Monday, October 26, 2015

Just Thoughts: Pope Francis' Encyclical--on Healing the Earth (on Laudato Si')

Here is the J"ust Thoughts" piece I composed for next Sunday's bulletin (for November 1, 2015). Many ideas for this came from last night's Laudato Si' study group at St. Mary's, in Painesville, Ohio.

Just Thoughts: Pope Francis’ Call for Healing in the Encyclical Laudato Si’

A study group has now met twice at St. Mary’s contemplating Pope Francis’s great encyclical Laudato Si’.  This group will meet once more, on Sunday, November 1, at 3 PM in the Father Hanzo Center, focusing on Chapters 5 and 6. The encyclical is available to read at this website: Everyone is welcome to come to the study group!

There are certain themes heavily stressed in the encyclical: the responsibility of human beings to take care of the earth and its environment; the biblical and theological basis for this responsibility; the heavy price the poor pay for our ecological recklessness; the dignity of work and the right that all humans have to meaningful and fairly compensated jobs. Many of these themes are not new to Catholic social doctrine. They go back at least to the encyclical Rerum Novarum that Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1891.

There are, however, some new themes addressed by the Holy Father concerning the most modern forms of technology. He doesn’t see them as in themselves evil, as long as they are controlled and put to work for human beings. Here, in poetic language, he states his hopes:

“We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?” (Par. 112).

The Pope doesn’t exactly say it, but maybe we can think of this “mist seeping gently beneath a closed door” as the action of the Holy Spirit.

Once we understand the nature of these problems addressed in Laudato Si’, with a solid biblical and theological footing, we can begin the urgent work of healing our Earth and all who live there.

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Last week’s “Just Thoughts” had a minor error. If you want to see the petition of the Lake/Geauga Diocesan Social Action Commission calling for gun safety measures, go to this address:

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