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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is Dr. David Schindler a Key Influence in Caritas in Veritate?


As was reading through the Encyclical I was struck by the echoes of the work of Dr. David L. Schindler in the text.

At first reading it may not seem to be all that critical of an insight that the pope is making, but on further reflection, the pope is making a significant step in the development of the social doctrine.

This is something new.

The "new" is this idea of the "logic of the unconditional gift", "gratuitousness" as a third way.

Compare what Benedict is saying about this (in sections III and IV) to David L. Schindler, especially in the book "Wealth, Poverty and Human Destiny" - in his chapter "'Homelessness' and Market Liberalism" he has a whole section on "Towards an Economy of Gift and Gratitude." This is the longest essay in the book and the most intellectually satisfying for its depth and realism in marshaling a critique of Market Liberalism. This idea of the "logic of unconditional gift" is a very deep anthropological argument that is ground shaking because (like the Theology of the Body) it is a foundational perspective.

The section begins:

"I come now to a critical turn in the argument. For the argument concerns not simply the ontological idea of wealth, however "realistic" we may now see that it is on its own terms, but the bearing of this idea on wealth in its specifically economic context, or on the nature of economic exchanges themselves. This requires that the ontological idea of wealth as a matter primarily of gift and gratitude be shown to carry its own way of producing and exchanging and possessing things. It must be shown that the things produced, exchanged, and possessed will themselves differ in their very character as things, depending on the extent to which their production, exchange, and possession is integrated into a grateful sense of reality as gift - that is, such that the things themselves take on the nature of gift."

If indeed, Benedict XVI is pointing to the work of Schindler, then it represents a very important magisterial judgement in the on-going debate about the Church and the Liberal Tradition, vis-a-vis economics, with the Catholic neo-conservatives (Whig Thomists) on the one side and the Communio School (Augustinian Thomists) on the other. Schindler is frequently debating Weigel, Novak, and Neuhaus' (RIP) thought on their interpretation of the Social Doctrine and capitalism.

Benedict's encyclical is not good news for Weigel or the First Things crowd, nor for The Acton Institute for that matter, but is it very good news for David L. Schindler, the John Paul II Institute, and Communio School of Thought (perhaps this is why Weigel has sort of trashed it and Acton is spinning it).

This is pretty important stuff, for an Economy of Gift requires that we acknowledge and respect the source, development and sustainability of Gratuity in society. The logic of gift, when fully reflected upon, leads to an approach to social, economic and political life that could be called "Distributist," or "The Familial Economy," or as Schindler calls it "A Marian Economy" (BTW, Here is a summary of a recent conference on the Distributist view on the Economic Crisis, it is worth reading).

There will be more on this in the coming weeks and months as the encyclical is unpacked, but you heard it here first. The work of Schindler is a key influence in this encyclical.

How important is this new idea? This is from Fr. Robert Barron and Fr. Fessio:

Fr. Robert Barron thinks this is new:

Another novum in this remarkable text is the Pope’s insistence that, alongside of the contractual logic of the marketplace (one gives in order to receive) and the legal logic of the political realm (one gives because one is obliged to give), there must be the logic of sheer gratuity (one gives simply because it is good to do so). Without this third element, both the economic and political devolve into something less than fully human.


Fr. Fessio seems to think so:

The inclusiveness of this integration is emphatically and perhaps surprisingly exemplified in paragraph 39. There, the Pope states that the "logic of the market and the logic of the state," i.e., free economic exchange with political oversight and restraint, are not enough to secure human flourishing. There must also be "solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence, actions of gratuitousness" or, as he says in summary, "increasing openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion." Pope Benedict insists on a "third economic factor" in addition to the market and the state: gratuitousness.


For further interest:

Here is a debate between Schindler and Bandow at ISI.

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