Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops, and the environment

It's been a long time since I last posted three times in a day. But a piece in the New York Times by Laurie Goldstein, "Pope Francis May Find Wariness Among U.S. Bishops on Climate Change," prompted me to write something about it.

First, I don't know that Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato sii (i.e., "praised be"- in Italian, not Latin) is going to be exclusively about climate change per se as much as it will be about a genuine ecology that arises from humanity's God-given stewardship of the earth with an emphasis on this affects the poor and dispossessed of the earth.

Reading Goldstein's piece made me wonder if anybody at the NY Times (except, perhaps- and only perhaps- Ross Douthat) will ever really understand the Catholic Church. I think it's more a question of ideology than it is of a desire to understand.

Taken by me at Cheese Park Bountiful, Utah, February 2015

Contra Goldstein, I really don't think there are an appreciable number of U.S. bishops (I doubt there are any) who are not in favor of better environmental stewardship and who are not eager for Francis' encyclical. Waiting to read it before commenting on it strikes me as simply prudent. The collective witness of the U.S. bishops, going back decades, gives us a decisive record of their insistence on our need to care for the environment, to establish a true ecology. Besides, being good stewards of the environment does not hinge decisively on some of the more controverted issues surrounding human-caused climate change. Environmental stewardship is just another case of reason and revelation working together.

As to the idea expressed in the piece that a significant number of U.S. bishops are worried that environmental stewardship conflicts with the Church's teaching on contraception, how about things like the fact that that orally-taken hormonal contraceptives, in addition to being carcinogenic, is now a measurable source of water pollution? Was it not Pope Francis, back in January, while on his way home from the Philippines, who railed against the ideology of the "neo-Malthusians? (see "The predictable provocations of the Pope of Rome"

All one needs to do is look at what I call the triptych of Bl Paul VI's papal magisterium- Populorum progresso, Humanae vitae,' and Evangelii nuntiandi - to see how integrated all of this already is in Catholic teaching.

As Mark Shea noted in his blurb for Radically Catholic in the Age of Francis: An Anthology of Visions for the Future-"To be radically Catholic in the Age of Francis is, therefore, to be rooted in the whole of the Catholic tradition. That is emphatically what Francis is..." I seriously doubt that Laudato sii will be any departure from Catholic tradition, even as I expect it to be provocative for many.

Unsurprisingly, Kevin Jones writing for the Catholic News Service strikes what I believe will prove to be a much more accurate note in "Here's what the US bishops expect from the Pope's new encyclical". Jones, in his article, makes mention of the U.S. Bishops' “Renewing the Earth,” issued in 1991, and their document specifically on climate change “Global Climate Change, a Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good,” issued in 2001.

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