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'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis
Retrieved August 31, I've been looking for this kind of thing since forever digital frazzled the world. Dolan, author of The Irish Americans: Retrieved June 16, I mention this in order to move on to my final point:

Andrew J. Bacevich

Army Security Agency Veterans.net

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Meghan Markle's father Thomas 'has received multiple death threats' from a close female friend's violent ex-boyfriend who she also accuses of slashing his tyres The Queen makes even me nervous, says Prince Harry: Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled.

This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change.

As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects or "costs" are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act. This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress , and a powerful illustration of C.

Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his book The Abolition of Man which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough. Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.

Each generation exercises power over its successors; and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors There is therefore no question of a power vested in a race as a whole steadily growing as long as the race survives.

The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future.

This is deeply consonant with Francis's own warning about the illegitimate and destructive exercise of our present power, just to the extent that the attenuation of our bonds of obligation to the environment, to one another and to future generations are all interrelated as Francis puts it, "human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together". For Francis, the only way of interrupting this decline into a state of mutually assured impotence is to recover an intergenerational solidarity par.

The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.

Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Pope Francis's challenge to re-forge a spirit of "generous commitment" - a form of love for "our common home" which cannot help but flow from the proper ordering of our loves, for God, for those near and far, and for those not yet born - is more thoroughgoing than the fads and fashions of public debate will permit. But hopefully these brief observations, along with the stunningly perceptive reflections of the following theologians, philosophers and ethicists that I've invited to assess Laudato Si' , will at least keep the possibility of a different kind of conversation open a little while longer.

Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' could have been written by J. There are no Ents, but images of the Shire are evoked on every page. The first encyclical on the environment is not about climate change per se , but something more fundamental: To speak of "our common home" brackets contentious political policy debates, and draws our imagination back to something intimate, something personal - something pre-political , if you will.

Pope Francis evokes these very personal and intimate images to talk about an ecological crisis that threatens all of us. As so often with this pope, his images are as powerful as the substance of his argument. And the pope's argument is simply this: Our turn away from God is at the root of our self-destructive path. We must return to God. Pope Francis acknowledges a scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and that a large number of human factors are contributing to a self-destructive path.

But he explains that science only gives us part of the picture, and the pope is anti-modern enough to say that only a return to harmony between God and creatures can save us.

Like most encyclicals, many hands make a contribution. Pope Francis, and thus St. Peter, can be heard, and at different levels throughout the page letter. The Holy Father spells out how the papal teaching has been unfolding on both natural and human ecology since Paul VI to St.

It is practically a love-letter to these latter two popes, as their names appear in the footnotes on practically every other page. The Holy Father explicitly says the Church is not providing a uniform set of concrete political policy or economic prescriptions, but rather wants to provide a comprehensive framework, a way of thinking about how we can move ourselves away from a self-destructive path - not only with respect to climate change, but also with respect to the human person, the human family, and those institutions which must carry out a human vocation to protect and serve life, so that we can have something to pass onto our children and our grandchildren.

While many commentators have seen in Pope Francis a like-minded progressive, this encyclical is bound to disappoint ideologues driving at the very "myth of progress. He attacks indifferentism a favorite theme of Pope Leo XIII and the Syllabus of Errors , and he attacks the kind of Gnosticism that constantly lets ideologies triumph over material realities, which does violence to nature itself.

In the hands of Pope Francis, you cannot separate the self-destructive logic that environmentalists have been warning about, from the self-destructive path the whole human family is following. The same Orc-like logic that destroys the earth is also employed in the destruction of unborn children, the elderly and the poor. This is what Pope Francis calls "an integral ecology" - one in which we see the interconnectedness of every living thing, and we see how social decisions have great ramifications on our environment.

Scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history. The pope asks us to let the science touch all of us. Simple things like clean water are now under threat, but the implications are often greater than we know.

Our sterilization of the family, for example, not only harms our social culture, it harms the environment and our food chains too. Studies show that as a direct result of contraceptive chemicals entering into our water supply, we're killing generations of fish, and altering the hormonal balance of our children. Many commentators will suggest that the family is a muted theme in this encyclical, but this doesn't really measure up. While Pope Francis is surely leaving plenty of room for an encyclical on the family in the wake of the upcoming Synod, the family is actually a central theme.

It comes out primarily under the heading of the "the whole human family" under the paternity of God the Father. Francis writes that we are called into being by one Father, and that all of us are linked by unseen bonds.

The human person is foremost a son or daughter of our heavenly Father. He movingly cites the Holy Scriptures: And he quotes his predecessor Benedict XVI: Each of us is willed, each of us loved, each of us is necessary.

This encyclical is no exception. The family is the heart of a culture of life. It mustn't be sterilized or weakened, but protected as the first school of care for creation.

For this reason, the encyclical is utterly scathing about the Malthusian arguments that overpopulation is a cause of harm to the planet. We were created for harmonious relationship with our Creator.

Yet Pope Francis is clear, this original harmony between God and creation was broken by sin, and affects other relationships as well. Pope Francis says our misuse and abuse of the earth stems from a primordial violence which begins in the human heart turning away from God.

Forgetting God as Creator is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, usurping God's power for our own, trampling his creation underfoot. But part of remembering God, is to remember creation itself. And this is where the encyclical brilliantly pulls the theme of creation care into the reality of nature as a prior given reality that cannot simply be manipulated without limit. The myth of progress has caught up with us.

Nature is biting back. There are limits and laws inscribed in nature; there is a grain to the universe; there is a natural law which we can discern, and which we can respect. In this way, the Francis of the Shire reminds us repeatedly in this encyclical that it is not really about the climate per se , but it is about the goodness of nature.

Pope Francis employs a thoroughly Franciscan voice throughout the encyclical, but Ignatian imagery, Benedictine monasteries and Dominican theology are all brought to bear on such questions concerning the goodness of creation. Thomas Aquinas, that when we see the goodness of creation, we see the effects of God's goodness. Indeed, Laudato Si' - "Praised Be" - is precisely the praise to which Pope Francis hopes the reader will be converted: Thomas puts it, God's goodness is communicated to many and diverse creatures so that whole universe participates in the divine goodness.

Pope Francis turns our attention to nature - its cause, source, limits, dignity, laws, our dependence upon it and its future health - in order to turn our attention the author of nature itself.

The Holy Father calls for several conversions in this encyclical. The first is our "ecological conversion" - or our recognition that the Shire is worth saving. That is a kind of existential recognition of "our common home. Yet a kind of mysterious crescendo appears when the Holy Father asks us to meditate on Matthew 8: It is in the Eucharist that our common home is carried up, healed, cleansed, joined to our heavenly home towards which Christians journey.

This is why the image of the Saint is at least as powerful as the image of the Shire in this encyclical. As I've said, the pope is anti-modern enough to say that only a return to harmony between God and creatures can save us.

But what does that harmony really look like for ordinary people? Into the pope's imagined Shire walks the thirteenth century St.

It's hard to overestimate how profoundly infused this encyclical is with St. Francis who turned from a secular path - quite self-destructive in its way - and by grace was converted to Christ.

The harmony with creation that is visible in St. Francis - a harmony that is universally praised and loved - is unintelligible apart from his conversion to Christ, his prayers, his participation in the Eucharist as the joining of our earthly home to God the Father in heaven.

Francis Preaching to the Birds , for he repeatedly lifts up St. Francis as an exemplar, a saint who had found a way to break back into that original harmony between God and his creatures. The earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator. Environmentalists are not anonymous Christians in this encyclical. They see something, though, which the Church also sees from a different height.

The Holy Father asks us to recognize that creation itself is not a policy battle, but our common home. To care for creation is to care for what all of us depend on for our existence. It is a genuinely pre-political common good. The vast majority of people on this planet recognize that this world has a Creator, which we call God. This encyclical is addressed to all people of good will, but it's most basic thesis is that our turn away from God is at the root of our self-destructive path.

He calls the world to conversion. Conversion to God as cause, but then conversion to Christ, who has united this whole world to himself so that we can enter into that original harmony between God and creation.

In this alone, he says, will we find survival "beyond the sun. There will be many who continue to think of Pope Francis as a progressive pope. But conservatives especially should be attracted to his argument that "our common home" is a pre-political common good on which we depend, and which should be con-served.

In this way I think Pope Francis is closer to Tolkien, and to the British conservative and conservationist philosopher Roger Scruton , whose "Green Philosophy" gets very close to the way magisterial teaching on ecology and conservation has been moving. The pope's solutions are not about expanding government, but about expanding every human person, with a proper account of subsidiarity making the family the basic cell, the fundamental unit of creation care. The pope's vision is very much of the Shire.

But what he is really calling us to become is saints! It is unusual for a papal encyclical to be denounced long before it is published.

In the days and weeks leading up to the release of Laudato Si' , conservative critics blasted Pope Francis as a deluded megalomaniac, a dupe of the radical left, even as "the most dangerous person on earth. No doubt, these blasts are part of a package deal that aims to discredit whatever Francis might say. If the pope is a dangerous fool, then everything he says is foolish. Other critics have been less aggressive and hostile, though nonetheless equally dismissive.

According to these folks, the pope is a religious figure. He should stick to matters of faith and morals, and leave science to the scientists and political matters whatever those are to the politicians. The goal of these critics is to make sure that the pope's influence is minimized as much as possible by sequestering him to the private spaces of, say, the bedroom, or the pious spaces of a church building.

When James Inhofe says, "The pope ought to stay with his job," he is voicing one variation on the sentiment that religious leaders serve the increasingly quaint and practically irrelevant role of moral or religious decoration. Why are these people so afraid of Francis and so threatened by this encyclical? Why does he need to be silenced before he has spoken? The short answer is that in this encyclical and in other pronouncements Pope Francis is challenging the way some people think about politics.

More specifically, he is asking fundamental questions about who controls and influences the political process, whose point of view gets maximum representation at the negotiating table, and what goals or ends the political process should be serving. Francis is a threat to the status quo , and those who are benefitting politically and financially from it are terrified at the prospect of losing their position.

The day the encyclical was released I had to get up early to give an interview. The first question the reporter asked was: According to the standard mantra, a growth economy is good for everyone. As the waters rise, everybody's boat rises along with it: Throughout Laudato Si' , Pope Francis writes from the perspective of the world's poor.

In doing so, he is signaling that it is time for us to stop thinking about political and economic matters from the perspective of the world's wealthy elites. Most basically because these elites do not live with the destructive effects of what they are doing. Many of them have little or no idea about the damage and the horror their decisions cause. They do not live in the places of desolation created by their policies, and so cannot imagine that the methods and aims of the dominant economy need be radically rethought.

Francis is not being hyperbolic or hysterical when he says we are living in a "throwaway culture" that is systematically destroying the world's lands and waters and their many creaturely inhabitants , and actively degrading the lives of millions of poor workers and their families. He is being honest. He is revealing what our leaders want to hide. And he is calling politicians and economists to be truthful in their accounting of the benefits and costs associated with their policies.

Francis is happy to celebrate the benefits. But he does not hesitate to denounce as unacceptable - and as sinful! The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. One of the most striking things about Laudato Si' is that Francis is saying the days are over when we could consider policy primarily from the point of view of the powerful.

All people, especially the world's poor, need to have an equal voice at the table of political deliberation. Because these are the people who bear the painful brunt of the decisions that are made. The poor, for instance, need to be at the table when planners and policy makers discuss something like the design of a city simply because it is the poor who have to live there.

Each person, no matter how wealthy or influential they are, deserves a life in which they can fully realize the potential God has given them. That's being decent and humane. Equally significant is the fact that Francis is saying that the earth's creatures need representation too. Someone needs to be speaking up for them because they are being degraded and destroyed daily. The days of anthropocentrism are over. It is time to accept and affirm that every creature is the material expression of God's love, and so deserves to be cherished and celebrated.

God cares about people, for sure. But God also cares about soil, earthworms, bees, chickens, forests, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The world forms a created whole in which each creature depends on all the others. It is heresy to think that God would ever condone the destruction of what God daily loves into being. It is also short-sighted and stupid to destroy the things you need. For too long people have thought that humanity exists in a bubble that floats above planet Earth and its ecosystem processes.

People have presumed that the earth is an inexhaustible store, or a massive stockpile of "natural resources" simply waiting to be mined and consumed by us. This is a fundamental delusion because it presumes that people are exempt from the realities of the carbon cycle, plant and animal physiology, and meteorological processes.

Every time we eat, drink and breathe, we prove that our relation to the earth is not tangential or optional. Nor is it to be taken for granted. It is time for our politicians and business leaders to understand this, repent of their negligence and belligerence, and then to imagine and implement a cleaner, more healthy, more beautiful world. It is not going to be easy. But Laudato Si' is an excellent guide that can help them on their way. Pope Francis did not speak lightly when he said that protecting God's creation is a service that "the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out.

While the encyclical's message will require careful study to appreciate its theological nuances, what is striking from the opening words is the hard-hitting and fervent tone of the language calling on us to change our ways and our social structures to protect the creation:.

We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. Laudato Si' proclaims a theme Francis has stressed in previous public utterances, that exploitative attitudes to the natural environment reflect and spill over into exploitative attitudes towards human beings.

Social relationships, the essence of our humanity, are destabilised when the environment is destroyed. The reason is simple: In words with powerful theological resonance, Pope Francis declares:. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she 'groans in travail' Rom 8: The clamour incited by the encyclical will echo around the capitals of the North, yet Francis's first concern seems to be to send a message of solidarity and compassion to the vulnerable of the South.

While drawing authority from previous encyclicals concerned with the environment - Centesimus annus by John Paul II in , and Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI in - Francis has gone much further, not only with the sternness of his language, but also because Laudato Si' appears at a time of enormous political and world importance. Francis is acutely aware of the political meaning of what he is doing.

In September he is expected to take his ecological message into the belly of the beast - the Republican-dominated United States Congress. Francis is a social radical in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching, but seriously out of step with Catholic conservatives in the United States and Australia. His close linking of the destruction of nature to modern capitalism's rampant environmental exploitation and mindless consumerism rings alarm bells. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.

So it is not only the big polluters, the system itself is in the papal cross hairs. It is little wonder that climate deniers who identify as Catholic have awaited Laudato Si' with dread. The encyclical will form the basis of what is taught from tens of thousands of pulpits and in tens of thousands of schools. Already in the United States, bishops are making plans to amplify the papal message, perhaps by taking up his prayer that the rich and powerful be enlightened so that "may avoid the sin of indifference.

Denier countermoves have been ham-fisted.

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