Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope's "Laudato Si" Encyclical Causing Church Environment Problems

A new encyclical entitled "Laudato Si" is about to be released sometime today - (6 AM Eastern Time) - is causing controversy among Catholics and non-Catholics.  A draft of the encyclical was leaked by L'Espresso magazine and is getting mixed reactions.  In this draft, the Pope is siding with environmentalists and calling attention to global warming and the influence humanity has in this significant alteration of the Earth's climate.

Conservatives are already attacking the Pope based on the leaked draft calling him a "progressive" and even a "communist." Conservatives in the United States for the most part deny that global warming is occurring and believe it is propaganda from the left in order to put restrictions on businesses that generate a lot of profits at the cost of the environment. Even Catholics who adhere to conservative political views are upset at the Pope's involvement in the global warming issue and are siding with their own politics instead of with the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.

In the draft the Pope mainly blames mankind for the world's environmental problems:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,”

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

The Pontiff also condemns those who deny the effects human pollution is having on the environment:

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”

According to the Vatican spokesman, a draft was released to prepare the media for the final release on June 18, 2015 (today).  They were asked not to publish it and were even threatened to be fined and jailed. However, conservative analyst Sandro Magister included the draft in an article.  This upset the Vatican press office who suspended Magister's press credentials and was escorted out.  This suspension was met with negative reception by those in the Church who call themselves "conservative" and are already drumming up conspiracy theories.

GOP presidential candidates, especially Catholic ones are now in an awkward position since now they will have to find a way to balance their Republican anti-global warming views with that of the Pope in this new encyclical.  Candidate, Jeb Bush had this to say:

"ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm."

Catholic politician Rick Santorum even publicly criticized the Church and the Pope in regards to their understanding of science stating:

"The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality,"

Even Bill Donahue of the Catholic league who normally defends the Pope and the Church attacked Pope Francis' academic credentials and downplayed the role of the Church to speak on the environment:

Scientists are optimistic that they have a Pope siding with them.  The majority of the world's scientists are in agreement that global warming is in, fact real and that humanity has a big role in it.
Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech said:

“Someone else who has a lot of influence in the world. So that is so encouraging, so exciting. . . . It’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, the Pope gets it.’ We become scientists because we love science. Communicating . . . we don’t do as well. Now, the Pope is doing that for us.”
The document is expected to be released in a few hours at a news conference attended by a Cardinal from Ghana, an Orthodox priest and an atheist climate scientist indicating that the Pope wants the attention of every global group, not just Catholics.

"Laudato Si" means "praised be" and comes from St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of Creatures" which was composed in 1225.  This is not the first time the Church has spoken on the environment.

Blessed Paul VI wrote in "OCTOGESIMA ADVENIENS:"

The environment
21. While the horizon of man is thus being modified according to the images that are chosen for him, another transformation is making itself felt, one which is the dramatic and unexpected consequence of human activity. Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace - pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity - but the human framework is no longer under man's control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family.
The Christian must turn to these new perceptions in order to take on responsibility, together with the rest of men, for a destiny which from now on is shared by all. 

St. John Paul II addressed members of the United Nations:

"The Church’s commitment to the conservation and improvement of our environment is linked to a command of God. In the very first pages of the Bible, we read how God created all things and then entrusted them to the care of human beings who were themselves created in his image. God said to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1, 28)." 

The Catechism states:

"(339) Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection.  For each one of the works of the 'six days' it is said: 'And God saw that it was good.'  'By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.'[208]  Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.  Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment." 
2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.187

Sacred Scripture:

Genesis 1:26 -  "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'”
Genesis 1:28 -  "God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 
Genesis 2:15 - "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it"

I will update this post as I learn more after the official release of the encyclical "Laudato Si" and will give my thoughts on it as well as its reception by both Catholics and non-Catholics.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  6/18/15  

"Laudato Si" was finally released and has been the talk of the day.  You can read it here:  It was trending on Twitter and other social networks. Surprisingly, it did not get as much "hate" from Catholics who identify as "conservative."  Michael Voris released a video criticizing the Pope for getting "political" and "scientific" but seemed to be content that the text was faithful to the precedent set forth by previous Popes and the teachings of the Church.  He also stated that there is no consensus on climate change from scientists.  This is not true.  The majority of scientists agree that humanity is in fact adding to global warming.  I will get to that later, but first let me give a summary of the encyclical.

The Holy Father begins introducing the problems humanity is facing in regards to our home, the Earth.  Using theology and philosophy, the Pope emphasizes the role humanity places on being stewards of the planet.  Using the latest scientific data on pollution, climate change and how societies contribute to them, the Pope makes his case for humanity to start turning back the tide of self destruction.  He mentions that access to water that is safe and clean is a basic human right. Moreover, he laments the loss of thousands of plant and animal species due to the destruction of the environment.

The Pope then goes into detail regarding the "Gospel of Creation."  He offers the richness of the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition and restates the importance of the responsibility that humanity has in the care of creation and the proper use of its resources.  Pope Francis continues explaining the human ideological roots of the ecological crisis.  From technology, poor business practices, fossil fuels and other abuses, the Pope goes into detail at how these effect our world and our people. He restates that abortion is never justified and even criticizes gender theory stating that we should be happy with the body God has given us.  The document closes with prayers.

"Laudato Si" is a work of art, in my opinion.  The Pope did an excellent job incorporating theology, philosophy, Church teaching, the writings of previous Popes and science.  Catholics who were concerned that the Pope would go apostate were completely mistaken and should ask God for forgiveness for this rash judgment.  Moreover, political conservatives who are criticizing the Pope, one from Fox news even calling him the "most dangerous man in the world," should set aside their ignorance and learn the facts regarding climate change and why calling humanity to care for the world is not a dangerous idea.  Where do these people think they will live if the planet dies?  Will they have their silly political caucuses on the Moon or some other planetary body?  As it stands, no other location in our solar system can allow life as we understand it.  Moreover, even if we find an "Earth-like" world elsewhere, we do not have the technology to reach it.  If we do try to reach it, we may die before we even get there.  The only thing we can do and must do is care for the world we have now, the Earth. The true "dangerous" idea is living in denial as our planet dies.  We must do this even if it means hurting profits.  Life is worth more than money.  We created money and we can create something better that is not dependent on the destruction of human life, non-human life, plants and the world as whole.  

Catholic "Benedict Arnolds"
I am disappointed at Bill Donahue, Michael Voris, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush and other Catholics who are siding with political ideologies than with the Church.  They must be loyal to Christ and His Church before anything else.  As for Santorum and Bush, I understand that they have to "be Republican," but this does not mean that they have to blindly follow political ideologies that disagree with the Church's teaching and common sense.  Moreover, Donahue and his Catholic League were wrong tweeting that the catechism is mute on the environment.  I clearly posted the above paragraphs 339 and 2402 from the catechism which states the importance of caring for the environment and ensuring that the world's resources are used in a way that does not become disastrous for life on Earth and would offend God.  I do not understand why Donahue did not know this existed in the catechism. Moreover, as stated before, Voris' comments regarding the use of science in the encyclical are ignorant.  The majority of scientists all agree that humanity is harming the environment.

Furthermore, while science is not part of "faith and morals," this does not mean Popes cannot use it to make a case.  Condoms, birth control pills, invitro fertilization and other post-modern concepts did not exist thousands of years ago.  If we go back through time and talked to Pope Urban I, Pope Saint Damasus I or Pope Blessed Benedict XI about rubber condoms, birth control pills and/or invitro fertilization they will look at us wondering what we are talking about.  Nevertheless, Popes in modern and post-modern times wrote on them and expounded on Church teachings mentioning these concepts.  Humanae Vitae is an example of this. Blessed Paul VI had scientists and medical professionals explain to him the methods that were being used for birth control and overall reproduction.  They along with other theologians suggested he endorse their use.  However, he did the opposite, but still used the information he learned from them.

This is what Pope Francis did.  He educated himself on the science behind climate and pollution and presented this data using Church teaching so that the text could speak to us today in 2015.  This is genius at work and how the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.  The Church teaches the same teachings that never change using the language of today.  Sacred Tradition is a living tradition.  Ecology and the environment are not "political issues." They are human and non-human issues that effect all of us. God has given us charge to "till the earth and keep it."  This does not mean to destroy or abuse it. Donahue, Voris and any one else in the Church who call themselves "conservative" are wrong for thinking that the Pope speaking on ecology and the environment are "taboo."  As Pope and Vicar of Christ, he must speak out against the abuses that are occurring against the Earth and all life which was created by God.   This abuse has root in an exaggeration of the role of man.  Man is NOT God. We do not have a right to destroy this world just to "better ourselves."  Again, Earth is the only home we have.  If we destroy it, we will not survive.

Climate Change is Real
Studies clearly show that the ice caps are melting at an extraordinary rate.  This is causing an increase of ocean levels as well as the temperature, PH and salt balance of the worlds ocean. While this may not seem like a big deal on paper, in reality it is a big deal.  These gradual changes effect the food chain which in turn effects the many species that reside in the oceans of the world.  This is why we are seeing so many shark attacks.  As their food supply dies off, they go elsewhere for food.  This brings them close to the shore where out of extreme hungry, they attack humans who are nearby on beaches.   Moreover, the change of water temperature interferes with weather patterns since temperature is part of the system that regulates the pressure in the atmosphere.  The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere trap UV rays causing more fluctuations in temperature which bring about storms that may be catastrophic as we have seen recently.  The reality of global warming and climate change is undeniable.  We must care for this planet if we want to exist.  Kudos to Pope Francis for reminding the world of the importance of caring for our beautiful world.  For far too long scientists have been ignored.  Now they have the powerful voice of Rome on their side fighting for our survival.  I end now with a quote from the late Carl Sagan which is appropriate to Laudato Si:

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand."  - Pale Blue Dot



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