In these final two sections of Chapter one, Pope Francis reflects on the whole of Chapter 1, which he has titled, “What is Happening to our Common Home.” His reflection on the current ecological crisis of the earth has left him disappointed with both the lack of progress and lack of effort by the leaders and peoples of the world. Overall, he is asking the us to open our eyes to the truth of the ecological crisis and looking forward, he challenges us to work together to avoid extremes in ideological positions to find true and long lasting solutions.
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” —Pope Francis
Understanding Pope Francis’ Comments on “Weak Responses”
The Pope begins paragraph 53 and this section on “Weak Responses” with this direct message of truth and expectation, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.”
With our mission laid out so simply, he tells us that our culture and leadership still is missing what is needed to combat the ecological crisis. He believes before real change can happen we must establish “a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems,” otherwise world politics will be consumed with leaders pursuing the “techno-economic paradigm” where economic development is focused on capitalism and technological advancement.
Weak International Politics
Next, in paragraph 54, the Pope continues his thoughts on the lack of global political response and sees the absence of global environmental summits as a sign that “our politics are subject to technology and finance.” He tells us that the “greater good” is being overlooked and mistreated by the plans of special and economic interests, yet these plans should not be taken as priority over natural resources. But, because these powers exist, the Pope continues, “Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment” and feels that genuine attempts at change are brushed off as a “nuisance” or “an obstacle to be circumvented.”
“People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.”
Continuing, Pope Francis is concerned that although some countries are making significant change, the people themselves are not. He says, “People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.” As an example, he mentions the growing use of air conditioning and shares that the overuse of powered air can be “self-destructive.” (Paragraph 55)
Our behavior which is driven by economic powers and financial gain, leads “Many people [to] deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is.” (Paragraph 56)
“Despite international agreements which prohibit chemical, bacteriological and biological warfare, the fact is that laboratory research continues to develop new and offensive weapons capable of altering the balance of nature.” —Pope John Paul II
Then, in paragraph 57, the Pope share his worry over his prediction of future wars started over the depletion of resources and their “grave harm to the environment and the cultural riches of peoples.” He is very concerned about the future use of biological and nuclear warfare and quotes Pope John Paul II’s concern from his 1990 World Day of Peace Message, “Despite international agreements which prohibit chemical, bacteriological and biological warfare, the fact is that laboratory research continues to develop new and offensive weapons capable of altering the balance of nature.” In order to avoid dangerous wars, Pope Francis calls political powers to “pay greater attention” and address the causes of which can lead to new conflicts before they happen.
In the remaining paragraphs of this section, Pope Francis attempts to give us hope by noting that some countries are indeed making significant changes and are good examples that ecological change and advancement is possible. He says, “For all of our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.” (Paragraph 59) Yet, in the very next breath, he warns us against “superficial” ecological efforts and ignorance to the crisis. This he reminds us that disbelieve and ignorance to the crisis “serves as a license to carry on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption” and “feed [our] self-destructive vices.”
“If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations. —Pope John Paul II
Understanding Pope Francis on “A Variety of Opinions”
In two paragraphs, Pope Francis acknowledges that there are many opinions and “no one path to a solution.” He asks us to avoid the extremes, seek “viable solutions” and enter into a functional dialogue that can produce “comprehensive solutions.” (Paragraph 60) And, despite the fact that our “common home is falling into serious disrepair,” there is always Hope which helps us to see that “we can always do something to solve our problems.”
What Does It Mean for You and Me?
In his first chapter of Laudato Si, Pope Francis is attempting to help us open our eyes and see just how damaged the world has become. He challenges us to see our part in the destruction, both as individuals and nations, and calls us to do something about it.
So, what does it mean for you and me? First it means we need to stop denying the destructive role of humans on the environment, accept the leading science that man-made global warming is real (or at least humans contribute to the unsustainable rapidification of natural global warming) and to seriously consider and act on our moral obligation to change our lifestyles to counteract the problem.
How Can We Make a Difference?
We’ve already started to explore how we can make a difference in these first few posts of our Laudato Si’ study and we will continue to explore as we go forward. Chapter 2, as titled by Pope Francis, “The Gospel of Creation” will help us to explore our moral obligation and help us bolster our convictions as followers of Christ.
If you are just joining this study, I encourage you to go back and explore the posts in Chapter one, before going forward to our next post on “The Light Offered by Faith.”