Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
Laudato Si (see text: The Care for Our Common Home) is more than an ecological encyclical. Pope Francis has given the Church and the world a document that addresses the full range of Catholic social teaching on economics, politics, culture, employment, technology, migration, poverty, peace, architecture, urban planning, education, human rights and the environment.
The secular headline will be that the Holy Father accepts that a “very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” (23). This conforms to his explicit hope for Laudato Si, which is to support the establishment of “enforceable international agreements [that] are urgently needed” (173).
Specifically, the Holy Father laments that “with regard to climate change, the advances have been regrettably few,” noting that “reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most” (169). In regard to the United Nations conference on climate change later this year, Francis writes that “we believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays” (169).
Laudato Si, therefore, explicitly is aimed at a comprehensive, global climate-change treaty. That’s very significant, as its endorsement of climate policies meshes with the priorities of the global progressive elite. This means that when Pope Francis arrives in Washington, President Barack Obama will claim that no recent U.S. administration has had policies more in line with the priorities of the Holy See. To be sure, the Holy Father notes that natural ecology cannot be separated from human ecology, and therefore authentic care for the environment is incompatible with abortion (120) or approval of homosexual unions (155).
Nearly 200 pages, Laudato Si takes its name from the opening lines of the “Canticle of the Creatures” of St. Francis of Assisi. The song begins, “Praised be my Lord” and goes on to hymn the glory of God revealed in the work of his creation. It’s a green Christianity that reaches back to the first pages of Genesis, in a manner than is distinctively Franciscan — meaning both the saint and the Pope. The environment has to be understood above all in terms of the “intimate relation between the poor and the fragility of the planet” and “the conviction that the whole world is intimately connected” (16).
The intimate connection at the heart of the draft is that offered by the biblical wisdom open to Jews, Christians and Muslims — namely, that there is threefold harmony that includes God, mankind and the natural world. Notes of “disharmony” in one relationship bring disharmony in others. Thus, a world that forgets God is soon to degrade nature; a degraded nature disrupts the relationships between people.
It is these broken relationships that drive the analysis in Francis’ encyclical. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has denounced what he calls a “throwaway culture,” where the poor, the elderly, the unborn, the unemployed, the migrant and the disabled are cast to the margins because they lack economic utility. Two examples indicate how Francis’ environmentalism is as much about preference for the poor as it is about protection of nature.
Francis speaks of access to potable water as an issue of “primary” importance, though it is one rarely thought about in rich countries (28). If the political impact of Laudato Si concerns climate treaties for 2030 and not clean water for next year, it will not reflect the Pope’s priorities.
A second illuminating example is that of urban living. Many sprawling cities, surrounded by slums in the poor world, have become nearly unlivable, as residents literally choke on pollution. The poor are often excluded from green spaces that have been privatized by the wealthy (45). That’s a different way to think about the harmony between nature and human relationships — and leads to surprising conclusions.
For example, the poor in the world’s financial centers, New York and London, have ready access to vast parks on an equal basis with the rich, while in Beijing the rich pay to breathe different air than the poor do.
Laudato Si begins with an unusual indication that it was drafted so that “each chapter will have its own subject and specific approach” (16). The six chapters are quite different — possibly drafted by different teams — and may be addressed to different audiences. There is a serious treatment of theological (Chapter 2) and spiritual themes (Chapter 6) after beginning with a survey of the current situation (Chapter 1). Chapters 3 and 4 outline the human causes of environmental degradation and the need to build human ecology — the right to life, health of the family and access to education — with natural ecology.
Chapter 5, on practical policy choices, will likely engender the greatest debate. While Francis writes that “there are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus” and that “I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics” (188), he does for example, come out against carbon trading schemes (171), which is a rather specific political position.
Even more boldly, the Holy Father writes, “The time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth” (193). The number of political voices that share that view is, to be generous, miniscule, which is why Francis insists that “a strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture” (197).
Rethinking the necessity of economic growth, or that economic growth in one part of the world constrains economic growth elsewhere, allies the Holy Father with a tiny minority of specialists in economic development.
The encyclical, already the subject of fevered interest before its release, will generate immense attention. There are those who will cheer and those who will be challenged. A quick survey of how that might look:
At least four groups will most heartily cheer Laudato Si.
Likewise, there are four groups that will be challenged by Laudato Si.
That, among many other discussions, will occupy the Church as she receives a major contribution to her social doctrine.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is the editor in chief of Convivium magazine.
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/