Cardinal Bertone: Encyclical Not Just for Catholics

Based on Natural Law, Appeals to Atheists Too

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ROME, JULY 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- "Caritas in Veritate" is directed to believers and nonbelievers alike, since it is based on natural law, the Pope's secretary of state affirmed today to the Italian Senate.



In a presentation which he discussed last week with the vacationing Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone showed how the Holy Father was able to unite the themes found in the title of his third encyclical: "caritas" and "veritas," love and truth.

"The Holy Father enables us to understand that these two fundamental realities are not extrinsic to man or imposed in the name of an ideology, but rather are deeply rooted in the human person," Cardinal Bertone said. "This truth is not only vouched for in Biblical revelation, but can also be understood by every person of good will who uses his reason uprightly in reflecting upon himself."

The secretary of state explained in this regard that the proposals the Pope makes in his encyclical are based on natural law, which, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms, "expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie."

In this sense, Cardinal Bertone linked the encyclical with the document recently published (so far only in French and Italian) by the International Theological Commission precisely on natural law. This document, which was begun under the direction of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was president of the commission, was explained by the Pope in his April 2008 discourse at the United Nations.

Human rights, he said on that occasion, "are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations."

"Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks," the Pontiff contended.

Cardinal Bertone explained at the Senate that the document from the theological commission "precisely illustrates how truth and love are essential exigencies for every person, deeply rooted in their being."

"In his search for the moral good," he added, "the human person harkens to what he is and becomes aware of the fundamental inclinations of his nature, which move the person toward the goods necessary for his moral fulfillment."

Man, the cardinal continued, is therefore made to know "the truth in all of its fullness, that is, he is not limited to acquiring technical know-how so as to dominate material reality, but rather open to encounter the Transcendent and to fully live the interpersonal dimension of love, the principle not only of micro-relationships -- relationships of friendship, family and groups -- but also of macro-relationships -- social, economic and political relations."

"Precisely 'veritas' and 'caritas' indicate to us the demands of natural law that Benedict XVI presents as the fundamental criteria for reflection of a moral order on the current social-economic reality," Cardinal Bertone affirmed. Thus, the "proposal of the encyclical is neither of an ideological character nor reserved for those who share faith in divine Revelation, but rather based on fundamental anthropological realities, as are, precisely, truth and charity."