It’s been said that in an era of rampant sexual misunderstanding, the late Pope John Paul II wrote more about true human love and sexuality than all of his predecessors put together. If Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George is correct, Pope Benedict XVI could follow suit in his first encyclical.
Although he admittedly has not seen the new document--which could be released within days--the Cardinal told the Chicago Sun Times that he has heard comments that the Holy Father may utilize this first official teaching to redeem the tarnished idea of eros, often known as “erotic love.”
According to reports, the Pope has asked Cardinal George to speak about the major themes of the new encyclical, entitled: "Deus, Caritas Est," or "God is Love," during a gathering at the end of the month.
The Cardinal told the Sun-Times that in the document, the Pope will "talk about Christ, which is a good thing for a pope to talk about in his first encyclical. John Paul II did that…And he is going to talk about the relationship between love and truth, between agape and eros."
Cardinal George cited Swedish Lutheran author, Anders Nygren, who wrote in the mid-1900’s that while Agape--the unconditional love that God has for mankind is the only authentically Christian love, eros--named after the Greek god of love--is inherently selfish and turns man away from God.
"What the pope is going to do”, the Cardinal said, “is to try to save eros. That is to say that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves.”
“The distinction”, he noted, “between agape and eros is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."
Many expect Pope Benedict’s first encyclical to help shape the theme for the remainder of his papacy. John Paul II published 14 encyclicals, the first of which was Redemptor Hominis, or The Redeemer of Man.
He was also widely praised for his teaching on human sexuality, often referred to as a whole as the “Theology of the Body.” The late Pope taught that sexuality and the marital act helps man to imitate and embody the love of God through the communion of the Trinity.