Supreme Knight criticizes use of Pope's encyclical for political agendas

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson


The head of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, has responded to Pope Benedict’s newly-released encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (Love in Truth), by denouncing attempts to use it to further political agendas rather than viewing it from the Church’s comprehensive understanding of the human person.

In an interview with CNA on Tuesday morning, Carl Anderson, leader of the world’s largest lay Catholic organization, decried the “spin masters who will try to spin the encyclical in one direction or the other” and emphasized that “the Catholic reader should read the encyclical in its entirety” in order to understand the underlying ethical and anthropological foundations that guide it.

“What this encyclical makes very clear is that there is a consistent ethics in the Catholic Church because there is a consistent view of the human person,” Anderson told CNA, explaining that this consistency is seen in Pope Benedict’s assertion that social issues cannot be separated from life issues.

While the idea that we are “morally responsible for one another” as part of “one human family” is not new to Christianity, Anderson said that the Pope challenges us in this encyclical “to take this seriously as a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a Christian.”

Anderson also responded to some analyses of the encyclical that try to describe it as promoting either a liberal or conservative political viewpoint by saying, “I think that’s precisely the wrong way to look at the encyclical, and I think that Benedict would be very disappointed if that’s the kind of analysis we give it.” 

“What we ought to be doing is reading the encyclical and seeing what we can learn from it, what we might change as a way of doing our work as a result from it, and not to see whether or not it validates one position,” he added.
Anderson explained that when we divide the encyclical or use it to justify one position over another, “we fall into an error that I think Benedict himself would be the first one to attempt to correct.”

He observed that the issues dealt with by the Pope, such as defense of marriage, protection of human life, and a call to reform the United Nations, are not really questions of the political right or left.  Rather, they flow from a comprehensive and consistent understanding of the human person.

In addition, Anderson noted that many Americans may see the Pope’s call for “just redistribution” as a left-leaning proposal, but when viewed in a global perspective, the idea takes on a new light.

“When you look in Africa where you see dictators that are presidents of countries that retire from office with billions of dollars in their Swiss bank accounts while their people are living on one dollar a day, is that just redistribution? Is that a question of the left or is that a question of the right?”

Explaining that these topics are human issues rather than those belonging to any political party, Anderson said that discussions of right and left have no place in analyzing the Pope’s encyclical and putting it into practice.

“I think Christians, particularly Catholics, have to move beyond that if they want to truly see with the eyes of the Gospel,” he told CNA. “Because there was a Gospel before there was a left and a right, and there will be a Gospel after.”

Calling on Catholics to read “Caritas in Veritate” and incorporate it into their lives, Anderson highlighted the encyclical’s sense of urgency. “We really do have a moral obligation to help those in need,” he said, adding that this obligation is comprehensive, and “therefore, not only is the ethic consistent, it has to be applied consistently in all the things we do.”

“We cannot contain that responsibility to Sunday morning,” Anderson said as he invited Catholics to make the Pope’s words a reality in their everyday lives. “Let’s put it into practice!  Let’s find ways to make the encyclical count,” he said, encouraging people to leave behind their divisions and unite to put Benedict’s words into action. 

“Those in government have a responsibility, those in the private sector have a responsibility, and we ought to work together from a consistent ethic and a consistent attitude to try to solve these problems.”

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