Alright, I’ve had enough. As a Catholic who is just as trepid about a pope who seems to be putting his hope in all the wrong places as everyone else, even if he is underneath the saint we need at this time in history, all the advance hand-wringing and vitriol over the papal encyclical on the environment is starting to really make me mad. For those who aren’t Catholic and are suspicious about all the headlines, allow me to outline the reasons why.
1. Francis cannot change Church teaching, and he’s not the first pope to preach on the environment. Hard to believe for people who think of the Catholic Church as a top-down corporate body, but it is true. No pope can unilaterally change actual Canon Law or Church teaching. Declarations can be made on matters of faith and morals infallibly, but the environment isn’t one of them other than to tell people to quit destroying the it, and on that there is actually a whole section in the Catechism written by Pope Saint John Paul II in the “You shall not steal” realm that deals with the right to private property (it is assured) balanced against moral use of nature. (The whole section is worth reading. It starts at about paragraph 2403.)
2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.195 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.196 (226, 358, 373, 378)
Of course, there is much more within the Catechism, and Sacred Scripture, for that matter. Plainly, we are called to be good stewards of the earth. It’s already part of the teaching, and several modern popes have pointed that out within their own encyclicals. Really, to completely understand the full context of all of it, not just the surface that modern society prefers, one needs to invest time in learning the Catechism, reading the encyclicals and theology.
2. The “leaked” draft of the Encyclical is said to be “not to be the final text” and may not bear any resemblance to it. Actually, based on the fact that there is a constant and consistent effort on the part of the one worlders in the Curia who cannot keep their mouths shut, and the likes of Cardinal Marx who holds his own secret meetings where known dissidents show up, and then releases information to a media that reports it as “Vatican officials say this and that,” there’s a good chance the “leak” is a plant to influence public opinion ahead of the reality, especially if the real text does not press the Climate Change meme as much as the leftists would like.
Besides, encyclicals are just not leaked. It just doesn’t happen. Plus, with the language barrier that the English speaking world has with just about everyone else, God only knows if the translation is accurate. The dissidents have pulled fast ones before with bad translations, and we are still living with the consequences.
3. The Mainstream Media is going to twist what Francis has to say to fit their agenda. Away from the screaming headlines of the mainstream media that has the entire world in an uproar of both left or right depending on one’s leanings, there’s a completely different take on the entire episode. La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit publication, claims that this encyclical is timely due to man’s tendency to be a throw away culture and rape the environment. (Remember, the USA is one of a couple hundred countries. Several of them are known to strip mine and leave a mess behind.)
“Believers have an additional reason to be good stewards of the gift of creation, because they know that it is a gift from God,” the Rome-based magazine La Civilta Cattolica said in an editorial dated June 27.
“[Pope Francis] will draw upon his faith, upon the teaching of the Church, and upon the best information and advice available, demonstrating how each of us can manage, gather and sift the information, to judge, to decide and, finally, to act,” the editorial said. “His goal is not to speculate nor to support this or that theory, but to invite people of goodwill to consider thoroughly their responsibility for future generations, and to act accordingly.”
Debates about environmental responsibilities have consequences for the well-being of humanity, La Civilta Cattolica said. They are not simply campaigns to save a rare animal or plant, though these can be important. Rather, the debate is about how to ensure that “hundreds of millions of people have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.”
“This is a serious moral responsibility which we can no longer remove ourselves from. Failure to respond would be a sin of omission,” the editorial said.
This responsibility is linked to Christian thought, it noted.
If the final teaching is really about clean water and air for humans, and thinking twice before strip mining and participating in a throw away culture, than what, exactly, is the objection?
4. Reliable sources say the Encyclical is partially based on St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun.” (No, Marty Haugen did not really write those words. Catholics of the late 20th century will understand what that means.) The title of the encyclical itself is “Laudate Sii” meaning “Praised be to you,” which is an integral part of St. Francis’ poetry. The poem “Canicle of the Sun” is a celebration of God’s creation and how one cares for nature as part of the praise of God. In Catholicism, this is a basic concept. Everything we do is done for love of God, and His people. From all reports, it looks like the thrust of this encyclical is to think twice before consuming energy, and disturbing nature. The Climate Change idea is unfortunate, but because it is in the current scientific literature, the concept will be part of it and that is what will be dwelt on. That does not mean that the basic ideas of the encyclical are wrong.
5. Francis is a Jesuit, so the whole thing is going to be an exercise in finding the message for the words. Hate to say it, but the man is a brilliant intellectual who writes and talks in less than an outlined form. His ideas flow from one to the other within contextual nuance. To get the entire message, one must read the whole thing. (Not holding my breath for that as everything in modern life is bottom lined.) Not many people are going to do that and will depend on someone else to do it for them.
At the risk of losing my conservative credentials, the more I learn of history and the more details of how people lived and conserved everything they could before the ease of the 20th century, the more I realize that humans of times past were far more conscientious about the earth and the environment. They had to be. They depended on it for life. Those of us in the industrial world have the luxury of not facing that reality. In Catholicism, materialism and over consumption is a matter of morality. Not so much the assets of art and property that is held in trust for the inspiration of future generations, but in personal and day to day living.
That is the message that is going to be lost, thinking through to how our actions of today will leave the environment for future generations. How over consumption is to an extent gluttony. How what we consume effects others. This has been a theme of this man’s pontificate. Should be no great surprise, and still Pope Francis will be condemned for it.
So, people, chill out. It not going to be as bad as it seems.