OF THE HOLY FATHER
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
For the Full Encyclical click here.
Pope’s message on climate change marks a radical departure for the Vatican: Donal Dorr in the Irish Times, 19th June, 2015.
Francis’ encyclical an urgent call to prevent world of ‘debris, desolation and filth’ Joshua McElwee (NCR)
Pope’s climate change encyclical tells rich nations: pay your debt to the poor. Manchester Guardian
Follow the Footnotes : Fascinating ‘America’ article on the sources that have influenced Pope Francis most, not all of them conventional.
Fox News Pundit Calls Pope Francis ‘The Most Dangerous Person On The Planet’ For Suggesting Climate Change Is Real. Huffington Post
Further Links will follow here, and ACI comment in other posts.
Much of Laudato Si is a rehash of already published stuff regarding problem identification, methods of solution, and attitudes of approach. The real drama of the universe lies with the “natural resource” that is man. Perhaps the availability of resources is itself subject to the human mind’s understanding of them. Should we not consider that a politics based on the presumed scarcity of resources is itself self-fulfilling? Is it wise to assume that future human knowledge and capacity will be pretty much as they are now?
The Pope’s real contribution relates to God as creator, creation as made for man, and adherence to the common good which he defines. In this context it involves living and working, among other things, in a mode of care for the environment. This adherence is how John Citizen makes life more or less pleasant for others, say, through individual waste disposal. It is how John Citizen controls his own individual bequest to the future to humanity. It has the power to guide the future cost benefit analyses which environmental preservation entails.
Adherence to the common good demands virtue, conscience and character, especially given humanity’s enormous power to control many aspects of nature. Where do virtue, wisdom et al from? Catechesis on this should have been central to the encyclical but is missing. The encyclical says too much about stuff not within the competence of the Vatican, and is too general about the difference God makes. What is said about the latter is as usual quite poetic, but unlikely to get people back in the pews.
…. ‘creation as made for man’…..
I’m no philosopher Con, but I do wonder if this anthropocentrism is a major part of the environmental problem. Does the rest of creation not have intrinsic worth in itself, not dependent on its worth to us. Is this why we don’t respect it?
Martin, about the difference God makes.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and gave Adam dominion over creation. This was the first kinship-covenant between God and humanity. “Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with His people.” (Catechism 288).
The “seventh day” is God’s great oath of the covenant. The Hebrew word for seven is sheva. It is also a verb meaning literally “to seven oneself.” It is a verb used for swearing covenant-oaths historically and recurrently in scripture.
Adam and Eve through disobedience forfeited their covenant kinship with God resulting in increasing moral decay and unbinding of the cosmic forces. Thus there is the Flood and a renewed kinship-covenant, and successive covenants with ever expanding groups up to the Eucharistic covenant with all humanity.
God covenanted creation to humanity for humanity’s ongoing use. As the “Sabbath is made for man” so also is creation, not visa versa. Environmental care is a covenantal responsibly to be exercised rationally by humanity in honour of God.
The new-found eschatological overtones of the current dominant culture withdraw from any concept of a nature related to a creator-covenant. Without any sense of teleology, people make of themselves or creation whatever they desire. The new “salvation history” consists of a dogma which determinines the ongoing care of the earth as the principal occupation of humanity. Humankind is concerned solely about the ongoing presence of the species over time, indeed the manipulation of the species if not of environment.
Christianity points out that each person of the species exists for a transcendent purpose. The purpose of the earth is not sustaining the species ad infinitum. At the Second Coming, rational John/Mary Citizen will be accountable to God, not to scientific/political Machiavellis for fulfilling Adam’s first role, using free human reason.
Even so, we humans might might consider ourselves to be the big shots here on Earth, but we have only been around for a minuscule amount of time in comparison to the age of the Cosmos. And the Earth itself is only a speck of dust in relation to the galaxy to which it belongs, as is our galaxy in relation to the universe (or the multiverse that scientists are starting to talk about). Yet we put ourselves at the centre of it all, just as we did with the Earth pre-Copernicus. We might ask, what was God and creation doing while they waited around for humans and indeed the Catholic Church to arrive on the scene?
The new encyclical notes that St Francis had “communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them ‘to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason.’ (we would say consciousness). According to St Bonaventure, the encyclical also says, the friar “would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ ” In other words, family.
Later in the text, Pope Francis comes to the conclusion that “the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.” And in the view of Naomi Klein of The New Yorker, “You don’t get much more human-centered than the persistent Judeo-Christian interpretation that God created the entire world specifically to serve Adam’s every need.”
Klein also reports Irish Catholic priest and theologian Fr Seán McDonagh, to be of the opinion that the encyclical represents a profound and radical shift from traditional Catholicism and argues that “We are moving to a new theology.” In line with this, many believers (including myself), are left cold by the Catechism sticking with a literal Adam and Eve narrative and with the notion of a perfect creation followed by a Fall, which seems to fly in the face of evolution and the story of the universe revealed through the insights of new cosmology. Maybe now, following this new encyclical, our theologians will feel freed and motivated to at least keep pace with science, while remaining true to the notion of a creator God intimately in relationship with ALL of creation, revealed as good news, in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I’m sure St Francis and St Bonaventure ate some of the plants they preached to. Neither is the Pope a vegetarian. I agree with the Pope. I agree with the two saints that nature in its essence reveals the glory of god in a partial manner. Christ is his true revealer, a task He further entrusted to the Church by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Many species of plants and animals had disappeared before the first man, with no known disadvantage to the environment.
Vatican II endorsed the interdependence of faith and reason is evident in the Church’s traditional fourfold sense of scriptural interpretation. (Dei verbum) Scripture has a literal sense that signifies historical reality. The historical reality then discloses three spiritual senses
1.The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.
2.The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction.”
3.The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem. (Catechism 119)
The Pope emphasised the catholic idea of the “common good.” This is his real contribution. Much of the rest was said before both in secular documents and in Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
The Deposit of Faith” will not change. We will always be allowed to have our meat and veg. Science will always be required to exploit nature to meet human need, while not abusing nature. Exploiting humans is out of the question for the Pope, be it abortion, euthanasia, or deliberately denying children the experience of a parental or maternal presence in their formative years.
Read Prodigal Son and me at ACP
“Many species of plants and animals had disappeared before the first man, with no known disadvantage to the environment.” True Con. God and creation seemed to get on fine before we arrived on the scene, and we can imagine them being able to get on just fine if we choose to eliminate ourselves from the future. But with the grace of God I trust we will choose life.
Many do not enjoy the luxury of being able to choose vegetarianism as a lifestyle. But some do, and many of us could. (I am often surprised how upset people get when this is suggested). However I believe it to be an honorable choice in our current context. We pay a high environmental price for our scale of meat eating. For the sake of our individual and collective health we would do well to at least consider eating less meat. And in the context of this particular conversation, it would be one practical way of responding to the new encyclical and standing against the cruel excesses of factory farming, to which we blissfully tend to turn a blind eye. (Visit the Compassion in World farming website at http://www.ciwf.org.uk/ )
Response to Martin continued
The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the COMMON GOOD, embarking on dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity. When people become self-centred and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the COMMON GOOD also disappears. Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the COMMON GOOD because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life.
There are too many special and economic interests trumping the COMMON GOOD and manipulating information so that their own plans will be unaffected. The option for the poor and the universal destination of the world’s goods create an essential ethical imperative for attaining the COMMON GOOD. Today, in view of the COMMON GOOD, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Society is enriched by organizations which work to promote the COMMON GOOD and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban.
And finally from St Francis:
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the COMMON GOOD, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
Thanks for your response Con. I can only agree whole-heartedly.