Category: Environmental Stewardship

Laudato si coverPope Francis has released his eagerly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. While the document deserves a close reading, it’s extreme length (80 pages/45,000 words) will make it difficult for many people to process. To help highlight some of the key points I’ve produced a section-by-section summary of the entire encyclical.

As with any summary, much of the meaning and context will be lost. But I hope this will provide you with a starting point for greater engagement with the latest edition to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

(more…)

In the early 2000s, I spent two years working for the Peace Corps, teaching subsistence farmers modern beekeeping practices to produce honey for consumption and sale.  Despite the time and distance, I have continued to maintain close relationships with many of the desperately poor people with whom I worked. Because of my experience abroad—living first for years first in Paraguay and then Senegal, West Africa—I have long maintained a nagging sense that modern Western culture has a general apathy toward those in material poverty.

In short, it is my experience that Americans seem to care more about the daily vacillations of stock market than about the plight of those overseas who have unjustly been excluded from world markets.

This Pope gets it: The modern bourgeoisie need a swift kick in the butt. We need to break out of our comfortable cocoon of apathy—not only because loving your neighbor is the way to salvation—but also because apathy oftentimes breeds an unconscious complicity in the exploitation of the poor.

And while Pope Francis clearly has a heart for the poor—in much the same way I do—I am also very troubled by the overall economic incoherence of his message. For example, there is a passage in the encyclical, which explores the type of rural poverty that I experienced in Paraguay:
(more…)

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, spoke with Business Spectator about the economic message of the new encyclical:

When you read through the text, you find the free market, and finance in particular, is identified more or less as responsible for many environmental problems, Dr Gregg said.  It’s almost a subterranean theme of the encyclical …In many respects it’s a caricature of market economies.

Read more at “Pope Delivers Strong Message on Climate Change.” from Business Spectator.

The editors at The Stream put together this list of 11 things about Laudato Si that probably won’t be in the headlines:

(1) Creation has a Creator, and is more than just “nature-plus-evolution”:

(75) A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshiping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality. (more…)

640x0When Pope Francis releases his encyclical tomorrow there is a group of Christians that will be eager to respond: American evangelicals.

Rather than responding based on what we read in the headlines, says Spence Spencer, evangelicals should read the encyclical in light of historic Roman Catholic teaching:

Whatever the content of the new encyclical is, we must read it in concert with previous teachings of the Church. Laudato Si will not undermine the Catholic Church’s basic teachings about the value of human life nor authorize concern for the environment to the neglect of concerns for human flourishing. The basic teachings about the special place for humans in creation as stewards exercising responsible dominion over the created order have been a central teaching in the Catholic tradition. Additionally, opposition to population control measures through the prohibition of most forms of birth control and rejection of abortion are rooted in the foundations of Catholic social teaching.

In addition to these basic, biblical forms of stewardship, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently emphasized the principle of subsidiarity, which encourages finding solutions in communities closer to the problem. It pushes against collectivism and excessive governmental coercion. Subsidiarity affirms the dignity of humans and the importance of human freedom. We should keep these things in mind in light of the content of Laudato Si.

For more on the Acton Institute’s coverage of the encyclical, see Acton Speaks on the Environment.

Alejandro Chafuen, member of the Board of Directors of the Acton Institute, discusses the theology, science, and political impact of Pope Francis’ environmental statements:

Although the Pope writes and speaks as he is not an expert on bio-technology—allowing for differences of opinion—when he speaks about political economic topics he does it with conviction and certainty. Like other Church documents, this one again cautions that “on many concrete issues the Church has no reason to propose a final word” and that it promotes and respects honest debate among scientists respecting the diversity of opinion. But on economic topics, “Laudato Si” seems one sided. A major guiding document of the Catholic Church, “Gaudium et Spes” (36:7), deplores “certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.”

If the Social Doctrine of the Church is seen as teaching one sided views on solar panels, carbon credits, or climate change, it might put into question the credibility of its other teachings as well.

Read “Pope Francis and the Environment:  Sound Theology, Politicized Science?” at Forbes.com.

Speaking to the New York Times, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, addresses the potential political fallout from the Pope’s encyclical statements on climate change:

From the moment he steps into that chamber and talks about climate change, it’s going to be taken as a political statement,” said the Rev. Robert Sirico, executive director of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a policy group that endorses free-market economics. “For the conservatives, it’s going to be very uncomfortable. Republicans are going to have a hard time on the environment.

Read “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates” in the New York Times.

Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute:

“Pope Francis has spoken consistently about the need to end exclusion for the world’s poor.  Since the environmental movement often neglects the challenges of the poor, it will be interesting to see how the encyclical addresses the call to environmental stewardship in the context of poverty and economic development. “

Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome:

“The fact that this draft has been leaked well in advance of the encyclical’s official release shows the great interest in what Pope Francis has to say about the environment. To be sure, he will frame the issues in Christian terms, as the pope must always do. My concern is that he will blame the market economy for basically all our environmental degradation and neglect the very important role private property and free enterprise have in protecting the environment and allowing people to live freely and responsibly.”

Speaking on The Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV on Friday, Rev. Robert Sirico addressed questions regarding the new papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, which reportedly will be released this week.

Sirico commented on Pope Francis’ tendency to speak “off the cuff,” saying this may be exploited by the press or others who simply want to push their own agenda regarding the environment and climate change. Sirico also expressed trepidation regarding the pontiff’s plan to address a joint session of Congress during his U.S. visit in September.

Had I been asked, and I wasn’t, on whether the Pope should address the joint session of Congress, I would’ve said no,” Sirico said.

Why? Because it lends a whole political atmosphere to whatever he’s going to be saying to the Congress.

There’s no way the Pope is going to come out of that chamber without people putting a political spin on it whether to the right or the left,” Sirico said.

The Pope is visiting us not as the head of Vatican City State, not as a politician, not as a monarch, but as a pastor, as a bishop.”