- Reframing The Debate
The greatest contribution of Laudato Si, to my mind, is an overview of the environmental crisis from a religious point of view. Until now, the dialogue about the environment has been framed mainly using political, scientific and economic language. Now the language of faith enters the discussion — clearly, decisively and systematically.
- The plight of the poor
The disproportionate effect of environmental change on the poor is strongly highlighted on almost every page. The Pope provides many examples of the effects of climate change, whose “worst impact” is felt by those in developing countries. LS 25
- Less is more
Pope Francis takes aim at the “technocratic” mindset, in which technology is seen as the key to human existence. He also critiques an unthinking reliance on market forces, in which every technological advancement is embraced before considering how it will affect our world.
Christian spirituality, by contrast, offers a growth marked by “moderation and the capacity to be happy with little”. LS 222
- Catholic social teaching now includes teaching on the environment
Pope Francis explicitly states that Laudato Si “is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching” LS 15.
It continues the Church’s reflection on modern-day problems that began with Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, on capital and labour, published in 1891.
- Ecology – Bible link
In Chapter Two, Pope Francis introduces “The Gospel of Creation,” in which he leads readers through the call to care for creation that extends back to the Book of Genesis, when humankind was called to “till and keep” the earth. LS 67
- Everything is connected
Laudato Si is a systematic approach to the problem. First, the Pope links all human beings to creation: “We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it” LS 139.
Thus our decisions inevitably effect the environment. A pursuit of money that sets aside the interests of the marginalised and ruins the planet are connected.
- Scientific research
Pope Francis does not try to prove anything about climate change. Rather, Laudato Si draws on both Church teaching and contemporary scientific findings from other fields to help people reflect on the current crisis.
- Indifference and selfishness
Pope Francis strongly critiques those who ignore the problem of climate change, and its effects on the poor. So many of the wealthy turn away from the poor, not only because, “some view themselves as more worthy than others,” but because frequently decisions-makers are “far removed from the poor” LS 90, 49. Selfishness also leads to the evaporation of the notion of the common good.
- Global dialogue
Laudato Si draws from the experiences of people around the world, referencing the findings of bishops’ conferences from Brazil, New Zealand, Southern Africa, Bolivia, Portugal, Germany, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Australia and the United States. The Pope invites into dialogue “all people” about our “common home”. LS 3
- A change of heart is required
This encyclical, addressed to “everyone living on this planet” calls for a new way of looking at things. LS 3
We face an urgent crisis, when the earth has begun to look more and more like, “an immense pile of filth” LS 21.
Still, the document reminds us that because God is with us, we can strive to change course. We can move towards an “ecological conversion” in which we can listen to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. LS 49
About the author
Fr James Martin SJ is an author of several books including Between Heaven and Mirth, My Life With the Saints, and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. His latest book released this year is Seven Last Words. He’s also a contributing editor to America Magazine.
This is an edited excerpt of Fr James’article in America Magazine, a national Catholic review. Printed with permission. Read the whole article here