Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Encyclical Highlights

Pope Francis's Encyclical, Laudato Si, is wonderful. It presents a well-reasoned treatment of our responsibility to care for the Earth that flows from the Bible and from church history, It is written with a pastoral heart, not just for Catholics or Christians, but for all of humanity. Calling us to live within limits, the encyclical suggests that our purchases and pace of life are moral issues. It is written with the duty to care for the world's very poor as its primary concern, and makes clear that our agricultural and environmental problems issue from cultural problems.

Point after point is worth reading and reflecting on, but I want to highlight a few.   

The fourth section of the first chapter - Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society - is beautifully crafted. The 49th paragraph makes a point I tried to articulate in my 2011 post How to Be a Rich Christian (To remind myself): We cannot reasonably expect to understand or solve the problems of poor people when we are insulated from them. To this point, Francis seems to add that we cannot expect to understand or solve the problems of the poor Earth, while being insulated from it, either.

49. It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

 Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is. As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a diefied market.

For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.

I could go on pulling out highlights for a long time. But I won't. Read the full text of the encyclical here. What are your takeaways?

1 comment:

chad said...

Regarding insulating ourselves from the poor, these two scriptures come to mind:

Prov 28:27 Those who close their eyes to the poor receive many curses.

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

It is easy to say to ourselves that we're ok because we're not overtly opressing the poor, but these scriptures go a lot farther. It isn't enough just to not oppress. These scriptures indicate that not seeing or hearing the suffering is also a sin. And by implication, doing nothing about it is also a sin.

When we insulate ourselves through distractions and physical distance, we close our eyes and ears to the poor.

His point about insulating ourselves through distraction is a powerful one that I really need to take to heart. I can tend to get myself completely absorbed in various hobbies, research, academic interests, "ministry" meetings and events so I really do not see the poor at all.

Because of urban sprawl and severe socio economic segregation Christians who live in North America are very isolated from the poor. It is easy to live all of life without even seeing someone suffering in this way. We need to make an extra effort to expose ourselves regularly and often. Or, for those who can, move!