A reader insists I have been wrong all along:
I've written you before that it was too early to press the Panic button because of PB16. His first encyclical affirms what many readers already knew: this is a complex thinker with a penetrating insight into how God's message can illuminate the world's current strengths and ills. Proper self-love surely is in danger in the West, including the proper placing of Eros and Caritas within the human equation. Benedict describes this consumer-driven culture with uncanny accuracy:
"…the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. … man himself becomes a commodity … he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will … as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless… it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness."
Such widespread phenomena in our society as narcissism, cosmetic surgery addiction, bulimia, anorexia, the worship of the thin and the muscular and contempt for the overweight are only the most visible and extreme manifestations of a loss of healthy self-love. But with eros restored (not 'reduced') to its proper place, caritas comes to the fore more effectively than ever.
I slept around a lot in my heyday and while the pleasure was well, pleasurable - I regret the times (the vast majority to be blunt about it) where there was no genuine affection and caring shared with the other guy. I was spending precious coin, wasting something I'll never get back: innocence. Now that I've settled down and put eros more in its proper relationship with the rest of my totality, caritas is in its right place too. I'm more tolerant, helpful, loving, kind, generous; it takes a real effort not to like people. It's like regaining one's sanity. I'm sorry he's turned out to be a hardass about gay priests, but overall, PB16 understands this.
I think it's imperative that wounded Catholics like yours truly keep an open mind about this Pope. I've never doubted his intellectual gifts. I would dearly love to be proven wrong. This Encyclical certainly seems like a step in the right direction.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.