Serie: Journal of the Observatory/08
Publisher: Edizioni Cantagalli
This book by Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi is an important book in terms of contents and especially method. I am by no means reluctant to say it inaugurates a new pathway. I have always thought that the suspicion people used to harbor towards the Church’s social doctrine was due to a difficulty of faith more than one of reason. It was more a question of not really letting God into public life. This then led to the idea that the word of the Church, as is its social doctrine, served no real purpose for the construction of the world. That’s what I thought when the Church’s social doctrine was contested by many theologians. I must confess that I still think in those terms now even though, thanks be to God, we have grown out of such times. At the root of the problem there is always a defect of faith. The anarchic socialist Proudhon wrote halfway through the 19th century: “The first duty of an intelligent and free man is to constantly dispel the idea of God from his spirit and his conscience. Because God, if he exists, is basically the enemy of our nature and nothing do we gain from his authority. Despite him we do reach science, and despite him we do attain wellbeing and society; each one of our achievements is a victory in which we drive away the Divinity”. Has this ‘despite him’ proven to be realistic? Is it really true that man may attain science, wellbeing and society without God? How many presumed victories have turned into defeats?
The Church teaches us that the world and human reason do enjoy legitimate autonomy, but are insufficient for their own salvation; useful, yes, but not sufficient. They are able to discern between God and the gods, and this in itself bespeaks their greatness. But they are not able to do so without opening themselves to a dimension of faith and transcendence, and this bespeaks their limitation. Many indeed are their potentialities, but they are not able to release them on their own. All by themselves they end up denying God and falling victim to the gods. Benedict XVI is teaching us that it is indispensable to assign a place to God in the public sphere so the human energies brought forth by the God with a human face may develop in full. In this light the word of the Church, which includes its social doctrine, acquires fundamental importance. The social doctrine of the Church is not marginal or residual knowledge. As we read in Deus Caritas Est, it is at the crossroads of faith and reason (n° 28) and converses with the ways of thinking that preside over the organization of the world. Here lies the important methodological innovation in this book by Bishop Crepaldi. Tackled are the fundamental problems of our time and demonstrated in concrete reality is the fact that the Church’s social doctrine has an irreplaceable orientative capacity.