.- As the world begins to sink its teeth into âDeus Caritas estâ, the first Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, many experts--on all sides of the political aisles-- are lauding the new work as an essential and critical teaching on the core values of the Church.
Bishop William Skylstad, head of the Diocese of Spokane, WA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the new document a âprofound meditation on the meaning of Christian love and the place of charity in the life of the Church.â
Noting the Popeâs affirmation that âthe Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word,â Bishop Skylstad said that âThis affirmation puts this service at the very center of the Churchâs life, and it follows a reflection in depth on the meaning of love as it appears in Sacred Scripture.â
He added that âFollowing this fundamental affirmation, the Holy Father also discusses the relationship between charity and justiceâ¦ [pointing] out that âthe just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics.ââ
âAt the same time,â the bishop points out, âfaith and politics â each independent in its own sphere -- meet on the question, âwhat is justice?ââ because, as the Holy Father writes, ââfaith liberates reason from its blind spotsâ and thus helps politics to achieve a just society.â
Some disagreed however, charging the Pope with being too abstract and avoiding specific, problematic moral issues facing the culture.
An article in the New York Times said that âThe encyclicalâ¦did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics. But in gentle, often poetic language, Benedict nonetheless portrayed a tough-minded church that is âduty bound,â he wrote, to intervene at times in secular politics for âthe attainment for what is just.ââ
Father Joseph Fessio, however, President of Ignatius Press, which is the primary U.S. publisher of the Popeâs books, told the Times that while doing it in a gentle and conciliatory manner, the Popeâs new work holds strongly and clearly to the Churchâs age-old teachings.
"What is he doing there?" Father Fessio asked. "He is saying no divorce. He is saying no promiscuity. He is saying no multiple wives. No homosexuality. He's completely positive, but if you accept the teaching, consequences follow."
Likewise, the political group, Concerned Women for America (CWA) countered critical accusations that the Encyclical was âuncontroversialâ and avoided âproblematic issues of the day.â
âWhen a pope defines love and sex in terms of a married husband and wife, thereâs going to be plenty of controversy,â said Dr. Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow of CWAâs Beverly LaHaye Institute.
She added that "When he linked authentic Christianity to personal lifestyle choices, this new Pope held up an orthodox standard that stands in stark contrast to cultural trends and the prevailing morality of today."
"By condemning promiscuity, the pope is getting at the root cause of the breakdown of the family and the disastrous social outcomes that plague women and children as a result."
She added: "When a Christian leader speaks with Biblical consistency, all Christians can take heart and be encouraged."