The good folks at Catholic Pulse asked me to write an essay reflecting on the three encyclicals of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and that essay has now been posted. Rather than just recap the three texts, I reflected on some of the significant themes developed through each and indicate how those themes demonstrate the cohesive theological vision of the encyclicals and, of course, of Benedict. Here are the opening paragraphs of my essay:
Putting the pontificate of Benedict XVI into context and making judgments about the nebulous creature named “legacy” is a difficult task, especially just weeks after his pontificate concluded. Although I tend to be a “glass half empty” type of person and generally try to avoid hyperbole, I do believe we are living in a golden age of the papacy, at least in terms of popes who are holy and brilliant, a combination not to be taken for granted.
If Blessed John Paul II is, as many (including myself) think he is, the greatest philosopher-pope in the history of the Church, then Benedict is, I think, the greatest theologian-pope, whose theological corpus was already quite impressive in both scope and depth prior to his election. Equally remarkable is the body of work produced during his relatively short, eight-year-long pontificate, notably (but not limited to) the three Jesus of Nazareth volumes; the audiences on the apostles, saints, fathers, mystics, and doctors of the Church; the audiences on prayer; apostolic exhortations on the Eucharist and Scripture; and, of course, the three encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est (on Christian love), Spe Salvi (on Christian hope), and Caritas in Veritate (on integral human development).
Entire books could be written about each encyclical and, in fact, some have already been written. My modest goal here is to consider how these three significant texts provide a cohesive, integrated understanding of the person of Jesus Christ (Christology), the nature and mission of the Church (ecclesiology), and salvation and the last things (soteriology and eschatology).
Read the entire essay, “Love, Hope, and Truth: Benedict XVI’s Three Encyclicals”, at CatholicPulse.com.