Friday, October 30, 2015

"Ecology also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity": Laudato Si', 143-146

In the excerpts below, Francis elaborates upon the idea that human concerns regarding society and culture play an essential role in how we think about ecology and preserving the things that mankind needs. What does it profit us if we save the whole planet and forfeit our souls (to paraphrase Mt. 16:26 / Mk 8:36)?


143. Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat. This patrimony is a part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city. It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in. Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, thus preserving its original identity. Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense.... Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality....

144. A consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today's globalized economy, has a levelling effect on cultures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity. Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical interventions can lead to overlooking the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community.... Merely technical solutions run the risk of addressing symptoms and not the more serious underlying problems. There is a need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures, and to appreciate that the development of a social group... demands the constant and active involvement of local people from within their proper culture. Nor can the notion of the quality of life be imposed from without, for quality of life must be understood within the world of symbols and customs proper to each human group.

145. Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal....

146. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values....

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"A broader vision of reality": Laudato Si', 137-142

In the excerpts below, Francis shifts gears from critiquing what is wrong with current models to advocating new ways of thinking and acting. Francis uses the term "integral ecology," which harkens to the "integral Christian humanism" promoted by Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) and found throughout the social doctrine of the Church. Integral Christian humanism regards human beings in all their dimensions: political, economic, cultural, and spiritual. Francis asks that we think about ecological concerns with a similarly integrative vision.


137. Since everything is closely interrelated, and today's problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.


138. Ecology studies the relationship between living organisms and the environment in which they develop. This necessarily entails reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society, and the honesty needed to question certain models of development, production and consumption.... Just as the different aspects of the planet - physical, chemical and biological - are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand.... The fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality.

139. When we speak of the "environment", what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, and the ways it grasps reality. Given the scale of change, it is no longer possible to find a specific, discrete answer for each part of the problem.... We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental....

140. Due to the number and variety of factors to be taken into account when determining the environmental impact of a concrete undertaking, it is essential to give researchers their due role, to facilitate their interaction, and to ensure broad academic freedom. Ongoing research should also give us a better understanding of how different creatures relate to one another in making up the larger units which today we term "ecosystems". We take these systems into account not only to determine how best to use them, but also because they have an intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself; the same is true of the harmonious ensemble of organisms existing in a defined space and functioning as a system....

141. ...The protection of the environment is in fact "an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it".[114] We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision....

142. If everything is related, then the health of a society's institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life. "Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment".[116] In this sense, social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society, from the primary social group, the family, to the wider local, national and international communities. Within each social stratum, and between them, institutions develop to regulate human relationships. Anything which weakens those institutions has negative consequences, such as injustice, violence and loss of freedom.... Whether in the administration of the state, the various levels of civil society, or relationships between individuals themselves, lack of respect for the law is becoming more common. Laws may be well framed yet remain a dead letter. Can we hope, then, that in such cases, legislation and regulations dealing with the environment will really prove effective?...


[114] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 4.

[116] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 51.

Monday, October 26, 2015

"A technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power": Laudato Si', 131-136

In the excerpts below, Francis applies his earlier comments on creativity and human power to the topic of biotechnology, praising man's innate ingenuity and the way it can be used to solve real human problems, while also cautioning about potential dangers that new biotechnologies may pose to the environment or our fellow man.

New biological technologies

131. ...The Church values the benefits which result "from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics, and its technological application in agriculture and industry".[110] But [John Paul II] also pointed out that this should not lead to "indiscriminate genetic manipulation"[111] which ignores the negative effects of such interventions. Human creativity cannot be suppressed. If an artist cannot be stopped from using his or her creativity, neither should those who possess particular gifts for the advancement of science and technology be prevented from using their God-given talents for the service of others. We need constantly to rethink the goals, effects, overall context and ethical limits of this human activity, which is a form of power involving considerable risks.

132. ...The respect owed by faith to reason calls for close attention to what the biological sciences... can teach us about biological structures, their possibilities and their mutations. Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order "to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God".[112]

133. It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification, whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations. The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application. Genetic mutations, in fact, have often been, and continue to be, caused by nature itself. Nor are mutations caused by human intervention a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossbreeding of species and other older and universally accepted practices can be mentioned as examples.... In nature, however, this process is slow and cannot be compared to the fast pace induced by contemporary technological advances....

136. On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.


[110] Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (3 October 1981), 3.

[111] Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 7.

[112] JOHN PAUL II, Address to the 35th General Assembly of the World Medical Association (29 October 1983), 6.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Work is a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment": Laudato Si', 122-129

In the excerpts below, Francis links the throwaway culture of the present age to a relativist mindset which only asks, "What good is it to me?" He then segues to the topic of employment. Work, he explains, is about more than bettering our own lot; it is the means by which we develop personally and spiritually. Thus, ensuring work for everyone is as much about their personal growth as it is their financial status. Francis also references the life of Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), who lived a life of simplicity and service among the Tuaregs of North Africa. Enjoy!

Practical relativism

122. ...When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one's own immediate interests....

123. The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same "use and throw away" logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

The need to protect employment

124. Any approach to an integral ecology, which by definition does not exclude human beings, needs to take account of the value of labour, as Saint John Paul II wisely noted.... God placed man and woman in the garden he had created (cf. Gen 2:15) not only to preserve it but also to make it fruitful. Labourers and craftsmen thus "maintain the fabric of the world" (Sir 38:34).... We ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things: "The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them" (Sir 38:4).

125. ...Underlying every form of work is a concept of the relationship which we can and must have with what is other than ourselves. Together with the awe-filled contemplation of creation which we find in Saint Francis of Assisi, the Christian spiritual tradition has also developed a rich and balanced understanding of the meaning of work, as, for example, in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his followers.

126. We can also look to the great tradition of monasticism. Originally, it was a kind of flight from the world, an escape from the decadence of the cities. The monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the best place for encountering the presence of God. Later, Saint Benedict of Norcia proposed that his monks live in community, combining prayer and spiritual reading with manual labour (ora et labora). Seeing manual labour as spiritually meaningful proved revolutionary. Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work. This way of experiencing work makes us more protective and respectful of the environment; it imbues our relationship to the world with a healthy sobriety.

127. ...Once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.[101] We need to remember that men and women have "the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments".[102] Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that... it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone",[103] no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning.

128. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves....

129. In order to continue providing employment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world's peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste.... Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production. To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practice a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute....


[101] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 37.

[102] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 34.

[103] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology": Laudato Si', 115-120

In the excerpts that follow, Pope Francis highlights man's responsibilities to the rest of society and the rest of the created world. Concern for our fellow man and for creation is not an act of generosity but an acceptance of our interdependent reality. Moreover, he reiterates the theme that broken social and spiritual relationships tend to be mirrored in broken ecological relationships. In response he calls for a new anthropology (the branch of philosophy which concerns human nature; not to be confused with the social science of the same name) which appreciates man's unique capabilities as well as their proper use in service.


115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since "the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere 'given', as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere 'space' into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference".[92]... When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: "Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed".[93]

116. ...The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes.... An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our "dominion" over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.[94]

117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities - to offer just a few examples - it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for "instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature".[95]

118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings.... There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then "our overall sense of responsibility wanes".[96]... Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships.... Our openness to others, each of whom is a "thou" capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the "Thou" of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?...


[92] ROMANO GUARDINI, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63 (The End of the Modern World, 55).

[93] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38.

[94] Cf. Love for Creation. An Asian Response to the Ecological Crisis, Declaration of the Colloquium sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Tagatay, 31 January-5 February 1993), 3.3.2.

[95] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 37.

[96] BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, 2.

Monday, October 19, 2015

"We have to accept that technological products are not neutral": Laudato Si', 106-114

In the previous set of excerpts having examined the benefits and dangers of power, Francis now turns to the heart of the problem: "the technocratic paradigm."


106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object.... Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves.... Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them.... This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit....

107. It can be said that many problems of today's world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm [i.e. method of understanding] which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities.... Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. ...The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources.... It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.... Those who are surrounded with technology "know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race", that "in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive - a lordship over all".[87]... Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one's alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories... than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy.... By itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[89]... We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today's world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today....

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm....

112. ...We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people's concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future.... There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history.... This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us.... The accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution.... Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.


[87] ROMANO GUARDINI, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63-64 (The End of the Modern World, 56).

Friday, October 16, 2015

“Contemporary man has not been trained to use power well": Laudato Si', 101-105

In the next chapter, Francis takes aim at the "technocratic paradigm". But in the excerpts below he begins by considering the virtues of technological changes, before questioning our ability to apply self-restraint to our new-found power. (Several times in these excerpts he quotes Romano Guardini, a German priest who opposed the Nazis and whose works were read by a wide variety of folks, including Flannery O'Connor, Hannah Arendt, Benedict XVI and, obviously, Francis.)


101. It would hardly be helpful to describe symptoms without acknowledging the human origins of the ecological crisis. A certain way of understanding human life and activity has gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us. Should we not pause and consider this? At this stage, I propose that we focus on the dominant technocratic paradigm and the place of human beings and of human action in the world.


102. …We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change…. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity”.[81] The modification of nature for useful purposes has distinguished the human family from the beginning…. Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications?...

103. Technoscience, when well directed, can produce important means of improving the quality of human life…. It can also produce art and enable men and women immersed in the material world to “leap” into the world of beauty. Who can deny the beauty of an aircraft or a skyscraper? Valuable works of art and music now make use of new technologies. So, in the beauty intended by the one who uses new technical instruments and in the contemplation of such beauty, a quantum leap occurs, resulting in a fulfilment which is uniquely human.

104. Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely…. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people…. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.

105. There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself”, an advance in “security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture”,[83] as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well”,[84] because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.,,, “Power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom” since its “only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security”.[85] But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.


[81] JOHN PAUL II, Address to Scientists and Representatives of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422.

[83] ROMANO GUARDINI, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 9th ed., Würzburg, 1965, 87 (English: The End of the Modern World, Wilmington, 1998, 82).

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid., 87-88 (The End of the Modern World, 83).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking": Laudato Si', 96-100

In these final excerpts from Chapter II, Francis's consideration of the scriptural understanding of creation concludes with the insights and transformations that come with the incarnation of Jesus, for in the mystery of God, the Creator took his place alongside his own creatures. Enjoy!


96. Jesus took up the biblical faith in God the Creator.... With moving tenderness he would remind them that each one of them is important in God's eyes: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God" (Lk 12:6)....

97. The Lord was able to invite others to be attentive to the beauty that there is in the world because he himself was in constant touch with nature, lending it an attention full of fondness and wonder.... He often stopped to contemplate the beauty sown by his Father, and invited his disciples to perceive a divine message in things: "Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest" (Jn 4:35). "The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed..." (Mt 13:31-32).

98. Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed: "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" (Mt 8:27). His appearance was not that of an ascetic set apart from the world, nor of an enemy to the pleasant things of life. Of himself he said: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard!'" (Mt 11:19). He was far removed from philosophies which despised the body, matter and the things of the world. Such unhealthy dualisms, nonetheless, left a mark on certain Christian thinkers in the course of history and disfigured the Gospel. Jesus worked with his hands, in daily contact with the matter created by God, to which he gave form by his craftsmanship. It is striking that most of his life was dedicated to this task in a simple life which awakened no admiration at all: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mk 6:3). In this way he sanctified human labour and endowed it with a special significance for our development. As Saint John Paul II taught, "by enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity".[79]

99. In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: "All things have been created though him and for him" (Col 1:16).[80] The prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) reveals Christ's creative work as the Divine Word (Logos). But then, unexpectedly, the prologue goes on to say that this same Word "became flesh" (Jn 1:14). One Person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross. From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy.

100. The New Testament... also shows him [Jesus] risen and glorious, present throughout creation by his universal Lordship.... This leads us to direct our gaze to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that "God may be everything to every one" (1 Cor 15:28). Thus, the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end....


[79] Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (14 September 1981), 27.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"All of us are linked by unseen bonds": Laudato Si', 89-95

In the excerpts that follow, Francis covers two topics: (a) the universal communion that exists (or should exist) among all creatures, including both men and the entire natural world; and (b) the Catholic understanding of private property, which must always be a form of stewardship oriented to the universal common good. Enjoy!


89. The created things of this world are not free of ownership: "For they are yours, O Lord..." (Wis 11:26). This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect....

90. This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility.... At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst.... We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

91. A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted....

92. Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people....


93. Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.... The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and "the first principle of the whole ethical and social order".[71] The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property. Saint John Paul II forcefully reaffirmed this teaching, stating that "God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone".[72] These are strong words. He noted that "a type of development which did not respect and promote human rights - personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples - would not be really worthy of man".[73]...

94. The rich and the poor have equal dignity, for "the Lord is the maker of them all" (Prov 22:2).... This has practical consequences, such as those pointed out by the bishops of Paraguay: "Every campesino has a natural right to possess a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life. This right must be guaranteed so that its exercise is not illusory but real. That means that apart from the ownership of property, rural people must have access to means of technical education, credit, insurance, and markets".[77]

95. ...If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others. That is why the New Zealand bishops asked what the commandment "Thou shall not kill" means when "twenty percent of the world's population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive".[78]


[71] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (14 September 1981), 19.

[72] Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 31.

[73] Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 33.

[77] PARAGUAYAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE, Pastoral Letter El campesino paraguayo y la tierra (12 June 1983), 2, 4, d.

[78] NEW ZEALAND CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE, Statement on Environmental Issues (1 September 2006).

Friday, October 9, 2015

"In my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own”: Laudato Si', 84-88

In the excerpts below, Pope Francis quotes from St. Francis's "Canticle of the Creatures" and explores the ways in which creation not only praises God but reveals things about both Him and us. Also, note how many times Francis quotes the various national bishops' conferences, just in these excerpts alone (and many more times elsewhere). This expresses his sense of collegiality; he may be first among the bishops of Christendom, but he too is a bishop and see himself in cooperation with his brother bishops around the world.


84. Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose…. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning…. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighbourhood square; going back to these places is a chance to recover something of their true selves.

85. God has written a precious book, “whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe”.[54] The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out…: “From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine”.[55] The bishops of Japan, for their part, made a thought-provoking observation: “To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope”.[56]… “For the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice”.[57] We can say that “alongside revelation properly so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night”.[58] Paying attention to this manifestation, we learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures: “…In my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own”.[59]

86. …Saint Thomas Aquinas wisely noted that multiplicity and variety “come from the intention of the first agent” who willed that “what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another”,[60] inasmuch as God’s goodness “could not be represented fittingly by any one creature”.[61] Hence we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships.[62] We understand better the importance and meaning of each creature if we contemplate it within the entirety of God’s plan. As the Catechism teaches: “God wills the interdependence of creatures… The spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient…”.[63]

87. When we can see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them. This sentiment finds magnificent expression in the hymn of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.[64]
88. The bishops of Brazil have pointed out that nature as a whole not only manifests God but is also a locus of his presence. The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature….[65] Discovering this presence leads us to cultivate the “ecological virtues”.[66] This is not to forget that there is an infinite distance between God and the things of this world, which do not possess his fullness. Otherwise, we would not be doing the creatures themselves any good either, for we would be failing to acknowledge their right and proper place. We would end up unduly demanding of them something which they, in their smallness, cannot give us.


[54] JOHN PAUL II, Catechesis (30 January 2002),6.

[55] CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, SOCIAL AFFAIRS COMMISSION, Pastoral Letter You Love All that Exists… All Things are Yours, God, Lover of Life” (4 October 2003), 1.

[56] CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF JAPAN, Reverence for Life. A Message for the Twenty-First Century (1 January 2000), 89.

[57] JOHN PAUL II, Catechesis (26 January 2000), 5.

[58] Idem., Catechesis (2 August 2000), 3.

[59] PAUL RICOEUR, Philosophie de la Volonté, t. II: Finitude et Culpabilité, Paris, 2009, 216.

[60] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 47, art. 1.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Cf. ibid., art. 2, ad 1; art. 3.

[63] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340.

[64] Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.

[65] Cf. NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE BISHOPS OF BRAZIL, A Igreja e a Questão Ecológica, 1992, 53-54.

[66] Ibid., 61.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Human beings are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator": Laudato Si', 76-83

Continuing the biblical commentary he began in Monday's excerpts, in these passages Francis explores our understanding of the universe as a gift, divine in origin, dynamic in its action, but fragile by nature, requiring our care. (A brief note on sources: These excerpts exemplify Francis's wide-ranging sources throughout the document. His sources include a patristic theologian [Basil], a medieval theologian [Aquinas], a medieval poet [Dante], several recent popes, a 20th century theologian [Teilhard de Chardin, SJ], and - although he is not mentioned by name - the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, whose I and Thou, though slow reading, is immensely rewarding.)


76. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature”, for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.

77. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6)…. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion…. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24)…. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure”,[44] while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”.[45] Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy”.[46]

78. At the same time, Judaeo-Christian thought demythologized nature. While continuing to admire its grandeur and immensity, it no longer saw nature as divine. In doing so, it emphasizes all the more our human responsibility for nature…. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power….

80. …God, who wishes to work with us and who counts on our cooperation, can also bring good out of the evil we have done. “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable”.[48] Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator.[49] God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.[50]… The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.[52]

81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art… are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”….

82. Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination…. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity…. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus….

83. The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things.[53] Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving… towards a common point of arrival… where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.


[44] Hom. in Hexaemeron, I, 2, 10: PG 29, 9.

[45] The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, 145.

[46] Benedict XVI, Catechesis (9 November 2005), 3: Insegnamenti 1 (2005), 768.

[48] John Paul II, Catechesis (24 April 1991), 6: Insegnamenti 14 (1991), 856.

[49] The Catechism explains that God wished to create a world which is “journeying towards its ultimate perfection”, and that this implies the presence of imperfection and physical evil; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 310.

[50] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.

[52] Thomas Aquinas, In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis expositio, Lib. II, lectio 14.

[53] Against this horizon we can set the contribution of Fr Teilhard de Chardin; cf. Paul VI, Address in a Chemical and Pharmaceutical Plant (24 February 1966): Insegnamenti 4 (1966), 992-993; John Paul II, Letter to the Reverend George Coyne (1 June 1988): Insegnamenti 11/2 (1988), 1715; Benedict XVI, Homily for the Celebration of Vespers in Aosta (24 July 2009): Insegnamenti 5/2 (2009), 60.

Monday, October 5, 2015

"When relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, life itself is endangered": Laudato Si', 65-75

In the excerpts that follow, Francis lays out the Biblical theology of creation, and makes clear that it's about a lot more than just the idea that God made everything. Enjoy!


65. ...We can ask what the great biblical narratives say about the relationship of human beings with the world. In the first creation account…, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31). The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). This shows us the immense dignity of each person, “who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons”.[37] Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being “confers upon him or her an infinite dignity”.[38] Those who are committed to defending human dignity can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment….

66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis… suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence.[40] This is a far cry from our situation today….

67. We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature….. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context,... recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15)…. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature…. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23).

68. This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, for “…he fixed their bounds and he set a law which cannot pass away” (Ps 148:5b-6). The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes…. By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws…. The Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish…. “We can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”.[42]…

70. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see how envy led Cain to commit the ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth…. God asks: “Where is Abel your brother?”… God persists: “…The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Gen 4:9-11). Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered….

71. …The biblical tradition clearly shows that… renewal entails recovering and respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature by the hand of the Creator. We see this, for example, in the law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Gen 2:2-3; Ex 16:23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Lev 25:1-4), when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household (cf. Lev 25:4-6). Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and “liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (cf. Lev 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked. At the same time, it was an acknowledgment that the gift of the earth with its fruits belongs to everyone. Those who tilled and kept the land were obliged to share its fruits, especially with the poor, with widows, orphans and foreigners in their midst….

73. The writings of the prophets invite us to find renewed strength in times of trial by contemplating the all-powerful God who created the universe…. In the Bible, the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected: “Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you… You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders” (Jer 32:17, 21)….

75. A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.


[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 357.

[38] Angelus in Osnabrück (Germany) with the disabled, 16 November 1980.

[40] Cf. Bonaventure, The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 1, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 586.

[42] German Bishops' Conference, Zukunft der Schöpfung – Zukunft der Menschheit. Einklärung der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zu Fragen der Umwelt und der Energieversorgung, (1980), II, 2.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"No branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out": Laudato Si', 60-64

In the excerpts that follow, Francis wraps up the survey of the current situation (Chapter I) by considering the options open to us. He then turns to a theological interpretation of the natural world (Chapter II). On Monday we'll jump into Francis's exposition of the Biblical understanding of the natural world. Enjoy!


60. We need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes….

61. On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair…. “If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations”.[35]


62. Why should this document, addressed to all people of good will, include a chapter dealing with the convictions of believers? I am well aware that in the areas of politics and philosophy there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity. Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.


63. Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality…. No branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it….

64. Furthermore, although this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation, I would like from the outset to show how faith convictions can offer Christians, and some other believers as well, ample motivation to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters. If the simple fact of being human moves people to care for the environment of which they are a part, Christians in their turn “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith”.[36]…


[35] John Paul II, Catechesis (17 January 2001), 3.

[36] Ibid., Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 15.