Many are outraged by the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate, Laudato Si’. They feel that it is an inappropriate focus on the environment with so many other threats to our modern world. They ruminate on concerns that the science on this matter isn’t settled. They are missing the point.
Others applaud the idea that the Pope is giving this issue so much attention, thinking he is going to flip Church teaching on other secular hot button subjects. They are also missing the point.
The Church has an obligation to discuss topics related to the times. There have been encyclicals on everything thing from the threat of Nazi Germany to Birth Control. We either believe that the Church and the Pope are led by the Holy Spirit to guide us, or we don’t. It’s not tidy. It’s not easy. It is an inconvenient Catholic Truth.
While discussing climate and environmental problems may not seem pressing, consider the fact that many people in the world do not have clean drinking water. In the Encyclical it states, “Access to safe, clean drinking water is a basic and universal human right.” It is so easy to get caught up in bills, 401Ks, and employment concerns, that we forget some of the ‘least of our brothers’ can’t even get clean water to drink. As Catholics, this is a conversation we need to participate in.
I have looked over the encyclical, and what struck me most was balance. We like to put everything in a little political box. There is my side and your side…and YOU are wrong. Pope Francis challenges this thinking by being decidedly Catholic. We do not need to agree with all the Pope’s scientific assertions, but we do need to understand and obey the moral or ethical teachings within the information he presents. Both sides will struggle to comply with the ideas he puts forth.
Pope Francis points out the pitfalls of relativism, while still showing us that all things work together as a whole. Matters of human dignity and the environment we steward are intrinsically connected and cannot be disconnected or unwound based on politics. For example, we cannot pursue organic foods while supporting hormonal birth control. It is inconsistent both logically and from a Catholic perspective.
Some might squirm when asked to truly evaluate their impact on the planet. They will have to face demons of consumerism and perhaps greed. Those who often feel they have the moral highroad (due in part to their correct pro-life stance) may be confronted with the lack of resources in the world for others. They may have to be humbled to accept the fact that this pope was led (by the Spirit) to discuss an issue they don’t really see as a problem.
While others, who feel they are showing exceptional love by accepting others exactly as they are, may ‘blip’ over the document’s reminder that we are not in control. God is in control and we can, “lose humility and become enthralled with the possible mastery over everything.” They may not easily accept the teaching that,“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home…whereas thinking we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
These words threaten notions of choosing one’s sex, the need for population control (contraception) and embryonic stem cell research (thereby abortion).
We are challenged to accept ourselves as created and to see the world as precious; we are the stewards of that creation. While God gave us dominion over the world, He did not give us the world. It belongs to the Creator. There is humility in recognizing that He who designed the world and it’s inhabitants knows best how they should function. We may feel there is servility in accepting a teaching that we didn’t recognize a need for.
We can disagree about some aspects of how to accomplish what is the most prudent strategy for protecting our world and its people, but we must pursue the inconvenient Catholic truth in all things. God bless.