Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Laudato Si — “Who Am I to Judge?” — Part XI

August 8th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Pope Francis made world headlines in his press interview aloft,  flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, when asked about the status of a reputedly ‘gay’ priest.  His reply “Who am I to judge” became a rallying cry for LGBT life style to be legitimized by the Catholic Church (which clearly is impossible to happen.)  Faithful Catholics, knowledgeable regarding Church teaching, trustingly strained to understand the words to mean “If a person repents of his sins and is forgiven by God, who am I to decide otherwise?”  Unfortunately, the popular media and the subsequent lack of papal explanation simply allowed a runaway wish list of aspirations, each more liberal than the foregoing, each encouraging that perhaps the Catholic Church was going to finally ‘permit sin.’  The Synod, held in 2014, only made matters worse due to its foggy language, leaked documents, poor translations and questionable motivations, sowing doubt where previously there had been clarity.

It is worth mentioning those track records of poor Vatican communications as prelude to sorting out some seemingly quite harsh language in Laudato Si, threatening further division within the Church. In the Encyclical, there is, like prior breaches and misunderstandings, a lack of clarification, and a sense of “you know to whom I’m referring,” without being specific. And very unlike our expectation of teaching documents, there is an ambiguity which can do a disservice to Truth, and to souls.

In this Part XI, a number of Laudato Si statements are listed, without trying to ‘explain’ what may well be unexplainable, but which language yields a fruit which may cause division, defensiveness, confusion, pain, and alienation.  Not only the content, but also the tone contributes to such impact. These comments are not intended to be a judgement of Pope Francis himself since we don’t know his motives, or even the accuracy of his translators.  So the quotes are put forward hoping to invoke that same spirit of “Who am I to judge?”

Excerpts from Laudato Si

So, we quote directly, letting the reader form conclusions about the objectives of each statement. There are many quotes which might have been used, but the limited ones selected are those which seem to ascribe a questionable motive to others, to people, groups or nations, notwithstanding the occasional use of the first person plural pronouns “we”, “our” and “us”.  Affluent individuals, multinational companies, northern hemisphere countries in particular seem to be targeted. Perhaps, surprisingly, the Church and other organized religions seem to escape all criticism.   Unfortunately, there are few proposals for remedy other than loss of subsidiarity to a theoretical collectivist  power, as described in prior Parts IX and X, especially of allocation of financial penalties on sovereign governments.  It is not the purpose of this section to debate again what was previously covered, but only to convey what some may see as an attitude of accusation.  It is only fair to point out that there may simply be a misunderstanding, since Christ Himself did not come to condemn, one must be careful in attributing condemnation to His Vicar. Nevertheless, these are direct quotes from Laudato Si, and some imply attributing questionable motivations:

“…many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.  Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.”  (#14).

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.” (#26)

“Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.  This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding….” (#30)

“We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” (#34)

“Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits….”(#36)

“… there are ‘proposals to internationalize the Amazon which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations.'” (#38)

“… many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.  They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population …. This lack … can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality ….” (#49)

“… a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized….” (#50)

“There is also … pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, … in the countries in which they raise their capital … often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals ….” (#51)

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”  (#51). Note: like many other unsupported statements in Laudato Si, again there is no footnote citation as a source.

“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them …. developing countries … continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future … globalization of indifference…. [ownership] is structurally perverse … developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy …. ” (#52)

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” (#54)

“The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests  … the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.” (#54)

“People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.  A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.”  (#55)

“… human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” (#59)

“… 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.” (#95)

“…showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations…[t]heir behavior shows that for them maximizing profits is enough.” (#109)

“…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.”  (#115)  — In my personal experience I have often found scientists to be even more fascinated with the physical world and its wonder than many with no technological training, who seem to take it for granted.

“…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.” (#122)

“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 labor 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 … human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species… buying the organs of the poor for resale…. This same ‘use and throw away’ logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.”  (#123)  By such logic, every overweight person, consuming “more than what is really necessary,” would be implicated to some degree in heinous crimes. Obviously the problems are far more intricate, as is human nature.  Simplistic accusations illustrate the risk of thinking any particular organization can ever bridle the concupiscence of a fallen nature, especially large collectivist organizations with their  ultimate un-accountability resulting in being responsible to no one, because they can hide behind being responsible to every one. Should not the emphasis, rather, be toward conversion of souls rather than super-sized organizational structure and its impositions? Railing against multinationals hardly seems to create argument for still larger enforcers, whose individual members are as corruptible as anyone else.

“An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.” (#164)

“The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro … was a real step forward … [but]… poorly implemented due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance.  The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation.” (#167)

“Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.” (#169)  One point on which the Encyclical is relatively silent is that the burden, if it were to be assigned, would more properly apply not only to countries that pollute, but also to the recipients of the benefits of the polluting manufacturing or technology made available to them as customers. Probably few countries would willingly give up products and technologies they want or need in order to minimize the associated pollution. Also for that reason, one wonders about the high level of prioritization skewed to environmental matters, relative to other subjects to which papal encyclicals might be addressed.

“Political activity on the local level could also be directed to modifying consumption….” (#180) Unfortunately, much of the talk of ‘sustainability advocates’ means fewer people alive, in order to achieve consumption reduction.  The Encyclical skirts the issue, supporting the objective but being silent on the strategy.

“While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”  (#198)

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.” (#204)

“… we are unconcerned about caring for things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings.” (#208)

In a general sense, we can see that much of the theme in these words directed against others (people, companies, nations) is about transfer of power, from those who have it (and at least, to some extent, have earned it) to those with more limited power, even within their own borders, where, for a variety of reasons, legitimate power has apparently not been fully or faithfully exercised.  On the matter of power, it is well to remember that coveting is clearly reprobated by two of the Commandments.  That includes coveting power, doesn’t it?

As one reviews the excerpts above, perhaps it would have been better for Pope Francis to have used his language aloft one more time, regarding those portrayed as enemies of the environment or ecology or, I wish, at least had emulated the gentleness of Pope Benedict.  When mentioned earlier that there is a certain sadness or darkness in Laudato Si, this section, in particular, seem to be a cause. And, finally, without knowing reasons or purpose, we can simply recall and pray the words of Sacred Scripture:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,

but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  

Colossians 3:21


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One Response to “Laudato Si — “Who Am I to Judge?” — Part XI”

  1. ROBERT says:

    As usual, you are a model of an educated Christian. The diocese should consider you in a special place in education at St. Bernard’s! You always bring the truth forward and this is would be a welcome addition to the diocese!

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