An honest reading of the encyclical is hard for right and left alike. I'm not comfortable with increasing foreign aid, redistributing wealth, and anything having to do with the United Nations. But if you went to National Review Online after the encyclical's release, you would have seen writers wrestling with the issues, reading and trying to understand the thinking behind this serious moral guide. And while we dealt with the text, the more mainstream headlines merely focused on what's "bad" for conservatives in it and suppressed what is challenging for the left. Newspapers everywhere ignored the pope's condemnation of the far too many international organizations that contribute to a culture of death (such as promoting contraception), as only one example.
As Kishore Jayabalan of the Roman office of the Acton Institute said, shortly after the Vatican press conference announcing the new encyclical: "Neither side . . . seems ready to take Benedict's theology -- his own field of expertise -- seriously. Part of this is a result of our habitual, liberal-democratic tendency to separate Church and State and not let theological arguments influence our politics. This tendency invariably blinds us to the pope's combination of respect for life with the demands of social justice. ... Reading 'Charity in Truth' for partisan purposes can yield moments of agony and ecstasy for left and right alike."
Newsweek will continue to find Catholics who will put a partisan spin on the pope and his teachings. The pope, meanwhile, will continue to provoke all of us -- and yes, sometimes even make us uncomfortable -- in the interest of truth.