On Love and War

Thomas J. Euteneuer
Feb. 3, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

While I really wish that Pope Benedict's first encyclical would have been called Prostituta Babylonensis and issued with papal thunder and immensity against the abortion industry, I understand intuitively why he chose to write about love rather than judgment. This first of his encyclicals, Deus caritas est, is a tremendous piece of work, short as far as modern encyclicals go and to the point as far as Ratzingerian theology goes. It is beautifully written with unambiguous teaching on this most fundamental of subjects for the Christian faithful. This document, however, is more than just a pious reflection on Christian values and practice. I think the Pope is setting us up for a heavier attack on the "dictatorship of relativism" that he spoke so forcefully about two days before his election.

When I was in seminary I had a German professor who started the semester telling us exactly where the course would take us, what every lecture would treat and what milestones our intellectual journey would bring us to. Not surprisingly, on the last day of classes Herr Professor had run us through the forecasted course, ended exactly where he told us he would and made us the wiser for the time spent in his class. Ratzinger too is a German professor.

The principle of love, he says, "is the starting point" (n. 15), the center of gravity, for all our reflection on the Christian life and mission. After announcing that the end point of his papacy would be a full-scale frontal assault on moral relativism, Pope Benedict is training his soldiers with the first principles of the war effort. Begin at the beginning: not a bad idea! He knows that no war is fought by just one man, even though he may be a great general. Great men need armed forces behind them to accomplish great things, and I happen to think that the war against such a demonic dictator as moral relativism is the greatest of the modern wars. The Church Militant can't avoid such a conflict as those of us in the pro-life trenches know only too well, and the Vicar of Christ is calling us into battle.

What can we expect from here? The battle plan can be seen in the pages of the encyclical or its antecedents. Maybe a second encyclical on moral relativism explicitly is in the works - the thoughts of such a penetrating mind would be most welcome. Just days ago, in fact, the Pope railed against the "dogma of hedonism" so we may be closer to a second encyclical than imagined. Perhaps a series of instructions to educate scandalous "Catholic" politicians on their vocation to public service is in the works. Those who betray the Ancient Faith for political expediency (n. 28a) need a licking, and I would love to see the Kerry-Kennedy coalition try to weasel out of that one as "non-binding" on their consciences! Then again, he may write a whole encyclical on the Cardinal Virtue of Justice (nn. 26-29) to correct so many distorted notions of Christian social action. It would then be much harder for Catholic Charities offices to do homosexual adoptions and give honors to pro-abort politicians at their banquets.

I personally hope that he would write more about how the Christian Faith transforms the human heart of darkness. His multiple references to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts in this work are like an angelic hymn that pervades the whole text. What heart could not be moved by the Pope's sublime understanding of Mary's love expressed at the end of this encyclical: "Men and women of every time and place... constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart" (42).

For nearly thirty-five years HLI has been training people around the world to wrest our culture back from the devil. Whenever the Benedictine onslaught gets into full gear, however, it will still be up to the troops us, the Church Militant to take up arms and go out to fight the Prostituta Babylonensis.