The Pope’s New Encyclical- I Agree with Fr. Sirico’s Critique 100% as well as Dr. Boulet’s Comment Below

by Steve Ray on June 19, 2015

The Pope’s Green Theology

By Fr. Robert Sirico, June 18, 2015 6:54 p.m. ET

Let’s cut to the chase: Much of what is in Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental stewardship, Laudato Si’, poses a major challenge for free-market advocates, those of us who believe that capitalism is a powerful force for caring for the earth and lifting people out of poverty. But one of the most welcome lines is a call for honest, respectful discussion.

Francis warns against both extremes: on one end, “those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change.” And on the other end those who view men and women “as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced.”
He continues: “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” That Francis would lend the full moral force of his office to call for an honest debate is a great step for the planet. This has not characterized the past few decades of discussion.

The document is not a political manifesto, though it will have political implications when Pope Francis visits the U.S. in September. It is not a scientific manifesto, though it references various scientific reports and conclusions. Nor does it turn the Magisterium of the Catholic Church over to Greenpeace. Those on the left will undoubtedly celebrate some of its policy recommendations. Yet it includes several more authoritative teachings with which they will not be so happy, and which they will attempt to ignore or dismiss, such as the contention that “concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”

The document is a theological statement that places environmental concerns within the context of Christian life. Concern for our common home is a just concern for all people of good will, and the longing for clean air, better use of resources, and an end to waste and pollution are worthy goals. In articulating these, the encyclical clearly makes an important contribution.

But much of the discussion in this encyclical and many of its underlying assumptions are imprudent. There is a decided bias against free markets, and suggestions that poverty is the result of a globalized economy, as this citation exemplifies: “The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.”

Yet capitalism has spurred the greatest reduction in global poverty in world history: The number of people living on $1.25 a day fell to 375 million in 2013 from 811 million in 1991, according to the International Labor Office. This is only one statistic among reams of evidence that vindicate capitalism. An honest debate among experts will lay this canard to rest.

The encyclical unwisely concedes too much to the secular environmental agenda, for example, by denigrating fossil fuels. But it also voices moral statements dismissing popular, ill-conceived positions. The repeated lie that overpopulation is harming the planet—expressed by even some of the advisers for the Vatican—is soundly rejected. It is bewildering that the people who have been most vigorous in developing the policies proposed in the encyclical are those who also vigorously support population control and abortion as solutions to the environmental problem.

Note too that the pope praises the material advance of humanity, praises science, and praises the practical arts that have given rise to so many wonderful tools for making a better life. “It is right,” he says, “to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us.” His concern is that this progress be balanced with a deep respect for nature, which God places into human care. Technology alone, without a moral center, can have profoundly damaging results. Here again, Francis’ writings defy common political categories.

People, particularly the most vulnerable, are the pope’s first concern. The proper goal should be to find sustainable systems in which a flourishing and growing population can live better. He speaks with passion concerning the lack of clean drinking water, the absence of sanitary medical care, and the unrelenting exposure to danger that is most intensely felt in the poorest countries. The solution here—one which did not get enough elaboration in the encyclical—is a path for economic progress. Wealth creation can diminish poverty, and poverty and despoliation often go hand in hand.

As a priest who strives to be faithful to his church, I know that I too am expected to use my God-given reason in evaluating these questions. The pope’s primary focus is the faith, and the moral implications that faith has for our behavior and the systems of politics and economics we create. In this sense, there is plenty of room for discussion. The purpose of an encyclical is not to close that debate, but precisely to open faith to understanding.

Fr. Sirico is president of the Acton Institute.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

John G. Boulet, M.D. June 20, 2015 at 3:17 PM

My view is that nothing needed to be “added” to Church teaching in the realm of careful stewardship, and I believe that the Pope does not add or change existing doctrine. However, imprudently does he pronounce on the alleged validity of climate change, and of its having been caused at least largely by human activity. The science in many instances has been fabricated, twisted, and outright fraudulent — such as the ‘data’ out of the U.K. a few years ago, and the more recent ‘adjustments’ made for temperature measurements made decades ago based upon fraudulent suppositions. The ‘evidence’ in favor of man-caused global warming is mostly fraudulent imposition of a political agenda on ‘climate models’ and outright fabrication of ‘data’.

This Encyclical will prove to be a disaster, giving the impression of Church advocacy for one-world governance to regulate the supposedly ‘proven’ man-caused climate change.

I, for one, argue that climate change has occurred many times in Earth’s history, and it is arguable that in many instances it could prove to be beneficial — did anyone want to discuss, for example, increasing biomass by having increased carbon dioxide levels? Or, farming Siberia?

The Pope has handed enemies of humanity, and especially of the Church, a gift of sorts, imprinting fraudulent propaganda masquerading as science the veneer of a moral necessity prompting forceful worldwide governance, with all the coercive measures that would follow, such as forced sterilizations, etc.

My own verdict is that the Pope is proving himself a foolish tool of leftist utopianism.

My own environmental philosophy is easily summarized thus: “Live simply, so that others might simply live.”

Gerald Heaves June 21, 2015 at 3:01 PM

The pediatrician comments are down-right laughable. Sad to see Steve acknowledge he can agree to something like this. In the end, sounds like alot of extensive watching of faux news.

The Sarge June 22, 2015 at 1:40 AM

Perhaps, instead of just making snide remarks, Gerald Heaves could back up his remarks with some explanation?

Me June 22, 2015 at 8:15 AM

Nobody who says “Faux News” should be taken seriously, Gerald.
Give adult conversations a try next time.

Nathan June 22, 2015 at 12:27 PM

I must say, this has got to be the most divisive encyclical in recent times. Other than the politics of climate change, what irked me was the reference to two types of “believers” at various points through out the encyclical. Especially at the end, where the Pope offers two different prayers. One for Christians and then one for people that believe in some other type of god. I don’t understand this.

Randy June 23, 2015 at 2:36 PM

The M.D.’s comments are, I believe, unfortunately spot on. Beyond adding my ditto, I have to wonder what Gerald refers to as “faux media.” Gerald, are you referring to the major news outlets such as NBC, CBS, CNN (does anyone remember CNN?), ABC, et al? Those corporate owned/government mouthpieces that pretend to tell us the news? (What’s that term for the union of corporate and government agendas again??) Please recall that NBC’s Brian Williams has not been fired for fabricating essential elements of major stories; rather, at last report (if you can believe ANYTHING that NBC says) he’s been shifted over to MSNBC. Not fired for lying, a basic journalism no-no and generally all around not good practice, but retained because he’s good at selling the news, even if most of it never really happened. I’ll take Matt Drudge who, by the way (and if I recall correctly), not only has a degree in journalism, but exhibits a journalistic integrity that the mainstream media lacks. (Note that roughly 90 percent of U.S. media are owned by a handful of major corporations).

My apologies for getting off track regarding the Pope’s encyclical.

Dr. Charles Wylan MD July 3, 2015 at 2:42 AM

“My own verdict is that the Pope is proving himself a foolish tool of leftist utopianism.” – dr’s comment
“The M.D.’s comments are, I believe, unfortunately spot on. ” – Randy’s comment.

…something is wrong when commenters agree that the pope is a fool, when all they are really doing is denying themselves to be what Christ called them to be and instead want to protect their wallets.

Change your ways and stop.

Bill912 July 3, 2015 at 11:06 AM

Dr. Wylan, please explain.

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