Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Laudato Si — 10 Point Checklist for Reading — Part I

June 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Note: (Feb. 25, 2018) The following post was written the day after the appearance of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, before I even began reading or writing.  The Laudato Si series was written over a few months and became the basis for the book which followed (and came off the press on Christmas Eve, 2015).  That book, entitled “Half a Dialogue,” is available at and is at least twice the length of the post series.  

Diane Harris.


I have not yet read the new 192* page encyclical by Pope Francis, released yesterday. Realizing that it is going to be quite controversial, I determined to write (at least for myself) an essay of sorts viewing the context into which the encyclical is being released, clarifying my own thoughts, and trying in earnest not to read point-by-point and react ad hoc, but to form first a framework against which to read and consider the encyclical, and to perceive what is written in a greater context. (*192 was the draft issue in Italian; the English final on line is about 180 pages; but, about half this amount if printed in full page format.  Encyclicals are usually printed in approximately half-page format.)

Although the ‘essay’ isn’t in shape to share yet (and I may not, anyway), it clarified some points which might be considered in reading the encyclical, so I’m offering here what might be useful to others. More especially, I consider it a draft to which serious input is most welcome. What is on your list of considerations in reading the encyclical? Please comment and suggest. I will be revising this list based on the collaborative input from others, and may revise it several times while it is posted.

Meanwhile, I offer a “first draft” list of considerations for a framework against which I will be reading the encyclical in the coming days:

1. Is there a serious link between the written word and the salvation of souls? If so, how may it be summarized?
2. Is the encyclical based on truth? Has any truth, including scientific truth, been compromised for the sake of “making a point?” Is all opinion clearly differentiated from truth and fact?
3. Does one sense an abundant love flowing toward the reader, regardless of what position each person holds on the issues, regardless of what each is currently doing or not doing in this matter?  Is it unitive rather than divisive?
4. Is there a suitable mode of humility and shepherdly care to provoke appropriate responses and not to harden hearts?
5. Is there complete consistency to the governing documents and teachings of the Church, especially the Catechism, Sacred Scripture, Canon Law and similar writings of earlier Popes, not only in quotations but in total context?
6. Is the order of creation being kept in the right priority? Serving the Creator rather than the created?
7. What are the actionable points at an individual level? What actions or inactions are sins to be confessed, vs. ‘nice to do’ recommendations that, after due consideration, may be ignored?
8. Do any teachings of the encyclical detract either in resources or in priority from any higher duties of each soul? Are there costs in time, energy or resources that would otherwise be compromised by investing in actions in these matters rather than in higher spiritual priorities?
9. Does the encyclical, fully absorbed, in any way lead toward a “one world religion” of environmentalism, of neo-pantheism, or encourage substitution of action at an ecclesiastical level, in place of dealing with the urgent issues of abortion, euthanasia, anti-biblical gender culture, persecution and annihilation of Christians, especially in the Middle-East?
10. Is there any danger of syncretism in the words or method of presentation of these writings as an encyclical? Is the content clearly in the “moral” area covered by infallibility? Or not?


13 Responses to “Laudato Si — 10 Point Checklist for Reading — Part I”

  1. annonymouse says:

    Excellent list, Diane. The most important, to me, is your #7 – how would the Pope have me, as a Catholic, act? What acts of mine (or my failures to act) are now to be considered sinful, endangering my eternal soul?

    I mean, after reading part of the encyclical, I wasn’t sure I should go to work this morning, to a company that creates pollution (gaseous and solid waste), in an automobile that uses “evil” carbon-based fuel (his word, not mine), in an effort to turn a profit (also a seemingly evil concept).

    Your question #1 is a great one, and something I’m struggling with, not only with respect to this encyclical, but also in regard to the entire body of the Church’s “social teaching.” Much of the Church’s social teachings (including this letter) deal with what might be called “social sin” and it’s quite unclear to me how (or if) this relates to either the salvation of individual souls or the mission of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

    And I’m wondering – should I now vote for candidates of a party who almost to a person advocate the freedom to kill a full-term unborn baby because those candidates also are more impassioned about enacting societal and economic change designed to lower “greenhouse gas” emissions? How should a voter compare a theoretical future evil (raised global temperatures, if those were to lead to a lowering of the common good) with an obvious grave current evil (the scourge of abortion)?

  2. Diane Harris says:

    Excellent commentary, Annonymouse. Exactly the kind of input and exchange we as Catholics need to have. I hope many more of our readers will offer their thoughts.

  3. Sid says:

    I haven’t read it thoroughly yet, but at 184 pages, one has to question whether it’s a letter or a book. Indeed the Jesuit order is perhaps not known for being laconic, but this is quite a treatise!

    A question for the better educated than I:
    It was my understanding (via 13 years of post-Vatican II Catholic schooling) that papal encyclicals are used to express Church doctrine while the somewhat lower form of communication known as an apostolic exhortation is used to call the faithful to some action without defining doctrine.

    Given that (and perhaps I err in my understanding…), I am a bit surprised this is designated an encyclical rather than exhortation. What are the particular points of doctrine being defined here? Do these suggest coming amendment(s) to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church?

  4. catholicmom says:

    Explanation of authority of Church documents

  5. militia says:

    Does anyone know why Pope Francis chose June 18th for the release of the encyclical? The only thing I could find is that it was the first day of Ramadan.

  6. christian says:

    You bring up a poignant question militia, as Pope Francis has coincided his installation as Pope and papal releases with significant feast days.

    I was very disappointed when Pope Francis recognized Palestine as a state. I do not harbor animosity toward Arab Muslims, but with regard to history, it is not correct or appropriate to give statehood to Palestine. This announcement of statehood coming from the Vatican has world-wide implications as the Pope is seen as the international representative of Christians.

    ISIS/ISIL has declared that it would invade Italy and the Vatican, and conquer the Vatican by bombing it. They then stated they would fly their flag over the Vatican. First noted – August 2014, Last noted March 2015. Italy and the Vatican have been on high alert since.

    Pope Francis declared/recognized Palestine as a state on the Arab feast of Nakba Day. I can’t help but wonder if declaring/recognizing the statehood of Palestine was a political move.

  7. annonymouse says:

    A new thread is needed for Palestine

  8. christian says:

    “Given in Rome at Saint Peter’s on 24 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate.


    from Laudato si

    Laudato si was given on the Feast of Pentecost. Sunday, May 24th, 2015.

  9. christian says:

    Diane – To be truthful, and without any intentional disrespect for our Pope, when I first started reading Laudato si, it sounded like a Star Trek episode: A leader of a planet calling on the planet’s citizens to take actions to prevent the annihilation of their planet.

    I am still reading and re-reading Laudato si, but in my opinion, is it very long and is very extensive in its citing of environmental problems as well as its recommended actions to fix the problems.

    I am all for everyone of us taking reasonable and practical actions within our own capability, in our individual situations, to improve the health of our planet, but I think the strong emphasis on environmentalism is disproportionate to the current, overwhelming situation of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East which involves barbaric tortures and killings at the hands of radical Islamic groups such as ISIS/ISIL.

    There is so much currently at stake involving an anti-Christian culture, the threat against the Biblical institution and tradition of Gender, Family and Marriage, tAbortion, Euthanasia, the Persecution, Torture and Killing of Christians, especially in the Middle East, why hasn’t the Pope written an encyclical involving these issues?

    What value is there in calling forth actions in preserving a planet from a potential threat of global warming for the future, when the current, threatening issues of today are not addressed with the same intensity and fervor?

    Personally, Laudato si loses its appeal when more pressing issues are not addressed first and in priority, in an encyclical. I think it has lost momentum within the Catholic church at large, at least in part, for that same reason.

    Why would we be interested in preserving a planet for future generations when there is nothing left of Biblical values, when the institution of Marriage and Family has disintegrated, when human life has no dignity or worth, and when the Christian faith is gone?

  10. Diane Harris says:

    Christian, I do understand what you mean. I have carefully read the entire encyclical; I am struggling with the writing, which I will do, but it is taking longer than planned. Your point is prominent in my concerns. The paragraph # on which to focus (and I think you have) is #160. For the sake of those who haven’t read it, I repeat a few key sentences:

    “It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity [huh?]. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” [HUH??]

    Our dignity? first and foremost? it is the “ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn?” In no way do I believe how we leave the planet is the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.

    I do believe we have every right to discuss these points in depth, not just because of our rights under Canon 212, but also because Pope Francis has approximately 22 times in his encyclical called for dialogue. Let us accept that invitation.

    But let us also remember that the distraction of this encyclical and possibly also the September visit to Philadelphia may indeed interfere with the focus that should be placed on the Synod.

  11. annonymouse says:

    It sounds like it was written by another fine Catholic, Mr. Justice Kennedy.

  12. christian says:

    With regard to your insertion annonymouse (and without intending to derail the topic of Laudato si), there are other Catholics employed by the Diocese of Rochester in ordained and lay positions who have advocated for same sex marriage, and are now celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriage throughout the United States.

    The Chaplain at Nazareth College posted an article on Nazareth College Catholic Community’s Facebook page commemorating the legalization of same sex marriage, entitled “How should Christians Respond to the Court’s Decision on Same Sex Marriage?” written by Fr. Daniel P. Horan on June 26th, 2015 at 3 P.M.-On All Things for America: The National Catholic Review. The article strongly endorses Same Sex Marriage backing it with excerpts from “Gaudium et Spes” and “Nostra Aetate.”

    (The Chaplain previously served at a Catholic parish under an openly homosexual priest who advocated for the homosexual lifestyle and Same Sex Marriage. There was an article written about this priest and his views).

    How can ordained clergy and ministerial lay persons under the tutelage of the Diocese of Rochester and Bishop Salvatore Matano, teach and promote an agenda not recognized by the Catholic Church, especially to young, impressionable people?

  13. Diane Harris says:

    Please answer the above post by Christian on the new post: “Now legal; still sinful” here.

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