'Laudato Si' ': Response Roundup

Here’s a mid-day roundup of response to Laudato Si’ from around the web (if you've already made sure to read Anthony Annett, David Cloutier, Michael Peppard, and Massimo Faggioli on Commonweal). Start with E. J. Dionne Jr., who, in a column posted to our website, says anyone who claims Francis is inventing radical new doctrines

will have to reckon with the care he takes in paying homage to his predecessors, particularly Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II. He cites them over and over on the limits of markets and the urgency of environmental stewardship. Laudato Si’ is thus thoroughly consistent with over a century of modern Catholic social teaching, and if it breaks new ground, it does so within the context of a long tradition -- going back to St. Francis himself.

Similarly, Emma Green in The Atlantic:

Historical references  …  are peppered throughout the document, and they serve as an important reminder to an often-giddy media that loves to write about today’s revolutionary pope: In the Church, precedent is everything. Francis’s argument is deeply grounded in Catholic teachings dating back to the late-19th-century writings of Pope Leo XIII (and before that, Jesus). … This is far from the Church’s first foray into environmentalism. “I always remind my environmental friends that St. Francis was ours before he was theirs,” said John Carr, a professor at Georgetown and former staffer at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This didn’t begin with Earth Day or Al Gore. It began with Genesis.”

R. R. Reno at First Things:

In this encyclical, Francis expresses strikingly anti-scientific, anti-technological, and anti-progressive sentiments. In fact, this is perhaps the most anti-modern encyclical since the Syllabus of Errors, Pius IX’s haughty 1864 dismissal of the conceits of the modern era. … Francis has penned a cri de coeur, a dark reflection on the systemic evils of modernity. Like the prophet Ezekiel, Pope Francis sees perversion and decadence in a global system dominated by those who consume and destroy. The only answer is repentance, “deep change,” and a “bold cultural revolution.” If Francis continues in this trajectory, Catholicism will circle back to its older, more adversarial relationship with modernity.

But Josiah Neely, also at First Things, calls Laudato Si' “a more measured affair” that deserves fuller reading: “[T]here seems to be a fairly large disconnect between the criticism of (much of it made prior to the release of the actual text) and the encyclical itself.”

Francis X. Rocca in the Wall St. Journal zeroes in on “passionate language likely to prove highly divisive” and characterizes Laudato Si’ as abroad and uncompromising indictment of the global market economy.” 

What, George Weigel asks, does Francis write in the encyclical?

A lot, it turns out — if you read Laudato Si’ as an encyclical primarily about us, and not primarily about trees, plankton, and the Tennessee snail darter….  Francis’s rejection of moral relativism and the “technocratic paradigm” (as he dubs it), and his promotion of an integral human ecology, have implications far beyond what most environmentalists understand by environmentalism. An integral human ecology forces us, he writes, to confront the harsh facts of human trafficking and the warehousing of the elderly. And (in a part of the encyclical that the New York Times and Planned Parenthood will most certainly not cite, let alone celebrate) Francis’s counter-proposal leads him to argue that being ecologically conscious and environmentally committed necessarily means being pro-life.

The coal industry likes the encyclical, because... coal is an affordable energy source. From the AP: “The World Coal Association highlighted the pope’s emphasis on helping the poor as a crucial part of the fight against climate change. WCA chief executive Benjamin Sporton told AP that to address the developing needs of poor countries, ‘we need to have affordable reliable energy, and coal is a key part of achieving that.’”

Kerry Weber says Laudato Si' is the “perfect encyclical for millennials”:

It is refreshing to see Francis identify the fact that many young people are living out the Gospel teaching in this way and possess a desire to make a difference. This acknowledgement likely will be appreciated by the young people he describes, many of whom fall into the millennial generation. A 2014 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that millennials named unemployment, resource scarcity, climate change/protecting environment, and inequality as the top four challenges facing society in the next 5-10 years. Fittingly, Pope Francis addresses each of these in Laudato Si’ and in doing so both affirms and challenges this much-discussed (and too-oft maligned) generation (of which I am a member). For this diverse group of young people looking for solutions to these issues, the new encyclical offers ideas rooted in faith but accessible to the spiritual, the seekers and the religious alike.

In Time, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew says Francis’s “diagnosis is on the mark”:

[A]bove any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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