[our] behavior, which at times appears self-destructive,” the pope writes at one point in the letter.
Addressing world leaders directly, Francis asks: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”
Francis writes, “As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. … Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. 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.”
I am not really amazed at how some Christians respond to issues like climate change. Their response is consistent with how they view a lot of issues. It seems to me that the following are (generally speaking) simple truisms:
- We have embraced a “confirmation bias” that causes us to lean into views that fit with our larger view of life. When anything challenges this view we quickly reject it as dangerous or foolish.
- We do “thought association” freely. In this case the pope writes about an issue that divides us politically so we attack his research and public conclusions based upon the notion that a pope has no business speaking to political concerns in this manner. If he does speak in such a manner it must be because he is a liberal who is not truly interest in freedom, jobs or the production of needed energy.
- We defend macro-business by giving it a virtual “free pass” to pollute the environment because we do not see creative ways to save money and improve life and (also) protect the environment. Let me ask some simple questions: “Let’s assume that climate science has gotten this issue wrong. We then work to clean up the planet for the next five decades only to see that very little changes. Isn’t it better that we tried to improve our response to the earth than to have done little or nothing at all? Isn’t a greener and safer planet a responsible goal even if it creates some financial hardship temporarily? Or is the only thing that really matters how much gas and oil we can produce so that we can live the good life that we are accustomed to living in the industrialized West?”
It is particularly interesting that this document shows a notable reorientation of the church’s understanding of the human person, from a being that dominates over God’s gifts to one that responsibly serves creation as a human steward of God’s earth. The first view has been defended by some Christians because of Genesis 1:27, a text which remarkably supports creation care.
The title Laudato Si’ comes from St. Francis of Assisi’s famous 13th-century prayer “The Canticle of the Creatures.” Translated into English it means either “Be praised” or “Praised be.” It is an Umbrian-Italian phrase that was used throughout the prayer of St. Francis to give thanks to God for creation.
Two Catholic U.S. presidential candidates have already attacked the document. Now Mitt Romney has shown a willingness to embrace the pope’s ideas. I am watching closely to see how this gigantic field of GOP candidates responds since their 2012 standard-bearer has embraced the basic ideas of the pope.
I have not read the document in entirety but plan to do so this week. Based upon reports from those who have read it the main issues and themes touched upon in the letter include:
•Environmental degradation causing lack of access to drinking water, loss of biodiversity, and decline in quality of human life;
•Pervasive global inequity that leaves billions experiencing “ecological debt”;
•The search for long-term solutions to replace fossil fuels and other unsustainable energies;
•Tying together the ecological crisis with a global social crisis that leaves the poorest in the world behind and does not make them part of international decision-making;
•Changes in global lifestyle that could “bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”