Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis: "Laudato Si'" : Reactions and Commentary (Roundup)


Reactions and Commentary

Rounding up for reference's sake and to chart the diverse (and ideologically-fueled) reactions from all quarters. It goes w/o saying but I'll say it anyway: reading somebody else's commentary is no excuse for not reading the actual text of the encyclical itself. - Christopher

  • Is Less Really More? Reflections on Scarcity in “Laudato Si’”, by Michael Severance. Catholic World Report 07/17/15. "What might be the problem with the pope’s economic claim that we should consume less in order to have more resources?"

  • A Prophetic Pope and the Tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, by Fr. Robert Barron. National Catholic Register 07/14/15:
    ... He asks, “Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?” He is not speaking here of the market as such, but of a deeply immoral attitude that has seized the hearts of too many who use the market. And he complains, “An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women.” These are strong words indeed, but we notice again that the Pope’s attention is not so much on the mechanisms of capitalism, but rather on the wickedness of those who are using the market economy in the wrong way, greedily making an idol of money and becoming indifferent to the needs of others.

  • The Weakness of Laudato Si, by R.R. Reno. First Things 07/01/15:
    Let me be clear. I’m not criticizing Laudato Si for its substantive claims. I’m not competent to contest claims about global warming, nor am I an expert in the economics of development. In any event, I agree with Pope Francis’s main point. Although I would put the substantive issues differently, I share his view that the triumph of global capitalism poses significant and fundamental challenges that we must address—and that are going to be difficult to address because of the technocratic domination of our moral imaginations and the very terms of public debate.

    All the more reason why we need teaching, not just exhortation and denunciation. It won’t do to blame our difficulties on “those who consume and destroy,” or to insinuate, as Francis so often does, that the rich and powerful stand in the way of ecological ideals and a just social order. This is cheap populism that falsifies reality. The global ecological movement is a rich-country phenomenon funded and led by the One Percent. And it’s beside the point. If global warming presents such an immediate and dire threat, then we need clearly enunciated principles to guide our participation in debates about what’s to be done, not rhetoric. The same is true of the pressing need to encourage economic development that promotes human dignity.

  • The Theological Mind of Laudato Si’, by Eduardo Echeverria. Homiletic and Pastoral Review 06/27/15:
    my approach to the encyclical is to consider the theological mind that informs its framework. Helpfully, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (hereafter CCSD) organizes the Church’s social teaching, which has a theological-moral nature, in light of a set of distinctions that will, arguably, illuminate the architectonic framework of this encyclical. This set consists of: (1) the foundational level of motivations; (2) the directive level of norms for life in society; and (3) the deliberative level of consciences, called to mediate objective and general norms in concrete and particular situations (CCSD, §73). I now will provide a brief exposition of Francis’s encyclical in light of each of these levels in order to get at his theological mind ...

  • Where Did Pope Francis’s Extravagant Rant Come From?, by Maureen Mullarkey. The Federalist. 06/24/15:
    Propelled by the cult of feeling and Golden Age nostalgia—enshrined in the myth of indigenous peoples as peaceable ecologists—that elusive something picked up a tincture of Teilhardian gnosticism as it grew. It bursts on us now as “Laudato Si,” a malignant jumble of dubious science, policy prescriptions, doomsday rhetoric, and what students of Wordsworthian poetics call, in Keats’ derisive phrase, "the egotistical sublime."

    See also from The Federalist:

    • Pope Francis, The Earth Is Not My Sister, by Hans Fiene. The Federalist 06/23/15. "The pope thinks we should view the earth as our sister. I don’t, mainly because I have a sister. While my sister and I have had our disagreements over the years, I haven’t spent my entire life trying to stop her from killing me."
    • Pope Francis’s New Encyclical Isn’t What You Think, by Rachel Lu. The Federalist 06/23/15. "Conservatives should see Pope Francis’s encyclical as an opportunity to reflect on the ever-pressing need to respond to the dehumanizing pressures of the modern world."
  • The Miracle of Pope Francis, by William McGurn. Wall Street Journal 06/22/15:
    Other popes have issued bracing critiques of modern Western culture. Pope Francis, however, goes deeper. This encyclical is less a corrective to the excesses of science and technology and markets than it is an argument that they are fatally flawed.

  • The modern world's case against Pope Francis, by Damon Linker. The Week 06/23/15. "I's impossible not to be impressed with the theological and moral seriousness of Laudato Si', Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. Whether it's politically and economically wise is another matter."

  • The Fatal Errors of Capitalism: Laudato Si’ & the Economy, by Keith Michael Estrada. (Guest Post) Cosmos in the Lost 06/20/15:
    While mentioning capitalism by name could be imprudent for Francis, any reader could make the following conclusion not only after reading Laudato, but after familiarizing ourselves with moral theology: the church invites us to go beyond capitalism. Not merely crony capitalism, nor mercantile capitalism, nor industrial capitalism, nor monopolistic capitalism, nor any other capitalism that could in reality be distinguished from US capitalism. Capitalism has got to go.

  • The Encyclical's Challenge is to Climate-Change Activists, not Skeptics, by Oren Cass. National Review 06/19/15. "Activists looked forward to bringing their opponents copies of the encyclical and asking, “Do you agree with the pope?” But the better question is for the activists: Do you?"

  • What Laudato Si' is really about, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture. 06/19/15:
    Laudato Si’ is addressed to everyone in the entire world, not just Catholics, and not just Christians. The Pope sees that a mistaken understanding of nature, and of our role in nature, causes problems for everyone. (In fact, even if none of these problems had yet occurred, our mistaken approach to nature would inevitably cause them over time.) He sees that we have a strongly instrumentalized vision of nature. We regard it, in essence, as a kind of accident demanding technological mastery and manipulation for our own self-centered purposes.

    Nor is it any use criticizing the Pope for choosing to write on this topic, when (as many might say) “there are so many more pressing moral issues.” The whole point of the encyclical is that this instrumentalization of nature is a foundational problem. It shapes everything we do, including the pervasive contemporary tendency to undertake ever more grotesque and peculiar manipulations of nature in order to escape from despair. This instrumentalization poisons everything, not only our environment but our self-understanding. It affects our use of our own bodies, our grasp of the meaning and purpose of our sexuality, the relations between the sexes, and our attitude toward children, marriage and family life.

    This instrumentalization of nature causes us not only to abuse and dispose of the poor and marginalized through garden-variety selfishness. It is even worse than that. It causes us to abuse and dispose of ourselves.

  • Vatican's Climate Expert, an Atheist, Speaks on Impact of Leader of World's 1.2B Catholics Tackling Environment Issue Zenit. "Only if we get our acts together will the climate crisis problem be able to be overcome. This is the conviction of Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has been a right-hand expert for Pope Francis' just-released encyclical on ecology." Interview with Deborah Castellano Lubov. Zenit News. 06/19/15.

  • “Laudato Si’”, the anti-gnostic encyclical, by Gianni Valente. "The Vatican Insider" La Stampa 06/19/15. The Christian experience of creation described in the papal document also acts as an antidote to old and new doctrines that spurn creation as an “evil” that needs to be overcome (even through ecological destruction).

  • A Magnificent, Wonderful Encyclical, by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. Sancrusis 06/19/15:
    Pope Francis has indeed penned a cri de coeur against the destruction of God’s beautiful creation, the marring of the creatures whom God has given as so many words revealing his beauty and love, and the impoverishment and debasement of man, the destruction of human culture, and the oppression of the poor and murder of the innocent that have been the price of “progress.” But Laudato Si’ is much more than a cry of protest against the evils of modernity. What makes this a truly great and moving and beautiful encyclical is the magnificent exposition of another view of reality: a description of the true nature of the created order, in all its marvelous and interconnected glory, and of the true rôle of man as the gardener of this garden of wonders. Pope Francis’s style can at times be a tad bit rambling and prolix, and he lacks the incisive and subtle intellectual argumentation of Pope Benedict’s writings, but the shear wonder and love that suffuse Laudato Si’ makes this work of his rise to a very high level.

  • "Laudato Si": Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed, by Samuel Gregg. The American Spectator. 06/19/15:
    while most of the text’s reflections upon public policy issues focus on the environment, a subterranean theme that becomes decidedly visible from time-to-time is the encyclical’s deeply negative view of free markets. This would confirm that this pontificate’s reaction to respectful questions asked about the adequacy of the economic analysis contained in Francis’s 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has been to simply recycle (no pun intended) some of that document’s demonstrably flawed arguments concerning the market economy’s nature and effects. ...

  • Mixing Up the Sciences of Heaven and Earth, by Fr. George W. Rutler. Crisis:
    It is noteworthy that Pope Francis would have included in an encyclical, instead of lesser teaching forms such as an apostolic constitution or motu proprio, subjects that still pertain to unsettled science (and to speak of a “consensus” allows that there is not yet a defined absolute). The Second Vatican Council, as does Pope Francis, makes clear that there is no claim to infallibility in such teaching. The Council (Lumen Gentium, n.25) does say that even the “ordinary Magisterium” is worthy of a “religious submission of intellect and will” but such condign assent is not clearly defined. It does not help when a prominent university professor of solid Catholic commitments says that in the encyclical “we are about to hear the voice of Peter.” That voice may be better heard when, following the advice of the encyclical (n.55) people turn down their air conditioners. One awaits the official Latin text to learn its neologism for “condizione d’aria.” While the Holy Father has spoken eloquently about the present genocide of Christians in the Middle East, those who calculate priorities would have hoped for an encyclical about this fierce persecution, surpassing that of the emperor Decius. Pictures of martyrs being beheaded, gingerly filed away by the media, give the impression that their last concern on earth was not climate fluctuations.

    Saint Peter, from his fishing days, had enough hydrometeorology to know that he could not walk on water. Then the eternal Logos told him to do it, and he did, until he mixed up the sciences of heaven and earth and began to sink. As vicars of that Logos, popes speak infallibly only on faith and morals. They also have the prophetic duty to correct anyone who, for the propagation of their particular interests, imputes virtual infallibility to papal commentary on physical science while ignoring genuinely infallible teaching on contraception, abortion and marriage and the mysteries of the Lord of the Universe. At this moment, we have the paradoxical situation in which an animated, and even frenzied, secular chorus hails papal teaching as infallible, almost as if it could divide the world, provided it does NOT involve faith or morals.

  • Pope Francis Is Wrong about Air Conditioning, by Shubhankar Chhokra. National Review 06/18/15. "Pope Francis’s aversion to air conditioning may be red hot, but he himself is comfortably cool."

  • Metropolitan Zizioulas: "Laudato Si’ is an occasion of great joy and satisfaction for the Orthodox" "Vatican Insider" La Stampa 06/18/15. Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon’s address for the launch of Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical Laudato Si’. At the presentation which took place in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican this morning, the Metropilitan, acting as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, communicated the Patriarch’s “personal joy and satisfaction” for the issuing of the encyclical. [Click link for full text].

  • "Laudato Si" focuses on the heart of man and the disorders of our age, by William L. Patenaude. Catholic World Report 06/18/15. "The central thesis is that the fallen nature of the human heart and the resulting brokenness of human relations is the cause of the crises in our lives, families, nations, and now the life-sustaining ecosystems that form our common home."

  • The challenge of Laudato Si, by Phil Lawler. Catholic Culture. 06/18/15. "But if you think Laudato Si is about climate change, I suspect you might also think that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about suicide. Yes, the topic is mentioned; indeed it’s a very important part of the story. But it’s not the main theme."

  • If ‘Laudato Si’ is an earthquake, it had plenty of early tremors, by John Allen, Jr. Crux 06/18/15.
    Laudato Si seems destined to go down as a major turning point, the moment when environmentalism claimed pride of place on a par with the dignity of human life and economic justice as a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. It also immediately makes the Catholic Church arguably the leading moral voice in the press to combat global warming and the consequences of climate change.

    In truth, however, none of that should be any surprise to those familiar with official Catholic teaching on the environment as it’s evolved over the last half-century.

  • Let's listen to the Pope on the Climate, by Josiah Neeley. First Things 06/18/15:
    What’s significant about Laudato Si is not that it adds anything new of substance to what scientists, economists, or prior popes have said about climate change. Rather, the encyclical is likely to be significant simply by raising the salience of the climate issue. The Great Recession temporarily knocked climate change off the front pages, and it’s an issue that a lot of us would prefer not to think about. But as 2015 appears headed to shatter another temperature record, it is becoming clearer that the climate change issue isn’t going away. One way or another, we will have to deal with it. Laudato Si is simply Pope Francis’s attempt to make our response more fruitful.
  • Pope Francis wants to roll back progress. Is the world ready?, by Matthew Schmitz. The Washington Post 06/18/15:
    Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment, is the work of a profoundly pessimistic man. John Paul II may have spoken of the “culture of death” and Benedict XVI of the “dictatorship of relativism,” but not since the publication of the Syllabus of Errors in the nineteenth century has a leader of the Catholic church issued a document so imbued with foreboding.
  • The Return of Catholic Anti-Modernism, by R.R. Reno. First Things 06/18/15:
    I must report an odd, disoriented feeling when I finished reading Laudato Si. Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has adopted a largely affirming attitude toward Western modernity. John Paul II denounced the culture of death and Benedict XVI spoke of the dictatorship of relativism. But in their teaching it was clear that they intended these as necessary criticisms to restore the religious and moral basis for modernity’s positive achievements.

    Pope Francis seems to be changing course. Laudato Si does not explain how modern science can recover a sense of humility and wonder, nor does it lay down a natural-law framework for the proper development of technology. There’s no application of Catholic social doctrine to help us think in a disciplined way about how to respond to environmental threats, or how to reform global capitalism. That would have reflected the Gaudium et Spes agenda as carried forward by the last two popes.

    Instead, Francis has penned a cri de coeur, a dark reflection on the systemic evils of modernity. Like the prophet Ezekiel, Pope Francis sees perversion and decadence in a global system dominated by those who consume and destroy. The only answer is repentance, “deep change,” and a “bold cultural revolution.”

    If Francis continues in this trajectory, Catholicism will circle back to its older, more adversarial relationship with modernity. In the nineteenth century, the Church regarded modernity’s failure to acknowledge God as damning. It led to usurpations of authority, disrespect for hierarchy, and other signs of anthropocentric self-regard. Francis’s concerns are different. He’s worried about the poor, environmental disasters, and the complacent rich indifferent to both. But his analysis is the same, and he shares a similar dire, global view of modernity as the epitome of godless sin.

  • Ideology Subsumes Empiricism in Pope's Climate Encyclical, by Lawrence M. Krauss. Scientific American 06/18/15 -- is, what you would say, entirely predictable from the perspective of a scientific materialist:
    No one can fault Pope Francis’s intentions, which are clearly praiseworthy, but his call for action on climate change is compromised by his adherence to doctrines that are based on revelation and not evidence. The Catholic Church and its leaders can never be truly objective and useful arbiters of human behavior until they are willing to dispense with doctrine that can thwart real progress.
  • Rush Limbaugh (Facebook) 06/18/15: "A man of religion, the Vicar of Christ, seems to have fallen in with the communist way of doing things: Controlling mankind through command-and-control governments backed by police or military power. This is what the pope is essentially calling for."

  • The Theological Heart of Laudato Si', by David Cloutier. Commonweal 06/18/15:
    The overall effect o the encyclical is undeniable: this is a sweeping call for change, deeply rooted in a Catholic worldview, one that burrows into every facet of our lives and deeply into the human heart, as well. Francis is here confirming what many have said: the environmental crisis is really the key to economic questions, sexual questions, spiritual questions. It is the key to everything, because the message of environmentalism is, as Francis repeats many times in the document, “everything is connected.” It is extremely telling that the “official” date of the document is Pentecost. This “birthday of the Church” is importantly about what the Church is for: not itself, but for the redemptions and renewal of all of God’s creation.
  • What the Environmental Encyclical Means: A roundup of expert analysis America Magazine. 06/18/15. [Panel discussion].

  • The Pope’s Encyclical, at Heart, Is About Us, Not Trees and Snail Darters, by George Weigel. National Review 06/18/15:
    It is probably inevitable that Laudato Si will get labeled “the global-warming encyclical” and that the label will stick. This will please some and displease others, and they will have at each other — which is no bad thing if it helps clarify that there is no simple path to meeting the twin goals of environmental protection and the empowerment (through economic development) of the poor. But the label will be misleading, I think, not because there isn’t a lot about climate change in the encyclical, but because that’s, to my mind, the least important part of Francis-the-pastor’s call to a more integral, indeed more humanistic, ecology.
  • Pope Blames Markets for Environment’s Ills Wall Street Journal 06/18/15. "... a broad and uncompromising indictment of the global market economy, accusing it of plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and of future generations."

  • The Pope’s Moral Case for Taking On Climate Change, by Emma Green. The Atlantic 06/18/15. "Francis’s first encyclical is a cry to save the environment—and make a priority of theology over politics."

  • Pope Francis’ leaked encyclical: the good and the bad, by Christopher Ferrara. Lifesite New 06/17/15.

  • 10 Things That Won’t Be In Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, by Larry D. Acts of the Apostasy 08/16/15. "Al Gore will not be declared a Doctor of the Church, and "An Inconvenient Truth" will not be required viewing for RCIA classes."

  • Thinking About Climate Change, DarwinCatholic 06/17/15.

  • Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:
    Perhaps we can pay as much attention to the sections on markets and environment, as the catholic Left pays to Humanae vitae.

    When the libs shove it in our faces and command us to accept every word, we can pay as much attention to it as they gave to Summorum Pontificum.

  • The Pope and climate change: Francis is slapping his conservative critics in the face, by Damian Thompson. The Spectator UK. 06/17/15. "Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment comes down firmly on the side of the global warming consensus/lobby (delete according to taste) and is a slap in the face to climate sceptics of every hue. Thwack! It’s very much this Pope’s style."

  • The Last Time Conservatives Dismissed a Major Encyclical, It Ended Terribly for Them, by Jet Heer. The New Republic 06/18/15. "The Mater et Magistra dispute led to many ironic consequences. In defending National Review’s capitalist Catholicism, Buckley and Wills had provided a rationale for social liberals to ignore church teachings on sexual matters, which was especially pertinent after the Vatican released the encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), reiterating opposition to birth control and abortion."

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