in the action of “work” and turning the object “made” or service performed into gift (alone with the self) to another.
The Magisterium is speaking about concrete economic and political activity in terms of the person becoming self, and therefore in terms of Jesus Christ as prototype of the working person. It speaks with complete authority since the concretion is the person himself as relation. The person is not substance, and the concrete economic action is not an accident. The person as “I” –esse is the very same as the person as “I” –agere. As in Ratzinger’s presentation of trinitarian Christology: the Person is the office; the office is the person. We are no longer in an epistemology of concepts that determines the abstract intelligible “person” as substance and the concrete empirical action as accident. We are experiencing the “I” as an empirical reality in the order of consciousness that has the “attitude” of self-giftedness. The Church speaks absolutely of both terms, the person and the action. In a word, the Magisterium speaks authoritatively on social doctrine.
Text “28. At the same time, however, the "economic" concept itself, linked to the word development, has entered into crisis. In fact there is a better understanding today that the mere accumulation of goods and services, even for the benefit of the majority, is not enough for the realization of human happiness. Nor, in consequence, does the availability of the many real benefits provided in recent times by science and technology, including the computer sciences, bring freedom from every form of slavery. On the contrary, the experience of recent years shows that unless all the considerable body of resources and potential at man's disposal is guided by a moral understanding and by an orientation towards the true good of the human race, it easily turns against man to oppress him.
A disconcerting conclusion about the most recent period should serve to enlighten us: side-by-side with the miseries of underdevelopment, themselves unacceptable, we find ourselves up against a form of superdevelopment, equally inadmissible, because like the former it is contrary to what is good and to true happiness. This superdevelopment, which consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the. benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of "possession" and of immediate gratification, with no other horizon than the multiplication or continual replacement of the things already owned with others still better. This is the so-called civilization of "consumption" or "consumerism", which involves so much "throwing-away" and "waste". An object already owned but now superseded by something better is discarded, with no thought of its possible lasting value in itself, nor of some other human being who is poorer.
All of us experience firsthand the sad effects of this blind submission to pure consumerism: in the first place a crass materialism, and at the same time a radical dissatisfaction, because one quickly learns unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products that the more one possesses the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.
The Encyclical of Pope Paul VI pointed out the difference, so often emphasized today, between "having" and "being",  which had been expressed earlier in precise words by the Second Vatican Council. To "have" objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject, unless it contributes to the maturing and enrichment of that subject's "being", that is to say unless it contributes to the realization of the human vocation as such.
Of course, the difference between "being" and "having", the danger inherent in a mere multiplication or replacement of things possessed compared to the value of "being", need not turn into a contradiction. One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all.
This then is the picture: there are some people the few who possess much who do not really succeed in "being" because, through a reversal of the hierarchy of values, they are hindered by the cult of "having"; and there are others the many who have little or nothing--who do not succeed in realizing their basic human vocation because they are deprived of essential goods.
The evil does not consist in "having" as such, but in possessing without regard for the quality and the ordered hierarchy of the goods one has. Quality and hierarchy arise from the subordination of goods and their availability to man's "being" and his true vocation.
This shows that although development has a necessary economic dimension, since it must supply the greatest possible number of the world's inhabitants with an availability of goods essential for them "to be", it is not limited to that dimension. If it is limited to this, then it turns against those whom it is meant to benefit.
The characteristics of full development, one which is "more human" and able to sustain itself at the level of the true vocation of men and women without denying economic requirements, were described by Paul VI.
29. Development which is not only economic must be measured and oriented according to the reality and vocation of man seen in his totality, namely, according to his interior dimension. There is no doubt that he needs created goods and the products of industry, which is constantly being enriched by scientific and technological progress. And the ever greater availability of material goods not only meets needs but also opens new horizons. The danger of the misuse of material goods and the appearance of artificial needs should in no way hinder the regard we have for the new goods and resources placed at our disposal and the use we make of them. On the contrary, we must see them as a gift from God and as a response to the human vocation, which is fully realized in Christ.”
Dr. Kenneth Whitehead asked: “What do all these citations from papal social encyclicals add u to? What do we have here? It turns out that Leo XIII’s original claim to be able to teach authoritatively on the moral dimensions of political, economic, and social matters ahs been pointedly and explicitly reiterated by every subsequent pope who issued a social encyclical – which most of his successors did. Indeed, not the least important thing about Rerum Novarum has been the extent to which the popes have felt obliged to keep on ‘commemorating’ it…. Nevertheless, it is also highly significant that each pope believed it important to reaffirm specifically the Church’s continuing claim to be able to teach on social questions, as John Paul II has also done in Centesimus Annus.”
Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes #76 makes an apparently clichéd remark when it says “there are close links between the things of earth and those things in man’s condition which transcend the world, and the Church utilizes temporal realities as often as its mission requires it.” The human person, while being a concrete physical individual in the world, who performs corresponding actions, totally transcends the world in his very physicality as enfleshed spirit made in the image of the divine Persons. His intrinsic metaphysical constitution is relational as Christ Himself is relational to the Father. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the meaning of the human person as prototypical self-gift. Christ is not an exception to man but his destiny and fulfillment.
Work then, and the economics that develops from it, must take its meaning from Christ. As the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over Ratzinger’s signature wrote: “The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real ‘Gospel of work,’ offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life t o manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning of effort.
“83. Thus the solution of most of the serious problem related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of tr a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.” The document goes on: “84. A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed.” It continues: “87. The priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and, in making investments, to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful.
“The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant of all.”
Janice asks: “how can the economic-political issues cited by Weigel, viz. redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a "world political authority" be lumped together with such supernatural verities like "the articles of faith of the creed, the various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas; the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic celebration; the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman pontiff; the doctrine on the existence of original sin; the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being" – which seem to be the proper domain of the Magisterium?
 J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149.
 Benedict XVI, “Widening the Horizons of Rationality” June 7, 2008, At the Sixth European Symposium of University Professors.
 K.D. Whitehead, “Catholics “Dissent” from Papal Social Teachings? Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter, December 1992