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Editorial: Better Jesuits, better world

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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Pope Francis’ encyclical, titled Laudato Si’, has been the object of much attention recently, predominately as a result of its environmentally inclined message. Some publications even proclaimed the document to be “the climate change encyclical.”

Why is this so important? Potentially because this encyclical overturns the prevalent Christian notion that Earth was created for humankind and it is ours to handle in any which way to suit our economic systems or us. Arguably, this God’s-creation-for-man’s-exploitation paradigm, popular in developed Western cultures, has been a contributing factor to the rapid destruction of the natural function of our world in the wake of industrialization and globalization.

The pope’s words on the matter are, well, harsh. Francis writes in part VI of the first chapter, “Economic powers continue to justify the current global system in which priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.” Even more so in part II of the second chapter, “We are not God. The Earth was here before us, and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account, which grants man “dominion” over the Earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the church.”

Is that to say the technologies of modernity have yielded unprecedented evils in the world, transpiring a global culture of godless consumerism?

Not exactly. In Michael Goodwin’s critical article of the pope for the New York Post, a certain point goes so far as to likening Francis to a communist, which admittedly does make sense when he writes “hundreds of millions of people around the world moved into the middle class in recent decades thanks to capitalism, innovation, and global trade.” 

Though, with the wealth found in the past century, it’s absolutely essential that enough of this wealth is allocated to climate and environment solutions. 

But, when Goodwin later states “instead of using his office to start a conversation about changing the ‘throw-away culture,’  the pope paints himself into a partisan political corner” is when it becomes difficult to level with him. Climate and environmental concerns should transcend political boundaries and ideologies, and Francis recognizes this. Arguably, he is trying to bridge this partisan gap on the issue, using the religious authority of his position to validate this crucial message to an otherwise unperceptive audience.  

All in all, environmental concerns are real problems that affect everyone. After centuries of humanity’s dominance of nature, we need to start cooperating with our planet, “our common home.” 

“We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.” — Pope Francis


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