And for God's sake, you don't have to agree with me. Read JPII and Ratzinger on Augustine and caritas and eros and tell me where Nygren has it right and they have it wrong. Read Augustine on desiderium (desire) and it's proper role. Augustine, Gregory the Great, all the masters of Western theology insisted that desiderium, eros was good. It was inferior to caritas/agape, yes, but good. Jansenists and Buddhists are the ones who claim that desire is in itself evil and must be annihilated. Nothing could be further from Augustine or Gregory or the entire Western Catholic tradition. Desire is God-given. Ultimately the eros/desire imprinted in us is of God and toward God. When we give in to that eros/desiderium/yearning for God truly instead of misdirecting it entirely toward the creatures God made (idolatrous eros but for that reason not-true-eros at all), we sin and follow cupiditas rather than caritas. True caritas simply orients eros/desiderium toward it's true object, God. The two should work in harmony. That they don't is because of how we misuse them and it's called sin. All sin is a misuse of the naturally good eros/desire for God implanted deep within each of us.
You'd know this if you read De doctrina Christiana on use and enjoyment. True, God-given eros is a road to heaven that we travel here on earth. We need the road to get to heaven but if we turn the road itself into the goal, we'll never reach the destination it leads to, namely, caritas. Instead, we would then detour into idolatry.
Nygren accused Catholics of making eros into an idol, of getting off the road to caritas because of eros. He was just flat wrong about what Catholicism did in it's history. He was right about caritas as the ultimate goal, but that's exactly what Augustine taught and Nygren was wrong to claim that Augustine taught something else. He was wrong about the role played by eros in Catholic theology of the Middle Ages. I spent thirty years studying medieval monastic theologians. I noticed that eros/desiderium is central to their caritas theology but that caritas is superior. I researched where they got this from and discovered it came from Agustine via Gregory the Great and others. Read Jean Leclercq's book, The Love of Learning and Desire for God (1961) if you don't believe me.
I've just given you, in these three posts on this thread what I expect to be the guts of Benedict's encyclical. How can I do that? Because I know the tradition. It's very deep, very clear and I'll be very surprised if Benedict doesn't restate it something along the lines I've just outlined. It has implications for all of Christian society. It's exactly what JPII was doing with his "civilization of love" that applied caritas to everything from sexuality to politics to economics. Read his Love and Responsibility and you'll see how eros fits seamlessly into the phenomenological analysis of love, in the stages of attraction and desire which are good but incomplete if they do not lead on to spousal love which is his term for caritas.
Wow. I'm impressed and... envious.
So is it true that they debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin? < /s>