The encyclical ‘Laudato si” and “integral ecology”

Yesterday His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, the Extraordinary Ordinary of Madison, was on with a popular radio show host, Vicki McKenna – who really ought to have a national show! – to talk about Laudato si’.

Also, since Rush’s critical remarks about the encyclical were played in the program, you might want to check his first two hours yesterday.  He also took on Card. Wuerl, who had attacked Rush on Fox News Sunday.  HERE

Bp. Morlino had a great hour.  One of this things he mentioned was a troubling phrase in the encyclical, “integral ecology”.  You can listen to the hour for free HERE.

In some spheres, “integral ecology” is troubling.

I found the phrase 9 times in the encyclical.  Chapter 4 is: “Integral Ecology”

I’ll bet some of you know more about this than I do.

Question might be, if the phrase “integral ecology” has some less than acceptable connotations, why use it in an encyclical?

Of course we have to figure out what it means in this encyclical, not merely in some other source.

Possibility: We cannot separate human ecology and environmental ecology, and human ecology has logical precedence.



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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RAve says:

    The full transcript of Rush’s discussion and caller input on the topic is here: HERE
    [Shorten those URLs! Don’t create work for me. Thanks!]

  2. RAve says:

    Go to the end of that transcript, by the way. LS 188 is key. We need to keep insisting on respect for and implementation of that paragraph.

  3. snoozie says:

    bad bedfellows indeed….

    On the Verge of a Planetary Civilization: A Philosophy of Integral Ecology; by Sam Mickey


    This book is much needed. The book skilfully and articulately brings together difficult concepts from the philosophies of event-oriented ontology, object-oriented ontology, and speculative realism to bear on our contemporary ecological crises. Furthermore, the book does not merely think about ecology, but begins to ask how ecological thinking changes our ways of thinking, doing ethics, and philosophizing in general. (Whitney Bauman, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University)

    The ongoing reinvention of our thought tradition is soaring into the task of developing a new philosophy of Earth, a philosophy of Gaia, a philosophy powerful enough to effect a fundamental transformation of humanity’s functioning within the enveloping community of life. For anyone interested in joining this historic venture, there is no better pathway in than Sam Mickey’s book.
    (Brian Thomas Swimme, California Institute of Integral Studies.)

    Reading major postmodern theorists in the light of integral theory, Sam Mickey’s path-breaking book points the way to environmentalism of the future. He has made an important contribution toward our understanding of the emergent, subtle, and complex entwining of humankind and nature. Highly recommended for those who want to understand the cutting edge of contemporary environmental theory.
    (Michael E. Zimmerman, professor of philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder)

    About the Author…..
    Sam Mickey is adjunct professor in theology and religious studies, and environmental studies at the University of San Francisco. He is a co-editor of Integral Ecologies (forthcoming) and has published articles in numerous journals.

    They used the phrase “integral ecology” 9 times because they wanted to use THAT phrase.

  4. chantgirl says:

    Card. Weurl’s response to Rush’s sound bite was pretty condescending.
    Rush has pointed out some of the good and bad in this encyclical. I’ve heard nothing from the MSM about the points on abortion and respect for human life. Rush was also right to point out that the global warming aspect of this encyclical was hatched in a liberal echo chamber. If the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences wants to live up to the Catholic history of use of the scientific method, it would have listened to dissenting views on global warming and then investigated and responded with data instead of shutting down the conversation.

    I do think this encyclical will be used by democrat politicians to salve the consciences of their Catholic voters, and to attack Catholic republicans. The unborn are so yesterday; the new pro-life is caring for the environment.

  5. pseudomodo says:

    Rolad Reagan had it correct,

    “I think we have two groups of [environmental] extremists. There are, of course, those people on one side who would pave the country over in the name of progress. There is an extremist group on the other extreme you build a house unless it looked like a bird’s nest. Now I think there has to be a commonsense in-between that recognizes that the people are ecology, too.”

  6. pseudomodo says:


    typing with thumbs is an artform!

  7. JoAnna says:

    Card. Wuerl attacked Rush? On the contrary, it was the other way around! Card. Wuerl’s comments were very polite and reasonable. [Apparently your ear isn’t tuned to how prelates talk.]

    Rush, however, told outright lies about the content of the encyclical (and when a caller called him on it, citing paragraph 188 to prove that Rush’s attacks were inaccurate, he KEPT lying). Does it concern you at all that Rush was caught in a lie that was very demonstrably false but would not concede it? I find it very troubling, personally. [You’ve leapt to a rash judgment about what troubles me or what doesn’t.]

    I don’t see anything troubling about the term “integral ecology.” Everything on this planet is interconnected – humans, animals, plants, the environment. The state of one can affect the state of another. [Perhaps there is a lot about this discussion that you haven’t figured out yet. Reading comments for while might help you out. In the meantime, while waiting for more comments, re-read the top entry.]

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    “Brian Thomas Swimme, California Institute of Integral Studies”

    Brian Swimme was a protege of Fr Thomas Berry (who was a lot like Matthew Fox, but was never formally condemned), and is one of today’s leading voices promoting “the Universe Story” or “Conscious Evolution” (the ideas that readers of this blog associate with Barbara Marx Hubbard) to Catholics.

    I think the Holy Father is NOT naive about this stuff. Remember the CDF’s attention to the LCWR on these issues, for instance this speech by Cardinal Muller . And Pope Francis was kept informed by Cardinal Muller, and PF backed him up. I believe Pope Francis is engaging with them and proposing a Catholic way of thinking about the same subject matter. It would make sense if the term “integral ecology” was used in the encyclical to direct their attention to this Catholic teaching. If anyone thinks the only “dialog” he is trying to start is with “global warming deniers” I think that is mistaken, there are other serious issues he is trying to engage.

  9. If integral ecology is acceptable, then integral catholicism is more than acceptable: it is at least highly recommended or required.

  10. Traductora says:

    Initially, I didn’t realize that “integral ecology” was a movement but I thought it was just a made-up Teilhardian sounding phrase in keeping with the tone of the rest of the document. When I did read about it, I was seriously disturbed that the Pope would have used this phrase, which would certainly be immediately recognized by its supporters. Obviously, he himself probably didn’t insert it (remember, he boasts about never having been “on the Internet” and reading only one paper, La Repubblica, for 10 minutes a day…and he is not known for his love of other philosophical reading).

    Many of the people surrounding the Pope are quite heterodox, but unfortunately, I don’t think he really cares. In his apologies to the Waldensians, he completely ignored the fact that their founders had put forth seriously heretical positions that denied just about everything in the Catholic faith, including transubstantiation. Aside from the fact that many of the attacks on them were by secular powers, because like full-blown Protestantism later on, they rapidly became a political movement, I think it is certainly understandable that they would have been rejected by orthodox Catholics.

    But making it sound as if theology and philosophy are just trifling matters, even going so far as to cite an enemy philosophy in his document, is not only a mistake but gravely dangerous.

  11. JuliB says:

    Chartgirl – indeed – I had read that someone who believed that GW is greatly influenced by sun activity was uninvited to a mtg at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

    JoAnna – words mean things. Just because you (or I for that matter) don’t understand all of the connotative meanings of any give word or phrase, that doesn’t mean we can dismiss such things when brought to our attention.

    Fr Z – 1 Cor 14:8 comes to mind for this encyclical specifically, and this pontificate in general: “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”

  12. JoAnna says:

    Fr. Z – I didn’t leap to any conclusions. I asked if you found it concerning at all (and you didn’t answer that question). As for “my ear not being tuned,” I didn’t see anything false in what the cardinal said. Can you please clarify what Wuerl said about Rush that was untrue?

    May I ask why you are more concerned about Wuerl’s alleged “tone” than about Rush’s actual, demonstrable lies?

    Again, having read the comments, I don’t see what is concerning. It makes sense in the context of the entire encyclical, in which the Holy Father repeatedly says “Everything is connected” – which is absolutely true.

  13. RAve says:

    P.S. It was me. I had hoped to bring out all the good things in LS that the Libs=MSM=FishRappers ignore, but Rush was in a hurry. (Sorry about the long URL, Father).

  14. JoAnna says:

    JuliB – the thing is we have to look at the context. In context, Pope Francis’ wording makes sense, especially given how often he repeats “Everything is connected.” I choose to follow the advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it.”

  15. snoozie says:

    ” Obviously, he himself probably didn’t insert it…”
    Probably he did; at the very least he certainly approved it.

    “Many of the people surrounding the Pope are quite heterodox, but unfortunately, I don’t think he really cares.”
    Most certainly he cares…he appoints them; and often elevates them.

    “In his apologies to the Waldensians, he completely ignored the fact that their founders had put forth seriously heretical positions that denied just about everything in the Catholic faith…”
    He didn’t deny it; he embraced it! Wake up!

  16. RAve says:

    Joanna – the cardinal was sing-songy and condescending toward Rush – it was quite blatant.
    And Rush unfortunately replied in kind – but the cardinal was very antagonistic toward Rush (with a smarminess that was very disappointing).

    As he pointed out, Rush is a big defender of the Church. He really is. And as an astute observer he understands how harmful LS is (because LS violates LS 188 in several ways, and because the main take away for the world is “man causes global warming, and the solution is an international bureaucracy”).

    I am curious as to what Rush seemed to want say at the very end, but he held back. He said there is a reason LS is this way, but he seemed reluctant to discuss it.

  17. chantgirl says:

    JoAnna- When faced with the fact that this encyclical is infused with the language and terms of the Left in certain parts, and was championed by atheist gaia-worshipping activists, a faithful Catholic is faced with three explanations: either the Pope is naïve and being led around by bad advisors, the Pope is suffering from dementia, or the Pope is a Leftist. The far more charitable conclusion is naiveté.

  18. Auggie says:

    Even if Francis used the words “integral ecology” in a sort of Catholic way, he knows the phrase will be spirited off by the zeitgeist in all kinds of anti-Catholic ways.
    So why does he do such things?

  19. dmwallace says:

    I plugged ‘integral ecology’ into Google’s Ngram Viewer. Here are the results:

    There’s an interesting snippet view of a 1991 issue of Perestroika: A Soviet Monthly Digest which attempts a communist definition of the term. A book by Leonardo Boff also shows up, too.

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    chantgirl (12:32 PM) mentions three possibilities; Fr. John Hunwicke faces us with a fourth: “I am increasingly inclined to suspect that this Pope, while not a subtle sophisticate like his predecessor, does a rather good line in plain homely wiliness.” (See his 20 June post.) And Elizabeth D suggests above, “I believe Pope Francis is engaging with them and proposing a Catholic way of thinking about the same subject matter. ”

    How would such wiliness attempt to prevent the devil from having all the interesting terminology? Would it use it in a way that they know that he knows what they mean and is not meaning that himself but is clearly trying to free the terminology from its abusers, without openly stating the fact? Is there a Papal tradition of such rhetorical strategies? If so, can one see how well they have worked in the past, what dangers they have fallen prey to, etc.?

  21. chantgirl says:

    Venerator Sti Lot- If the Pope had any control over the media, I could entertain that possibility as plausible. However, if Catholics have learned anything during the course of this pontificate, it has to be that the Pope does not control the media response to what he says or writes. Does anyone really think that just because the Pope co-opts the terminology of the Left, that the Left will change their mind on abortion, contraception, sterilization etc.? More than anything, the Pope’s adoption of leftist terminology confuses weak or uncatechised Catholics, and gives the media the sound bites to trample the faithful.

  22. snoozie says:

    Venerator Sti Lot…why such tortured, painful, mental gymnastics? It is what it is. Occam’s razor.

  23. jacobi says:

    Integral ecology can mean whatever you want it to mean including a private profit making company designed to advise on the the application of technology in business solutions.

    It would have been better if the term, as it is applied in this encyclical, had been defined.

    I suspect that it might well be as is dealt with quite repeatedly in chapter two, Man’s God -given dominion over the earth, and how this should be exercised responsibly.

    Now that is something any knowledgeable sensible Catholic do instinctively, hence my immediate impression on first reading this encyclical, that it is aimed at non-Catholics.

  24. Traductora says:

    Sorry, but there is nothing innocent or explicable about the use of the term “integral ecology.” It refers to a wacky but apparently powerful and widespread syncretist, pantheistic philosophical/religious movement envisaged as the creed for a one-world government. They’re having a conference this month in California, in fact, if you really want to read about something that will make the blood drain from your extremities from sheer horror.

  25. discens says:

    Two things to remember about Pope Francis, now gloriously reigning: he’s a Jesuit and he’s from the Third World. A lot of the beginning parts of the Encyclical reflect the experience of people in the Third World. Just go to Rio and see the Favellas and you’ll get a good idea. Further, Francis’ acceptance of the Global Warming thesis is based, and explicitly based, on the prevailing consensus. He’s following what the consensus says. Does he personally believe it? You can’t tell from the Encyclical. His words are too Jesuitically ambiguous. In my view Francis is following Christ’s advice to be as meek as doves and subtle as serpents. He’s a dove because he’s accepting, if only arguendo, the prevailing consensus. He’s a serpent because he’s using the consensus to attack First World hypocrisy. Global Warming is a First World invention and it’s being used to oppress the Third World (what else is new?). Francis is calling the First World’s bluff. “If you really believe this stuff,” he’s saying, “then put your money where your mouth is and act accordingly. Stop exploiting the Third World, stop taking away their resources and their wealth and leaving rubbish behind. Make the world a real community of peoples who care for each other and the environment. Treat property and wealth the way the Catholic Church has always taught property and wealth should be treated, namely as having a common destination. Private property is never exclusively private; the surplus belongs to the poor. So give them the surplus. Your own Global Warming ideology tells you that you should. But you’re just hypocritically using it to feather your own nest. Look at what your IMF and World Bank are really up to: oppression of the poor by extorting diabolic rates of interest on fiat currencies that you yourselves create out of thin air in the first place. Stop being murderous usurers and become generous givers.” When our First World masters really see what Francis is saying in Laudato Si’ they’ll hate him with a passion. He’s stuck the knife in and he’s going to twist and twist. Forget the Rush Limbaughs and the other talking heads, whichever side they are on. They are obfuscation merchants, to hide from us what the Encyclical is really up to by distracting us with angry debates on irrelevant side issues. Never underestimate a Jesuit. And never underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do when he’s got a Jesuit’s mind to work with. This dovish serpent pope has a deadly bite and he’s so subtle and devious these First World nabobs won’t know they’ve been bitten until it’s too late and the poison is already destroying their miserable hypocrisies.

  26. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    William Turner’s 1912 “William of Ockham” article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia says, ‘The aim of this reformation movement in general was simplification. This aim he formulated in the celebrated “Law of Parsimony”, commonly called “Ockham’s Razor”: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate”.’ In these terms, I am not (so far as I intend and can judge) engaged in anything “tortured, painful”: if they are “mental gymnastics” they are what they are in the effort to be painstaking and not fail to multiply something that may be necessary – or at least useful – for proper understanding.

    chantgirl writes, “More than anything, the Pope’s adoption of leftist terminology confuses weak or uncatechised Catholics, and gives the media the sound bites to trample the faithful.” That sounds pretty accurate, or at least likely, to me. As far as I can see, jacobi is right in saying, “It would have been better if the term, as it is applied in this encyclical, had been defined.” All of my questions were real questions. What is he doing – or trying to do? Has it been tried before? Often? Successfully? I think it is plausible that he is attempting wiliness and thinks it will succeed. If so, I think it is plausible that he is very much mistaken and is doing more harm than good. He may be trying to be as subtle as a serpent, but being so elaborately subtle as to tie himself in to immobilizing knots – if not worse. If discens is right that “Francis is calling the First World’s bluff. ‘If you really believe this stuff,’ he’s saying, ‘then put your money where your mouth is and act accordingly’ “, I don’t see why he would not do better to be as thoroughly explicit as discens is when putting it this way. Now he’s being accused of himself exemplifying such “First World hypocrisy” as much as Al of the numerous seldom-used constantly-heated swimming pools or the powerful people who say the situation is so desperate that huge, massively productive still-Communist China must – be given a pass on the direly urgent requirements.

  27. discens says:

    Snoozle. If Francis had said explicitly what I think he’s saying implicitly, no one would listen to him. Now they have to, especially the First World elites, because he’s accepted (in my view only arguendo) their darling Global Warming thesis. So they can’t attack him without attacking themselves. But if they don’t attack him they don’t have a way to resist his Third World agenda (finally the Third World has a World voice speaking for it and not lots of hypocritical First World voices pretending to speak for it). Either way they lose. Either way Francis wins. Trump that if you can.

  28. DonL says:

    “Integral ecology” Doesn’t that reek of redundancy?

    “…For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”
    Thus, our political class has used this diabolically; “A crisis is too good to waste.”

    Frankly, I’m ready to invest in “the End is Coming” sandwich board manufacturing, biodegradable or edible, in keeping with the spirit of the times.

  29. Markus says:

    I was taught that were are supposed to seek Truth and Truth is Christ. Then why the constant attempts to redefine the meaning of words in this encyclical? In everything that the Pope says and publishes? Just to whom is this diversion of the meaning of certain words targeted to? Disturbing.

    My teacher nuns, in parochial grade school, defined conservation (ecology) and the responsibilities as a Catholic towards God’s creation easily and succinctly. They were based upon scripture and Catholic tradition. But now, with this encyclical? You should not have to research new terms, read 10 new books, just to understand what the Pope is trying to communicate. Disturbing.

    I am attempting to seek the Truth in Pope Francis’ statements and writings. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” To me at least.

  30. Pat says:

    Integral ecology, I think, was a term used before by Benedict XVI.

  31. SKAY says:

    JuliB said\
    “Chartgirl – indeed – I had read that someone who believed that GW is greatly influenced by sun activity was uninvited to a mtg at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”

    This is the article I read by the Washington Post.

    I believe they did allow an atheist to be involved with his view–why not this man?

  32. discens says:

    DonL, Markus. There’s no failure to communicate or indistinct bugle note in the Encyclical, but it’s communicating on more than one level. Francis is speaking to many audiences at once. Don’t try to hamstring him to fit the audience you prefer. If Christ could speak in parables whose deeper levels he only explained to his disciples, why can’t Francis speak on several levels to several audiences and use the words of each to convey his message to each? Why can’t he become all things to all men that he might win some? The guy’s brilliant and we need time to see just how brilliant. Take a look at what he recently said in Turin. He’s already using the Encyclical to make the First World elites squirm. Expect a lot more.

  33. chantgirl says:

    Many Popes have engaged in behind-the-scenes clever political maneuvering ( I am thinking especially of Pius XII and JPII with the Nazis and communists), but encyclicals are the place for straightforward, clear teaching.

    That moment when Obama, Ban-ki-moon, Bill Gates, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the elites sit down and say “Crud! The Pope has acknowledged our theory of global warming. Now we have to listen to him on abortion!”? Not going to happen.

    Most here probably aren’t fans of the Remnant, but Hilary White makes some good points about the encyclical, especially the lack of scientific data undergirding an encyclical that embraces science that is not settled.

  34. Markus says:

    Don L, I understand the concept of different levels as some of us have advance degrees (a couple of Masters including Liturgy). But to whom is this encyclical aimed at? It appears to many that it is directed at the elitist (possibly Jesuit class?), modernist theologian class. I am sorry, but I see no parables in this encyclical. How can one seek and find Truth based upon non proven (yes, falsified) scientific fact?
    Granted he may be brilliant. But does brilliant translate to being an effective shepherd? Many have expressed a desirable quality of leadership to be wisdom, many times described as intelligence with experience. Brilliance is lower on the list.
    As far as levels of communication goes, please explain what the Pontiff said, just today about separation in marriage and morality. I understand it on two levels. The Church already has provisions for marriage separation. The higher level of the statement could make it possible for one, however, to question the implications of the statement regarding future theological justification for divorce and remarriage.
    Quick comments, while well intended, have repercussions on all levels. In the days of newsprint and no internet, a story followed the comment. Not today-only the quote is flashed around the world instantly. No follow up. And the Pontiff used the internet?
    To have to explain and justify EVERY statement shows a definite lack of communication skills or (in Washington DC terminology) misspeak.
    I find it interesting the almost silence concerning the current crisis of the persecution of Catholics and Christians worldwide.

  35. WYMiriam says:

    Fr. Z wrote “Of course we have to figure out what it means in this encyclical, not merely in some other source.”

    Which is precisely why I find it so difficult to read what Pope Francis says. It’s bad enough that his grammar is atrocious at times. However, when Francis so often neglects to tell us what he means, and uses phrases that are foreign to us, or just plain brand-new (remember the one about neo-Pelagians in Evangelii gaudium?), then how is Charlie-Catholic-in-the-pew (who, incidentally, is probably not Jesuit-educated) to know just what Francis means or is even talking about?

    Is this a problem with Francis’ style of speaking or does the problem originate with the interpreter and his style of interpreting/writing?

    And does the quality of being “brilliant” really reside in someone who cannot make himself understood to the ordinary man on the street? And who has so often spouted off-the-cuff remarks that need to be revisited the next day by the damage control experts? I am not stupid by any means, nor am I a “genius” when it comes to the IQ scale, but when so many bits and pieces of Pope Francis’s speeches and writings are simply incomprehensible to me . . . I have to wonder what is wrong where.

  36. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    discens says, “Take a look at what he recently said in Turin.” How, exactly, can one do that? For example, in the case where (according to the Vatican Radio author(s) ) “Pope Francis spoke to the young people “from the heart” for more than half an hour, laying aside his prepared remarks (which he promised would later be published).” What’s to take a look at?

    Philip Pullella 0f Reuters, on the other hand, presented some of these (purported) remarks as direct quotations. One is “It makes me think of … people […] who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” Was this meant to apply to arms manufacture under Pope Beatus Pius IX? Is there anything about it that prevents it being so applied? Another is, “The great powers had the pictures of the railway lines that brought the trains to the concentration camps like Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody. Why didn’t they bomb (the railway lines)?” The failure of, among others, people in authority who presumably “call[ed] themselves Christian” to use more weapons they were instrumental in having manufactured, is also seen as leading “to a bit a distrust” – ? How would what Mr. Pullella calls “a long, rambling talk” characterized by such remarks “make the First World elites squirm”?

  37. discens says:

    WYMiriam. Encyclicals are written in Vatican-speak. Even the Latin has to be Vatican-speak (as the inimitable Fr. Reggie Foster, whose job was to produce the Latin, often complained). And Charlie-Catholic-in-the-pew, or should we rather say the Christifidelis, likely won’t read the encyclical anyway (nor indeed should he necessarily read it). The Christifidelis will get the appeal to St. Francis and his love for God’s creation, because he’ll at least get the title of the Encyclical. And the title is all he’ll need. Any who want to read further and to weigh words and plumb meanings, which the Encyclical requires, are welcome to do so. But then they better be ready for the hard work of weighing words and plumbing meanings. If they aren’t, let them read St. Francis’ canticle Laudato Si’ and be content with that, leaving the rest to others.

  38. discens says:

    Venerator Sti Lot. Well clearly you and I got to learn what Francis said in Turin even if the remarks were off the cuff and not yet published. The Elites in the West earn billions in making and selling arms, and in provoking wars for the arms to be used in so that they can make and sell more arms. Francis’ remarks about Auschwitz are a clever turning of the tables. The Elites deplore the Nazis and Antisemites, and make a big song and dance whenever anyone they hate says something that can be construed as or twisted into Antisemitism. But the behavior of the Allies in the last war proves that the Elites don’t really care about what they say they care about (they could have stopped the trains and didn’t; so are they not themselves guilty of Antisemitism?). The Elites haven’t changed. They are the same old hypocrites. Francis is exposing their hypocrisy. Turin was a first example. There will be plenty of others. Watch this space, as they say.

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