Monday, November 2, 2015

"Urban landscapes increase our sense of belonging": Laudato Si', 147-155

The excerpts below come from Francis's discussion of urban planning, which he promotes because this is the environment in which human beings live, no less important than the natural environment. Throughout this section - as throughout the whole document - he emphasizes human relationships, which are every bit as important as the well-being of our planet. (Although I left out paragraph 153, which is about urban transport systems, I did think it funny that Francis described them as "often a source of much suffering for those who use them." Sounds like someone's been riding the buses in DC!)

He ends with an interesting discussion of our corporal nature and the moral law which, though it does not cite him, is strongly reminiscent of John Paul II. Just as we must accept our own bodily reality, with all the limitations and relationships that implies, so too we much accept our metaphysical nature, which we cannot manipulate of our own will.


147. Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives.... We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.

148. An admirable creativity and generosity is shown by persons and groups who respond to environmental limitations by alleviating the adverse effects of their surroundings and learning to orient their lives amid disorder and uncertainty.... The feeling of asphyxiation brought on by densely populated residential areas is countered if close and warm relationships develop, if communities are created, if the limitations of the environment are compensated for in the interior of each person who feels held within a network of solidarity and belonging. In this way, any place can turn from being a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.

149. ...In the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial behaviour and violence. Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful.... This experience of a communitarian salvation often generates creative ideas for the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood.[117]

150. ...Those who design buildings, neighbourhoods, public spaces and cities, ought to draw on the various disciplines which help us to understand people's thought processes, symbolic language and ways of acting.... Here too, we see how important it is that urban planning always take into consideration the views of those who will live in these areas.

151. There is also a need to protect those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of "feeling at home" within a city which includes us and brings us together. It is important that the different parts of a city be well integrated and that those who live there have a sense of the whole, rather than being confined to one neighbourhood and failing to see the larger city as space which they share with others....

152. Lack of housing is a grave problem in many parts of the world, both in rural areas and in large cities.. Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families.... When the poor live in unsanitary slums or in dangerous tenements, "in cases where it is necessary to relocate them, in order not to heap suffering upon suffering, adequate information needs to be given beforehand, with choices of decent housing offered, and the people directly involved must be part of the process".[118] At the same time, creativity should be shown in integrating rundown neighbourhoods into a welcoming city: "How beautiful those cities which overcome paralyzing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive are those cities which, even in their architectural design, are full of spaces which connect, relate and favour the recognition of others!"[119]

155. Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an "ecology of man", based on the fact that "man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will".[120] It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.... Also, valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek "to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it".[121]


[117] Some authors have emphasized the values frequently found, for example, in the villas, chabolas or favelas of Latin America: cf. JUAN CARLOS SCANNONE, S.J., "La irrupción del pobre y la lógica de la gratuidad", in JUAN CARLOS SCANNONE and MARCELO PERINE (eds.), Irrupción del pobre y quehacer filosófico. Hacia una nueva racionalidad, Buenos Aires, 1993, 225-230.

[118] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 482.

[119] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 210.

[120] Address to the German Bundestag, Berlin (22 September 2011).

[121] Catechesis (15 April 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 16 April 2015, p. 8.

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