Pope Benedict XVI has issued the first encyclical of his papacy, dedicating Roman Catholicism’s highest form of writing to a reflection on love and charity that calls for a “purification” of erotic love between men and women.
The encyclical, titled Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”), also calls on Catholic charities around the world to reaffirm their ties with the church hierarchy. It urges charities not to allow secular influences to blur their religious identity.
Benedict cites a “problem of language” that has led history to divide love into two distinct concepts based on the Greek words eros, or erotic love, and agape, or spiritual love. These distinctions, Benedict writes, distort the meaning of erotic love, reducing sexual attraction to a form of “intoxication” that transforms sex into a “debasement of the human body.”