Tough, Necessary Assignments
I’ve recently been reading Laudato Si’ (praise be to you, my Lord), Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. It’s an extraordinary document that gives us, as Catholics, some hard assignments.
Encyclicals are detailed, thoughtful letters from the pope that are intended to guide addressees in making decisions. This encyclical is addressed to “all people of goodwill,” which broadens the audience beyond Catholics.
Although Laudato Si’ is Francis’ second encyclical, it’s the first that is his alone. (Pope Benedict wrote most of Lumen Fidei [light of faith].)
I was struck by the clarity with which Pope Francis addresses the roles of science, politics, and religion and the clarity with which he calls us to action. He places scientific questions in the realm of science, political questions in the realm of politics, and moral questions in the realm of religion.
Apropos of this papal message, this issue, Liguorian’s theme is “living your faith actively.” Sometimes living our faith actively is easy. Sometimes, as this encyclical illustrates, it’s pretty hard.
In the United States, the question of climate change has become highly politicized. Is the climate changing? Is it changing largely because of human activity? Those scientific questions have been pulled into the political realm. Francis simply acknowledges the scientific consensus on these issues—yes to both questions—and then asserts that people who dispute those realities are obstructionists:
“Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation, or blind confidence in technical solutions,” the pontiff writes.
He states politics is one tool of many to address the problem. And, speaking to Catholics, he urges us to adopt a moral responsibility to care for our planet, saying we have an “obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly” and “we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes….”
It’s not just a matter running our air conditioners less.
We have a responsibility to take shared action: “Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds,” he says.
Not all of those things are easy to do, and some of the pope’s teachings are even difficult for some to accept. The first step for some people will be simply to acknowledge reality.
Liguorian will devote an entire issue to the subject matter covered in the encyclical in early 2016. Thus, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts. What did you think when you read the document? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The encyclical is online at vatican.va by clicking on “Encyclicals.”