Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Friday, May 25, 2018

What's your question?

Q. Why has Pope Francis, who is so widely liked by the world, chosen to write an encyclical on so controversial a topic as climate control? Can’t politicians “use” the encyclical for political gain?


A. First, Pope Francis’ Encyclical about safeguarding our global environment by promoting an authentic human ecology is not primarily about a political agenda, or about implementing certain specific scientific norms for attaining a global esoteric ecological conversion, based on and fueled by stark socioeconomic theories.

Not at all; this grand Encyclical, Laudato Sí, transcends, in thrust, meaning and application, the ordinary, material and pragmatic dimensions of reality.

Citing Saint Francis of Assisi, the Holy Father bids us “to see that an integral Ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” (Sec. 10)

Notice that verb “bids.” The Encyclical is written as an invitation, an invitation to all authentic human beings, whatever their religious views, to at least begin exercising stewardship in behalf of Planet Earth, our “Common Home,” in a more responsible manner, lest God’s creation be compromised by misuse, abuse or crass neglect.

Furthermore, the Pope’s appeal in this document proceeds primarily from the Bible as read within the church, as well as from reason illuminated by Revelation.

The world’s climate, Pope Francis reminds us, is “a common good.” Pollution, therefore, is a destructive agent. Likewise, mountains of waste, facilitated by our “throwaway culture.” (Sec. 20) The carbon cycle, a problem in and of itself, also needs addressing.

Moreover, the quality of drinking water needs to be protected, since access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal right.

And what about the consequences of failing to meet the needs of stewardship? Isn’t one of these effects a loss of biodiversity? (Sec. 32)

Consider the Holy Father’s words here:

“The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses…”

And: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us…” (Secs. 32, 33)

Pope Francis also alludes to the economic consequences of our failures in stewardship of the planet. Greater widespread poverty is predictable. (Sec. 48-50)

The Holy Father devotes a large portion of his Encyclical to “The Gospel of Creation,” reaffirming that “we are not God.” (Sec. 67) Hence the mystery of the universe, to be complete and meaningful, is called to affirm God as Creator. (Sec. 75)

Thus, all so-called “solutions” to our ecological responsibilities ultimately reflect not merely socioeconomic aspects of reality, but, more fundamentally, theological ones. The Mystery of Creation is linked with the Mystery of Christ, through whom all things exist. (Sec. 99) He is the Word, the Logos, in the original Greek of St. John’s Gospel, through whom all things came into existence. (1:3)

From all of the considerations cited above, it is hardly likely that any politician can be tempted to “use” the Holy Father’s Encyclical, Laudato Sí, for sheer sociopolitical ends.

The Encyclical towers over the socio-political world too much, essentially so.