Laudato si’ 75 and 77 – Creation has a Creator

maitani creationIn another post I mentioned the Stream piece which points out 11 great moments in the new encyclical Laudato si’.

Here is one of the good moments.  Read:

(1) Creation has a Creator, and is more than just “nature-plus-evolution”:

(75) A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.

(77) “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure,” while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. [The Poet really said “the love which moves the sun and other stars“, but that’s a small point.  It’s the last line of the Divina Commedia.  Did you know that each section ends with the word “stars… stelle“?] Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy.”

This is pretty good.  It isn’t ground breaking (in a metaphorical sense… let’s not harm Mother Earth), but it is good.  I like that point about how God knows, chooses, cherishes even the most fleeting of lives.

And then there are paragraphs 60-61, at the end of Chapter 1, wherein the Pope (or his writer) seems to call for dialogue between people with differing positions only to follow right way with a statement that seems to say that there isn’t really any room for debate, the issue is settled.   Really?

I’ll repeat what I wrote the other day, but in a different way.

When the catholic Left insist that you accept everything in this new encyclical because “the Pope said so!”, remind them to accept every word of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, St. John Paul’s definitive document that affirms the infallible teaching that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood.  Not only did “the Pope say so”, but he was merely repeating what the Church as always taught!

Remember: Some documents are more important, and better grounded, than others.

The combox is, now, open.  Keep in mind my guiding rule: I’d rather see thoughtful comments – though few – than the sort of stuff you see elsewhere in abundance.

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  1. Auggie says:

    I am eager to read the entire document and see if much is said about Christ, Our Lord, through Whom all things were made.
    All the snippets I’ve seen so far mention Mother Earth and a not very specific Creator and Father.
    If the document is not clearly focused on Christ, then it is a very weak encyclical.

  2. Allan S. says:

    “Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.”

    Every creature?

    Genesis 3:14 (??):

    So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.”

  3. pseudomodo says:

    Perhaps like the Holy Father, I too am concerned about the Extremists on both ends blowing thier vuvuzelas in victory.

    This isn’t the first time that a Pope has taken a position on a scientific question (Pius XII in an adress to the Pontifical Acadamy of Sciences – where he accepted the great age of the universe and the reality of the Big Bang), but even St. John Paul II stopped short of fully endorsing the theory of evolution.

    Some may claim this as the Pope binding the consiences of the faithfull based on what many are convinced of as half baked pseudo-science.

    Others will take this as the Pope toying with a rather Malthusian view of the world


    Looks Like A Dogma But Ain’t!

  4. anilwang says:

    Allan S. says: Every creature?

    Sure. All things exist by the will of God, so God could easily annihilate Satan and all demons the moment the fallen angel rebelled.

    So God loves the demons and allows them to choose rebellion, even if in that choice they ultimately choose the lake of fire.

    The same can be said of each of us (even those of us who will ultimately be dammed), but unlike the fallen angels, no matter how far we fall, we have a chance to repent of our rebellion until the moment we die.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    This is good, and please share more from the Action conference, please.

  6. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Have read most, including the end. Skipped some of the more tendentious bits for later.

    The document seems to somewhat parallel St. Paul’s sermon at the Acropolis, where he established common ground with the dominant ideology of the day only to go on and point out the insufficiency of that ideology compared to the Gospel. I hope that the folks who are crowing about the limited agreement between the Church and today’s ideology take the next step, even if it’s just a few of them.

  7. Sacred1 says:

    I plan to read the entire document tonight. I am not a liberal Catholic, who may be predisposed to selectively laud this work simply due to its support of his or her own political preferences. Yet the selections I have read so far seemed powerful to me, in that I find an underlying theme of calling us to ever greater love of God and love of our neighbor. I have been more focused on the passages about society and culture, and not the passages about science. I particularly liked the quote about turning away from waste, technology and the information overload culture so that we can re-encounter the sages of the past, and also the quote to set aside Sunday for reflection on God and the Eucharist, both of which can then help us lead the life of the spirit in Christ. How much would we benefit by more silent meditation on and attention to Holy Scripture, the the Saints, and to the day of rest for the Eucharist and Holy Mass!

    (Personal note: I would not ever recommend giving up the Father Z blog as a component of excessive technology.)

  8. MrTipsNZ says:

    Gregg the Obscure:
    Agree with your summation. Pope Francis has carefully, and in my opinion, precisely waded through our contemporary psychology and at certain moments firmly drags it off course from its usual journey and into reality. I am starting to wonder about his pontificate as a kind of “last chance saloon” in its outreach, but that’s another issue.

    I particularly like his finishing with the images of the Trinity & Holy Family (238-242): the last impression he gives is of an eternal Heavenly Family, which is where we are supposed to be.

    OK, it’s not perfect, but I get what he is trying to do – Spes aeternum oritur

  9. JPK says:

    The encyclical isn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. I think at times Pope Francis attempted to say too much and risked becoming incoherent. However, he did make an explicit point that one cannot be pro-environment and pro-abortion (or population control). I wished he had raised the issue of artificial birth control and the pathologies it has created in both the developed and developing world. Many of those pathologies he mentioned in previous homilies and audiences.

    The early paragraphs that dealt with Anthropogenic Global Warming are opinions, which I believe the Pope admitted as such. Knowing what we know from the Pope’s previous statements I would have been surprised if he didn’t endorse the “Alarmist ” view of Global Warming. But, over-all I think there are enough positive things in the Encyclical to make most people happy. I don’t know if this was the intent, or just an accident. I am a little worried that he pushes for extra-government bodies, that in his view, must be established to enforce climate regulations (par 177). And like I stated earlier, this encyclical would have been the perfect document to reinforce key passages of Humanae Vitae and Casti Connubi and the evils of artificial birth control. The developed and developing nations are on the cusp of a fertility crisis, that was brought about by breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals.

  10. excalibur says:

    This too:

    121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness.[98]

    But he does say “Christianity” rather than the Catholic Church. Or perhaps he did say the Catholic Church and the English translator changed it?

  11. benedetta says:

    I’m still working through the first chapter, but so far I am quite encouraged overall. For me personally, numbers 11& 12 and 46 & 47 are resonating.

  12. benedetta says:

    Another aspect that I see as noteable and interesting has to do with the inclusion of relevant teachings throughout from many different bishops’ conferences. I think this a beautiful indicator of solidarity and the drawing on of various cultures and lineages of faith from these diverse parts of the world and how their bishops articulate and see and appreciate these points in their own ways very enriching altogether. I’d be interested in others’ more learned recollections as to whether this is something typical or not for encyclical. My best recall says this is somewhat unique here, but I am sure others could weigh in on that authoritatively.

  13. Mandy P. says:

    I’ve taken a break at paragraph 56 and will probably need to pick it back up tomorrow. There have been one or two small nuggets of goodness to this point, but overall it’s a very frustrating read. I’m hoping this first part is not representative of the rest.

  14. benedetta says:

    Arriving towards the last third or so I began to feel a bit discouraged and overwhelmed — the list of possible points for discussion on an international basis seem daunting given the current situations wreaking havoc in the world, so much violence organized out of greed or possession and power — and yet with the appearance of St. Therese’s little way and a reminder that we should not believe that a personal effort to improve things in the here and now is without substance, that a word, a kind gesture, Catholic solidarity offered by the Eucharist, taking steps to bring beauty to others and to contemplate and appreciate it together are all excellent and valid possibilities that anyone may undertake, even while those who have platform and authority must undertake steps for all on a large scale to redeem and make reparation for the damage already sustained to our shared ecology.

  15. iamlucky13 says:

    “I am eager to read the entire document and see if much is said about Christ, Our Lord, through Whom all things were made.”

    There are frequent references, primarily to maintain the context that we’re discussing the world God created for the mutual benefit of all of us. Paragraph 5 has one of the first substantive points: “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. ”

    Don’t be misled simply because the secular media are only picking very specific excerpts that can help them portray the encyclical as the Church sticking its nose into politics or commenting solely on scientific studies to which God is irrelevant.

    At the same time, keep in mind this encyclical deals primarily with the morality of human actions, especially in the modern world, rather than the relationship between God and man, so the attention on God is not as direct as you might expect. In that regards, it has more in common with other encyclicals dealing with morals like Humane Vitae than those dealing with the sacraments like Ordinatio Sacerdotalis or those that expound directly on theology like Deus Caritas Est. It definitely does not teach as concretely, nor is it philosophically as rigorous or eloquent as Humane Vitae and many others, but that also does not mean we should not pay attention to it.

    I say it doesn’t teach as concretely, because if you compare several encyclicals, you will not find much in Laudato Si that does not either leave some ambiguity or is conditional on some factor. This example is both ambiguous (“progressively replaced”) and conditional (“until greater progress is made”):

    “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.”

    (I can’t avoid commenting on the Holy Father’s use of the sloppy and inappropriate phrase “lesser of two evils.” Almost certainly, what he really meant is that the principle of double effect allows us to consume fossil fuels when they enable positive good, despite the lesser unintentional harm that may also result, until better alternatives can similarly enable such good. I do not for one second believe Pope Francis was saying we can consume fossil fuels for an evil motive – which we’d be remiss not to recognize can potentially include greed or sloth – regardless of how “lesser” it is)

    In contrast, in Humanae Vitae you find statements like this (in addition to a far better discussion of double effect further on):

    “Similarly excluded (as absolutely unlawful and to be condemned) is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

    There are no conditions or exceptions allowed there, but an unambiguous reminder that certain actions are always wrong.

    A Catholic who believes they are justified in driving a car to work or for reasonable discretionary uses like visiting family or to take a vacation, will find nothing in Laudato Si that contradicts him. Rather, there are cautions against waste and pollution that he should consider.

    A Catholic who believes they are justified in using contraception, however, will find that Humanae Vitae very clearly tells him he is seriously mistaken.

    Father Z is almost certainly right that we will see a lot of people fail to make such distinctions and try to use Laudato Si to compel us to falsely believe certain policies are official teachings of the Church. Some of those people will also hypocritically ignore things that actually are official teachings of the Church. Others won’t even be Catholics, but they will pretend they know more about Catholic doctrine than you do.

  16. yzerman123 says:

    Speaking of fallible climate models, check out the chart below posted in 2013 by notable climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer.

    The chart compares the evolution of actual temperatures vs. the predictions of 44 different climate models. The actual temperatures are shown by the solid red and blue lines at the bottom labelled UAH and RSS. They start in 1979 because that’s when satellite measurements began (they’re much more reliable than ground thermometers). All the other squiggly lines are the predictions of the 44 climate models. The dark black line is the average of the 44 predictions and is approximately representative of the view of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is like the Magisterium for the global warming crowd.

    It doesn’t take a climate degree to see how the models diverge increasingly from reality as time passes. For the last two years, 2011 and 2012, not a single model predicted that temperatures could be so low.

    It’s tragic that the whole world is implementing policies based on models that are so visibly bunk. How can this be possible, if not because ideology rather than facts is driving the movement?

    The next time someone publishes apocalyptic global warming predictions, return to this chart and sleep easy.

  17. yzerman123 says:

    I don’t mean to throw all climate scientists under the bus by my previous comment. Building accurate models is excessively complex. But clearly we haven’t figured out how God engineered climate.

    Being able to reproduce past data is the basic sanity check of any model in any field. Honest scientists would withdraw a model that fails at this task.

  18. Ben Kenobi says:

    I find the document fantastically better if you read from the end. :)

  19. iamlucky13 says:

    Keep in mind, yzerman, that the climate models do not predict any single year’s climate. They predict long term averages. Individual years will easily exceed the long term average predictions.

    But it is more complex than a lot of people give it credit, and of the range of estimates produced, the upper end of the estimates produced are well above what is being observed.

  20. JonPatrick says:

    excalibur, I think it is valid to use the term “Christianity” because the fullness of Christianity only exists in the Catholic Church, the other Christian ecclesial communities having rejected some part of the truth to a greater or lesser degree.

    I am up to section 138 reading as time permits.

  21. Pigeon says:

    I believe it’s Fr. Robert Barron who said, in his refutation of the “YouTube Heresies,” that science couldn’t have come out of pantheism. If we believe a tree, an animal, or a rock is God, it would be blasphemous to dissect it and examine it. I’ve always believed that the left is opposed to true scientific progress in reality, despite claims to the contrary. The modern environment movement will eventually shift to more overt opposition as it realizes the consequence of its neo-pantheism.

  22. Marc M says:

    iamlucky13- on your point about ambiguous vs. concrete teaching comparing Laudato si and HV:

    This isn’t necessarily problematic, if you’re comparing topics that fall under different spheres. In this example, it’s good to distinguish between “family planning” and “contraception”. Your quote from HV defines contraception, which is intrinsically immoral. Family planning, however, is not only moral, it’s obligatory- “are we called to marriage or not?” “should we refrain from intercourse so as to not become pregnant until we have a place to live?” etc. Family planning is a matter of prudential judgment–HV is explicit on that as well.

    Whether and how much to drive a car is a question of prudential judgment as well, so it’s proper for the wording to reflect that. I have not read enough to know, but in addition to the yes-or-no questions of contraception, women’s ordination, etc., is there a tradition of encyclicals addressing these kinds of prudential questions as well?

  23. iamlucky13 says:

    Marc M – I agree. The concrete vs. ambiguous comparison was not really a criticism of Laudato Si, although I can’t call its ambiguity a positive feature, and I don’t find it particularly clearly focused in general.

    The point I’d hope gets taken away from my post, and which you also seem to recognize, is that even when Laudato Si mentions something that applies to us individually, like using fossil fuels, it doesn’t label them as necessarily sinful. Rather, it cautions us, like you say, to be prudent in our use. Other encyclicals, however, have identified specific activities as sinful, even gravely so.

    This goes beyond Fr. Z’s comment about turning around calls to follow the Church teaching on care for the environment by reminding others about Church teaching on contraception and women’s ordination, because these teachings address their respective topics in crucially different ways. While I can’t justify simply ignoring the Vicar of Christ when he addresses a letter to me regardless of the content, if you do so when he says, “you really should think about your actions,” that’s very different than ignoring him when he says, “you’re doing something gravely sinful.”

  24. Imrahil says:

    When Laudato Si mentions something that applies to us individually, like using fossil fuels, it doesn’t label them as necessarily sinful.

    One word: Exactly.

    As for morality, the content is “there’s so much that can be done” (no. 180) rather than “do this and that or else you will be sinning”.

    It may take some boldness to take the Papal admonishment in that sense, after all the rebukes the Pope has in store for mankind in general, modern society, masses of men and so on – but for us Catholics, omitting what could have been a good work is not per se a sin, especially not if we have a good reason for doing so (and “if I’d had to do all that life would be too hard for me to bear, or at least to still uphold my Catholicism where the commandments come from with joy” is such a good reason), and I did not see a specific one of these actions the Pope advises against in ecological context (using aircondition, burning fossil fuels, etc.) condemned as downrightly sinful.

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