Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Laudato Si — Foreword

September 6th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Note this Foreword is not listed in the series of Chapter Part numbers, but is a Preface to those parts.


Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, first caught my attention in February, 2015 when I realized he had embraced the current Global Warming / Climate Control allegations fully.  I immediately began to think of Pope Urban VIII’s asserting a  geocentric theory of the universe, obviously without proof, and I cringed at the thought, since global warming also is unproven, that such an Encyclical would cause the Catholic Church, which should be a bastion of Truth on every level, to be open to criticism and ridicule.  In a wider sense, Laudato Si also loomed as being, in its own time, “geocentric” as well, focused as it is on the planet.

Nine months before learning of the impending Encyclical, I had written an opinion piece for a local newspaper and that opinion has not changed, even with Pope Francis’s accepting global warming as a premise for a new encyclical.  It would be less than honest not to place, right here in the Foreword, that I have asserted and have continued to assert that global warming (and its follow-on designation of climate control to cover the embarrassment of global cooling data) is unproven, but not necessarily untrue.  The point is that we simply do not know if it is true or not, for a number of reasons.  Intellectual honesty does not entitle us to proceed as if what is unproven is therefore true, or to yield to any interpretation beyond the data.

What is the harm in “acting as if” global warming / climate change is true?  Answer: a government (which should have a fiduciary duty to its citizens) is irresponsible as a public steward when it asserts something is true, funds it with extensive monetary resources and human energy, distracts from more important needs and priorities, all based on what “might or might not” be true.  It redirects action from where real attention is needed and forces choices that should not be required to be made.  A number of those choices will directly take aid from the poor, whom Pope Francis has often recognized as one of his top concerns.

Initial Concerns

Not being aware of what I would find in the Encyclical, I nevertheless had a general wariness about any alignment with those who have promulgated the global warming consensus, as well as an orientation from my own background in science and business and, to some extent, in philosophy (especially logic), about the riskiness of building a temple upon the shaky ground of the unproven and still disputed.  Eventual denial understandably leads to half-truth, which is no truth at all.  Allegation and distraction become even more of a problem when the Church founded by Jesus Christ, Truth Himself, calls for action on something which may or may not be true.  Hence, it was for this reason, I felt compelled to read Laudato Si fully, and carefully.  It was the result of that reading which compelled me to share what I observed as numerous on-line posts, leading (I hope) to a monograph.

Start to finish, this has not been a project I have wanted to do.  Although I have had a free will choice whether or not to do so, I have not had a conscience choice.  In my soul, I have felt a strong call to respond, for the sake of Truth.  As a scientist by education and training, I have likewise felt an obligation to respond to non-scientific allegations based on the fallacy of ‘consensus’, as if global warming and climate change are ‘proven’. Consensus is no respecter of Truth.  If it were, we would not have the permissive social environment in which we all live today,  impacting souls even more than theoretical changes in the physical, earthly environment.  And no organization, more than the Catholic Church, should be making that point in Truth.

Dear Pope Francis,

However, it is not easy to dismiss the encyclical entirely on such a basis without fully considering the text.  And, because of the office Pope Francis holds, considering what he has written in serious detail is merited just because he is the Vicar of Christ.

My first thought was not to wait for the Encyclical, but rather to write to Pope Francis directly and express concern before publication.  Actually, I did write that letter, revised it several times, but did not send it.  Partly I held back because the global warming issue morphed into other concerns and the letter format became unwieldy.  Many of those concerns did make their way into the Encyclical, and into these writings; i.e. the risk of pantheism, syncretism, and confusion with the sustainability agenda, for example.  I also tried to revise that letter into an article for a respected journal, but as the weeks ticked by and publication of the Encyclical drew closer (with some of the content leaked in the popular press) it seemed to call for waiting for the actual publication of Laudato Si.  And, if my prior experience holds true, many publications want to wait to see what the consensus is among serious writers before choosing a platform from which to laud or pummel.

Reading the Encyclical

I remember that about a decade ago, a quite liberal pastor and his “committees” made recommendations for Lenten Sacrifices (which should be prayer, fasting and almsgiving) for recycling and cleaning up the environment.  I remember others in that parish, myself included, being outraged by shortchanging God in order to do what is already a duty, i.e. to keep clean what God has given us, with the consequential benefit of improving our own personal environment.  (It had seemed a bit reminiscent of choosing to diet for Lent!  Would that be for God or for myself?)  Yet as outrageous as such proposed “environmental sacrifices” seemed at that time, have I not just read a lengthy encyclical which seems, at least in theory, not all that far away from the same mindset?  That very memory seemed to increase the urgency to read Laudato Si carefully, and to respond to its invitation for dialogue.

When I finally held the 246 paragraph, 183 page, 40,593 word document in hand, and began reading, it seemed that waiting had indeed been the better choice (not mine, but the circumstances).  In the reading, new issues emerged which I had not thought to address (like world government intervention and collectivism or socialism as a not-so-hidden agenda.)  Furthermore, a few Catholics, whose insight and opinions I value, related that they had no intention of reading the document; a few others did try to read it, but later reported giving up after about 30 pages.  From feedback, the reasons they abandoned the effort were due to some combination of difficult-to-follow, convoluted reasoning, the repetitive nature of certain points, an unclear interface between the environment and the agenda for the poor (an undefined term throughout) ,  the intimidation of “consensus science,” just plain busyness or lack of interest, or some other unarticulated reason.

Concerns Emerge

As I began to read Laudato Si, an even greater concern than “scientific truth” emerged, i.e. its open advocacy for certain positions which bring us dangerously close to alignment with enemies of Catholic Teaching, an alignment which should not be done as casually as seems to be the impression from this Encyclical, and in the apparent expectation of its acceptance.  For example, the global warming scenario has been advocated from the highest levels of the now incumbent U.S. government administration, an administration which has also pressured for expanded abortion, defended its assault on religious liberties of Catholic organizations which refused to fund contraception, and insultingly bathed the White House in “rainbow” lights to celebrate the Supreme Court’s institutionalizing same-sex unions.  In the international arena, Laudato Si aligns with individuals and organizations such as the United Nations in its sustainability jargon, a code word for abortion, contraception and euthanasia as strategies to reduce the population of planet Earth.  Laudato Si sadly lacks a clear, firm declaration against these enemies of Catholic Teaching in the areas in which those advocates and lobbyists are in error. For any of those reasons, and for all of those reasons and more, there were sufficient reasons to try to digest the Encyclical.  Among the first problems encountered was the need to read the Encyclical as a translation, which places significant weight on the shoulders of the translators. In dialoguing after reading, the difficulty ultimately encountered was to re-sort excerpts into topic areas, developing a matrix needed to analyze the original text.  But the commitment to follow through to completion and to publish the review only strengthened over the ensuing weeks as the difficulties rose.

Blog Publishing

Prior to reading the Encyclical in its entirety, and in order to facilitate a fresh look, I abstained from reading all other published articles until completely finished writing.  I finished reading the Encyclical in its entirety with margin notes before publishing anything except Part I, which describes the orientation with which I planned to approach the task.  That subject areas were proposed to the blogsite readers to critique.  Ultimately, I published each installment soon after it was finished, section by section on as a 15 part series, over 2 months, with a few responses registered from the blog readers. Other articles were suggested to me but I read none of them, pending completion of this review.  Since writing, I have only made some clarifications where needed, and edits of some redundancies. All the subjects shown in the original work-plan (Part I) were covered, plus a few others which were raised, for example, by collectivist comments and certain prayers suggested in the Encyclical. The order of presentation of subject areas was changed to allow for better flow.

The same Encyclical paragraph may be referenced more than once, if it touches, for example, on multiple areas for focus. Finally, before writing the Conclusion, I reread the entire encyclical, for the sake of verifying tone, meaning, and objectives, and to be sure nothing was over-emphasized or under-emphasized inappropriately.

Infallibility and Dialogue

It would be a mistake to think this publication is offered without having seriously considered the appropriateness of doing so, or without prayer and seeking guidance from above.  Further, it is well to examine, for this situation, what permission the Church herself gives to the Faithful engaging in review or criticism, and how it applies in this situation.

Canon Law 212

One particular Canon most applicable to members of the Christian Faithful expressing their opinion is Canon 212, especially Canon 212 §3.  The Canon is worth reproducing in its entirety:

Canon 212

  • 1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
  • 2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
  • 3.  According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

While it isn’t necessary or even possible to apply Canon 212 to every situation, nevertheless there is some comfort in the underlying assumption that laity does indeed have a right (“and even at times the duty”) to express opinions on matters for the “good of the Church”.

Pope Francis’s Invitation to Dialogue

Without needing to rely on Canon 212, there is an explicit invitation in Laudato Si for dialogue (25x), for discussion (6x) and for debate (12x)  on the subjects therein.  While one might hesitate to give input, in the face of explicit dogmatic and moral proclamations, any such reticence is more than compensated by Pope Francis’s repeated and mitigating invitation to dialogue on the matters expressed in Laudato Si.  Since there are few mechanisms within the reach of the laity to engage in such dialogue, and most of us are not likely to be guests of a Synod, our letters, articles, monographs, books and websites are among the relevant current means for achieving such discussion, input and response.   I take the Holy Father at his word that he desires such dialogue.

The following are examples, with paragraph numbers, of explicit invitations to dialogue and debate:

“We need a conversation which includes everyone….” (#14)

“…the need for forthright and honest debate….” (#16)

“…a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions.” (#60)

“…honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” (#61)

“…science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” (#62)

“The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought….” (#63)

“…this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation….” (#64)

If it were not for Pope Francis’s invitation to dialogue and debate, I am not sure I would have done this review and analysis.  If it were not for the Apostle Paul’s challenging  (Galatians Chapter 2) our beloved first Pope Peter (Cephas) to his face, I might have cowered at the thought of disagreeing even on a matter not of “faith and morals”.  And if were not for the moxie of St. Catherine of Siena, who spoke frankly to Pope Gregory XI, I might have lacked peace in doing so.  I have tried my best to write in a way respectful of the Holy Father, even though disagreeing with and being disappointed by many things he has written.  To the extent I have failed, I apologize, and will try to correct my words in any subsequent revisions.  I give all credit to the Holy Spirit for leading and sustaining me in anything of value and Truth; everything of value is a credit to the Holy Spirit’s patience with me. And I accept all blame myself for any errors; mistakes are mine alone.

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3 Responses to “Laudato Si — Foreword”

  1. II Cor 2.11 says:

    Wonderful forward, Diane. You are a brave soul! I can no longer hear the phrase “global warming” or “sustainability” without feeling the weight of a ton or two of pure and unadulterated ideology. These are loaded terms with little to do with true science.
    I hope you will be able to send the HF a precis or summary of the points you have made. You are right – he wants input, discussion and dialog. God bless you for taking on this project.

  2. raymondfrice says:

    An excerpt from a recent “Catholics On Line ” article.

    Pope Francis must steel himself for criticism following the publication of his encyclical on the environment, the Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru says. “(The encyclical) will have many critics, because they want to continue setting rules of the game in which money takes first place. We have to be prepared for those kinds of attacks.”

  3. raymondfrice says:

    Catholic Criticism of the Pope | National Review Online…/criticizing-catholic-critics-la..

    Perhaps of general interest??

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