Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Respect where it is due, or overdue

There are several parts of the Introduction (§ 1-9) I found interesting, but particularly the last half of §8:

At a distance of over forty years from the Encyclical's publication, I intend to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment. This continual application to contemporary circumstances began with the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, with which the Servant of God Pope John Paul II chose to mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Populorum Progressio. Until that time, only Rerum Novarum had been commemorated in this way. Now that a further twenty years have passed, I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.
Two observations:
  • A core concept of this encyclical is integral human development. More on this later.
  • The writings of Pope Paul VI deserve more respect than they have been getting.

As I grew up as an Episcopalian, the popes were John XXIII and Paul VI. When my family visited Rome in the summer of 1970, it was Pope Paul that we saw carried into St. Peter's one Sunday. When we entered the Catholic Church in the early 1980's, it was Pope John Paul II.

Many Catholics, as long as I have been in the church, have complained about Paul VI. Either he did not fully implement Vatican II, or he went too far. Some complain that he wrote Humanae Vitae, some complain that he did not enforce it as strongly as he should. Only a fringe element directly attack the documents of Vatican II, but almost everybody wants to criticize what has or has not been done to follow them.

Which generally results in either explicit or implicit criticism of Paul VI. On the fortieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio, Pope Benedict is presenting a different view of his predecessor from the one many Catholics hold, especially American Catholics.

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