Barack Obama is headed to Rome to visit with the Holy Father. If in place of the in-flight movie, the president reads the Holy Father’s latest encyclical, Caritas on Veritate, he will be inspired in two ways.
First, he will see how natural is his collaboration with the Holy See in support of economic and social reforms, be they to restore fairness to the market or to provide access to healthcare.
Second, he will be reading a papal document that because of Benedict’s expected, and I daresay fulfilled, freedom to speak in a spiritual idiom far broader than that of public policy and everyday politics, the justifications for the reforms the president and his like-minded international counterparts seek lie in the truth of the human person and not just Pareto optimal moves measured by cost-benefit or other economic analysis. Obama will be asked to see the ultimate antidote to a sick economy as love or what Benedict styles as the “the gratuity of gift.”