Wednesday, 24 June 2015

First Glance at Laudato si

I have just had my first very quick read of some parts of Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter Laudato si.

I haven't by any means read it all, but have read enough to recognise that to characterise the Encyclical as being "about climate change" is simply not to do it justice. It contains a very wide ranging account of mankind's relation to the rest of the created world, and of the relation of that created world to its Creator. This theme in particular tempted me to reflect that, if one follows Pope Francis teaching, one would avoid the danger of an ecological concern that becomes an ideology because it is divorced from a relation to a Person. There is no possibility of coming away from a reading of Pope Francis' encyclical without recognising a teaching about the specific place and dignity of the human person among God's creatures.

Three quick thoughts.

1. I was very interested in Pope Francis' attribution to St Francis of Assisi of what he terms an "integral ecology". The account of St Francis' attitude to the created world in nn.10-12 of the Laudato si appears to me rich in its implications for how we understand St Francis life and his thought.

2. Am I right to recognise in the following passages something of the thought familiar to the FAITH Movement? See here,  here and here.
In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding.... [n.79]
Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object. [n.81]
The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator. [n.83]
3. In the account of "Technology: Creativity and Power" [n.102 ff], Pope Francis refers six times to the thought of Romano Guardini. The particular work referred to has, in English translation, the title The End of the Modern World, though I suspect the original German title, Das Ende der Neuzeit, contains a subtlety lost in the English. My own familiarity with Guardini's thought on the theme of technology, nature and the human person comes from another book, Letters from Lake Como. Two visits to Lake Como in the space of the last year have given me a deeper appreciation of Guardini's book. I was delighted - and not surprised - to see Pope Francis obvious familiarity with Romano Guardini and his willingness to cite him in Laudato si.

See here for an account of the influence of Romano Guardini on Pope Francis and in Laudato si.

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