Acton Institute Powerblog

Quick Conservative Protestant Take on Caritas in Veritate

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I remember once reading an author who began by saying that he wasn’t a big fan of Paul. I was offended by that because I thought, “Who are you to pronounce yourself a non-fan of Paul? Furthermore, who cares whether you’re a fan of Paul?”

I say this because I have been reading Caritas in Veritate by Pope Benedict. As I read, I find I agree and disagree with different portions of it. I can imagine a Catholic saying, “Who are you to disagree with the Pope? And who cares, Protestant boy?” I am very sensitive to that sentiment.

The quick version is this. The pope is very impressive as he writes about the nature of knowledge. He has very clearly grasped that the way we view knowledge is unnecessarily stunted and frankly, unworkable.

The part that brings me up a little short is the way he writes about economics. There are some very substantial insights there about how capitalism has a tendency to undermine its own foundations. At the same time, however, he seems to be hinting at the kind of social programs and employment guarantees that have often proved harmful to the development of productive lives by whole groups of human beings.

I’ve noted Dr. Gregg’s remarks in this regard and will keep reading for greater clarity. He is certainly a greater authority than I on these matters.

Hunter Baker Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. serves as contributing editor to The City and to Salvo Magazine. In addition, he has written for The American Spectator, American Outlook, National Review Online, Christianity Today, Human, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a number of other outlets. His scholarly work has appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion (“Competing Orthodoxies in the Public Square: Postmodernism’s Effect on Church-State Separation”), the Regent University Law Review (“Storming the Gates of a Massive Cultural Investment: Reconsidering Roe in Light of its Flawed Foundation and Undesirable Consequences”), and the Journal of Church and State. In 2007, he contributed a chapter “The Struggle for Baylor’s Soul” to the edited collection The Baylor Project, published by St. Augustine’s Press. He has also been a guest on a variety of television and radio programs, including Prime Time America and Kresta in the Afternoon. As a law student in the late 1990s, Hunter Baker worked for The Rutherford Institute and Prison Fellowship Ministries where he focused primarily on defending the constitutional principle of religious liberty. Prior to beginning doctoral studies in religion and politics at Baylor University in 2003, he served as director of public policy for the Georgia Family Council. While at Baylor, Baker served as a graduate assistant to the philosopher Francis Beckwith and the historian Barry Hankins. He assisted Beckwith in the editing of his landmark book Defending Life which has now been published by Cambridge University Press. He also provided research assistance to Hankins in his forthcoming biography of Francis Schaeffer. Baker currently serves on the political science faculty at Union University and is an associate dean in the college of arts and sciences. He is married to Ruth Elaine Baker, M.D. They have a son, Andrew, and a daughter, Grace.


  • I haven’t finished the encyclical either, so take this with a grain of salt, but from what I’ve read whenever Benedict XVI talks about truth he’s fairly clear, but on economics he’s much more vague. I suspect that’s on purpose.

    Also, is not part of the problem that it’s nearly impossible for a modern Westerner, Pope included, to think/read/talk about social responsibility without mucking about in Libby terminology?

    Whenever I try to explain what I mean when I say I have a social responsibility, a moral/personal responsibility to society in general, no one quite gets it or considers such things in accordance with subsidiarity (which I’d assume is an essential component for the encyclical to be properly understood). Same thing with environmental responsibility.

    Acton seems to do a decent job of attempting to take these issues back, but it is still extremely difficult to separate what a Christian means by social responsibility from secular ideas of social responsibility. It’s in our blood to think “independently.”

    Rod Dreher struggled with this too. And while I don’t think he found the answer, he certainly saw the problem.

  • Karen

    Our challenge is to reeducate people into thinking about subsidiarity – a concept once innately understood and now incomprehensible to a generation that looks to someone else, i.e. government, to take care of our neighbor. I don’t think you have to be Catholic to agree with Pope Benedict’s analysis of what is missing in today’s world – respect for the dignity of each and every human person, personal responsiblity, and a Christian moral foundation.

  • jh

    “At the same time, however, he seems to be hinting at the kind of social programs and employment guarantees that have often proved harmful to the development of productive lives by whole groups of human beings.”

    I guess I am not really seeing that. He talks about the goal of steady employment but goodness that is a goal of every poltical system

  • Still reading the encyclical but we’ve seen this problem show up before, collective vs. communal. If the 20th century taught us anything it should teach us that there is no good example of communal without authoritarianism. Even if it is the iron hand in velvet glove sort. The Church has very much been there done that and can speak to issues in the politics if not the economics of these relationships.

  • Adam D

    I look forward to your full conservative, Protestant take when it comes out.