Volume 9, Issue 4, Winter 2009
Joseph K. Woodard
Retreat of Christian Love
Benedict’s Deus caritas est Revisited
The underlying problem addressed by Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical is how the modern state usurped and perverted the Church’s charitable enterprises. The Church invented public schools, hospitals, and family services and ran them for a millennium as the “better half” of Christendom’s aristocratic, oligarchic, and democratic regimes. Beginning in the sixteenth century, however, and culminating in today’s social justice movement, the Church’s institutions of discerning love have been supplanted by political agencies, operating on the basis of universal and homogenous justice. This robbed the Church of its visible moral authority, metastasized the political administration, and corrupted both the charity and its recipients. Fortunately, those political agencies are now collapsing, and the Church must again step into the breach. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9.4 (Winter 2009): 659–669.