Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, Deus Caritas Est will be the center of Catholic news and discussions in the following weeks. Therefore, is there a better time than this to read the many interesting words written on Divine Love by the past Pontiffs? Many will compare the words of the new document, to be issued next Friday, to doctrines of theologian de X or von Y; but the words shall be those of a Pope first, and not just "interesting musings of a bright theologian" -- which is why the document has taken such a long time for its preparation, as several Roman Congregations, different translation teams, among other details must be involved so that what is issued is not a mere work of theology, but an apt expression of the Magisterium.
The words of past Pontiffs, therefore, provide firm instruction and make us reflect deeply on the heritage of our Faith, which was not founded in 1965, and which faces today greater dangers than one could not have easily predicted a few decades ago. "These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly." (Benedict XVI, Address of December 22, 2005).
I begin today with an excerpt of one of my favorite papal documents, the Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique (August 25, 1910 - alternative link here), of Pope Saint Pius X:
Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.
Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.
Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality.
Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience.
Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them.
He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body.
Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross.
These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one's personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.
P.S. I thank the gentle Iosephus at The Cornell Society for the reference regarding the Pope's epoch-making speech of December 22.