Although I'm not a Catholic, it sounds to me as if Pope Benedict's recent encyclical about love is on the money (at least based on this summary).

In the 71-page document "God is Love," Benedict explored the relationship between the erotic love between man and woman, referred to by the term "eros," and the Greek word for the unconditional, self- giving love, "agape" (pronounced AH-gah-pay).

He said the two concepts are most unified in marriage between man and woman, in which a covetous love grows into the self-giving love of the other, as well as God's unconditional love for mankind. ...

"Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere," he said.

The Pope also made some important points about the different roles of churches and governments.

He rejected the criticism of charity found in Marxist thought, which holds that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place when the wealthy should be working for a more just society.

While the Marxist model, in which the state tries to provide for every social need, responded to the plight of the poor faster than even the church did during the Industrial Revolution, it was a failed experiment because it couldn't meet every human need, he wrote.

Even in the most just societies, charity will always be necessary, he said. ...

Benedict stressed that the state alone is responsible for creating that just society, not the church. "As a political task, this cannot be the church's immediate responsibility," he said. ...

"We do not need a state which regulates and controls everything, but a state which ... generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need," he wrote.

Interestingly, that sounds a lot like President Bush's "faith-based initiative" that is attempting to loosen the red tape that often hinders the involvement of American religious charities in government-sponsored programs.

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