Category: Vatican

Met. John of Pergamon

Met. John of Pergamon

At the Vatican press conference on Thursday for the launch of Pope Francis’ enviromental encyclical, a high ranking Greek Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, said the document, titled Laudato Si in Latin or Praise be to You in English, comes at a “critical moment in human history” and will “undoubtedly have a worldwide effect on people’s consciousness.” He thanked the pope for “for raising his authoritative voice to draw the attention of the world to the urgent need to protect God’s creation from the damage we humans inflict on it with our behavior towards nature.”

Zizioulas, an advocate of what he calls “Radical Ecology” (more on that below), was in Rome as the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew whose church for more than three decades  has taken to the bully pulpit of this ancient and oppressed see to advance Christian stewardship of the environment. This is why Bartholomew, who just concluded another environmental conference in Istanbul, is known as the Green Patriarch.

You can read the full text of Zizioulas’ remarks on the Vatican Radio site. How to understand the Orthodox role here? Five things, for starters.

1. Persuasion, not jurisdiction.

Bartholomew’s pronouncements on the environment have been applauded widely by environmental and media elites. Yet his numerous statements and declarations are met with little interest in the self-governed Orthodox churches outside the Greek Orthodox world. Certainly, his statements and endorsements of various United Nations climate treaties are not binding on other churches in any way. In the Orthodox Church, major theological controversies are settled by a council or synod. Debatable environmental stewardship policies and prescriptions don’t rise to this level. When you hear Bartholomew described by his own church or the media as the “spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians” that is true if he were to sit in synod with other Orthodox hierarchs where he is the “first among equals.” An Orthodox Council is in the works for 2016, but there are no momentous theological disputes on the agenda. Bartholomew, while widely revered, would not typically be considered by a Russian or Egyptian or Romanian or Serb or Bulgarian or Syrian as their pastor. They have their own patriarchs and popes. Nor does Bartholomew wield jurisdiction over the self-governed churches in Greece and Cyprus — although closely linked by language and culture and theological tradition to these lands. (more…)

Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board at the Acton Institute and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, penned an exclusive article for the Acton Institute on the economic effect of the encyclical:

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Underestimates Power of the the Market

by Doug Bandow

Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si, offers a challenging read. That’s why he addresses his message to “every person living on this planet.” In his view “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” He advocates not only a practical political response, but more importantly calls mankind to a new “ecological spirituality.”

Indeed, his role, the Pontiff explains, is to help the rest of us apply the “rich heritage of Christian spirituality, the fruit of twenty centuries of personal and communal experience,” to the world around us. The Gospel should affect how we think, feel, and live. We should relate through it not only to people around us, but the entire environment.

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Doug Bandow, advisory board member of the Acton Institute, praises the new encyclical for its understanding of man and religion, but criticizes it for its lack of knowledge of economics and politics in an article for The American Spectator.

Despite his commitment to ecological values, the Holy Father acknowledges that “a return to nature cannot be at the expense of freedom and the responsibility of the human being, that is the part of the world tasked with cultivating its ability to protect and develop their potential.” He also rejects “deification of the earth, which would deprive us of the call to collaborate with it and protect its fragility.”

Nevertheless, humanity’s responsibility for the environment is complex and the Pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor. How to creatively transform but at the same time gently preserve the natural world is not easy. Unfortunately, in its policy prescriptions Laudato Si sounds like it was written by an advocate, largely ignoring countervailing arguments. The resulting factual and philosophical shortcomings undercut the larger and more profound theological discussion.

Read the full article “Praise ‘Be Praised’ for Its Intent, not Execution” at The American Spectator.

 

Peter Johnson, external relations officer for the Acton Institute, discusses the muddled economic message in the recent encyclical for The Federalist:

While I don’t doubt for a moment that Pope Francis sincerely wants to help the poor, I think it would be difficult for even the most erudite Catholic scholars to find a coherent message in a passage like this.

For example, he praises business as a “noble vocation” while summarily disparaging “economies of scale.” While he recognizes that poor people need to be connected to the larger economy to rise out of poverty, he also encourages “civil authorities” to constrain those in the larger economy who actually have the capital to invest in new enterprises.

This vacillation between upholding the merits of enterprise and disparaging profits runs throughout the encyclical. If I could sum up his view on commerce in one sentence it would be this: Business is okay, as long as you don’t make too much money.

Read the entire post “Pope Francis’ Incoherent Economics” here at The Federalist.

Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico made an appearance on America’s News Headquarters on Fox News Channel this afternoon to discuss the impact of Pope Francis’ new encyclical, and to share his thoughts as part of the discussion the Pope has called upon us all to participate in on the state of the environment. You can view his Father’s Day appearance using the video player below.

Jordan Ballor, editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality, joined host Austin Hill on Faith Radio’s Austin Hill in the Morning show on Friday morning to discuss Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si’, and its impact in the broader Christian world beyond the Roman Catholic Church. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.

pope plantToday’s Washington Examiner has a piece that says “conservatives” are slamming Laudato Si’, the new papal encyclical released yesterday. “Slam” may be too strong a word; though there is plenty of vigorous discussion regarding the encyclical.

Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg is quoted in the Washington Examiner piece, and while he is clearly concerned about portions of the encyclical, he does not “slam” this work either.

It tends to characterize free markets as unregulated, which is simply untrue. It also seems to blame markets for so many social ills which may perhaps in the case of developing countries reflect that they don’t have free markets,” Samuel Gregg … told the Washington Examiner.

Gregg said some of the rebukes of the free market system stem from the pope’s Argentine upbringing. He noted the government and religion are more intertwined in Latin America, where states often operate robust social spending programs with an eye toward alleviating poverty. Detractors of such policies have noted the systems prevent foreign investment and trade while awarding handouts to cement political patronage.

The entire piece is available here.

glass ballWho could have predicted, six months ago, what the encyclical Laudato Si’, would hold in store? Seems like Jennifer Roback Morse could.

In a January 2015 piece for The Daily Caller, Morse made some predictions that turned out to be spot on.

 I do not know what he is going to say. Neither, dear reader, does anyone else you are likely to read. However, I can tell you two things that he will certainly not say. And those two unsaid things have the potential to speak volumes, if only we will listen.

  1. He will certainly not say that overpopulation is the cause of any environmental problem. This old trope will be completely absent from the Holy Father’s document.

  2. He will certainly not say that contraception, abortion or sterilization, voluntary or involuntary, are necessary components of any comprehensive solutions to environmental problems.

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laudato_siSamuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, writes in The American Spectator today about Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical which addresses environmental issues. Gregg says that part of the encyclical’s intent is to add to the global discussion regarding the environment and to the climate change debate. However, Gregg believes that the encyclical, rather than enlightening, is muddying the waters.

To be sure, there is much about today’s global economy that merits criticism. The encyclical rightly underscores the problem of bailing out banks at everyone else’s expense (189). Does anyone doubt that, if the world faces another series of major bank failures, governments will behave in exactly the same way, thereby reinforcing the moral hazard problem that’s at the root of so much of the financial sector’s on-going dysfunctionality? The encyclical also suggests, correctly, that despite the events of 2008, there has been a major failure to reform the world’s financial systems (189). Likewise the pope’s tough words for those who regard population growth as somehow damaging the environment and impeding economic development are spot-on (50).

Nonetheless, many conceptual problems and questionable empirical claims characterize the encyclical’s vision of contemporary economic life. In terms of environmental degradation, Laudato Si’ appears oblivious to the fact that the twentieth century’s worst economically driven pollution occurred as a result of centrally-planned state-industrialization schemes in former Communist nations. Anyone who’s visited Eastern Europe or the former USSR and witnessed the often-devastated landscape will quickly attest to the validity of that insight.

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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.

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