Pope Francis Bergoglio’s encyclical Laudato Si’ “on care for our common home” is the first SFIK to have an Italian rather than a Latin title. It is also more significantly unusual in being addressed to “every person living on this planet” (§3). So non-Catholics like me are invited to react.
The praise part is easy. It’s a solid exposition of a theology of creation that most Christians and many followers of other faiths would endorse. The application to climate change and the call to action (§169) is clear and excellently timed, in the runup to the critical Paris climate conference in November. At times it transcends mere soundness and achieves prophetic force:
- “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.” (§11)
- “We can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. … This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” (§59)
- “The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God…” (§83)
The Pope, channelling Francis of Assisi, condemns the instrumental view of animals of Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas:
We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. (§67; see also §221)
Thomists get a consolation citation of their hero in §86. We can expect to see more and stronger Catholic condemnations of factory farming.
The encyclical is far from perfect, and I have my little list of complaints, for what they are worth. Continue Reading…