Pope Francis announced during an audience with lawyers Monday that he is writing a second part to his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’.
The pope said with this new writing he is updating Laudato Si’ to cover current issues.
The Holy See Press Office Director, Matteo Bruni, confirmed to CNA Aug. 21 that “the pope is working on a letter updating Laudato Si’ with regard to the recent environmental crises.” He could not provide any information on when the letter will be released.
Pope Francis made the statement about an update to Laudato Si’ on the morning of Aug. 21 at the end of a speech to lawyers from the Council of Europe member states that signed the Vienna Declaration on the Support of the Rule of Law in 2022.
Pope Francis told the lawyers he is sensitive to their care for the common home and commitment to the development of regulatory frameworks for environmental protection.
“We must never forget that the younger generations are entitled to receive from us a beautiful and livable world and that this invests us with grave duties towards the creation we have received from God’s generous hands,” he said.
Laudato Si’ is the second of three encyclicals published in Pope Francis’ pontificate thus far. It was released in June 2015.
The title, which means “Praise be to you,” was taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s medieval Italian prayer “Canticle of the Sun,” which praises God through elements of creation like Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and “our Sister Mother Earth.”
The theme of the encyclical is human ecology, a phrase first used by Pope Benedict XVI. The document addresses issues such as climate change, care for the environment, and the defense of human life and dignity.
In Laudato Si’, Francis wrote that human ecology implies the profound reality of “the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”
We who live in security and relative privilege may be tempted to say that, but 40% of the worlds population are now living with the results of environmental failures or are vulnerable to it in the near future.
The Church’s focus on the environment and climate change are a reflection of that reality. It’s short sighted to believe we’ll be immune to environmental abuses forever. Laudato Si goes into all of that but the problem is that most people haven’t read the encyclical. It’s very long. I suspect that Pope Francis wants to condense the gist and update it with 8 more years of science.
I think it’s a bit short sighted to presume that we have any accurate sense of the way natural disasters will unfold in the future when we can’t even accurately predict the weather across a few days, and even more short sighted to presume we have significant control over the climate.
Regardless, the Church ought to be far more concerned with the state of our souls, because carrying on in our faithless secular society where anxiety, depression, and suicide are skyrocketing, while mortal sin and reletavism are eagerly embraced, being spared a natural disaster will be little consolation in the grand scheme of eternal life.
The concept of mortal sin isn’t something that many, if not most Catholics, at least in the more highly-developed world, carry around in their vest pocket anymore. They just assume that everyone is going immediately to heaven when they die. It’s basically warmed-over Unitarian Universalism.
The Catechism, of course, reiterates the traditional teaching in no uncertain terms, but that doesn’t percolate down to the faithful in general. Some say “fire and brimstone doesn’t work anymore”, but that would come as news to fundamentalist evangelicals such as Baptists and Pentecostals, who have no qualms about reminding their faithful of these realities. IOW, they’re “based”. Not in full possession of the truth, but based nonetheless.
And yet so far the foresight of the Popes in the past, based on sound science, has shown we can accurately predict the impact of environmental and climate change on human lives and livelihood. Francis made that point at the very start of Laudato si…
3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.
4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”. He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, inasmuch as “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man”.
5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”. Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”. 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. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.
6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed “eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”. He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence”. Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”. With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”.
The contrast between the greed and selfishness in the first world and the impact of that in developing communities is very evident.
I don’t see them as separate. How we treat this planet is a direct indicator of our spiritual state. “Throwaway culture,” as Pope Francis calls it, and the greed that causes it both alienate us from Creation.
If how we treat the planet is a direct indicator of our spiritual state, I would think that our focus should be on healing our spiritual state first, rather than talking about healing our sister, mother earth.
Just from a practical standpoint, wouldn’t combating the spiritual afflictions, have a trickle down effect that would directly benefit the planet?
No, I’d respectfully disagree here. Again, this isn’t either-or; we do both simultaneously. We don’t wait until “healing our spiritual state” before performing actions in obedience to the Magisterium. Our Church commands us to live our faith spiritually, (regular Eucharist, prayer, reconciliation, etc) and in practice (e.g. Catholic Social Teaching and Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy). Laudato Si is simply a reflection of this concept.
Well I do believe that we can and should address multiple issues at once, this can have a negative outcome, at least in the sense that your efforts can look a mile wide and an inch deep.
Global warming, for many Catholics, just doesn’t rise to the level that they feel should warrant not one, but two encyclicals.
When listening to Catholic apologists on the radio or reading new articles about the state of the Church, I rarely, if ever, hear people complaining that the Church is suffering from a lack of direction and documents about the environment.
Again, there are far more pressing issues that need to be addressed and I’m not suggesting we sit on our hands and do nothing for the time being. We just need to get our own house in order before we lecture the world on the dangers of consumerism and land development.
The words, “for most Catholics” convey personal preference, (and likely not even an accurate statistic). But the fate of the planet, and how humanity contributes to it, is not a matter of personal preference but is of grave concern from both a scientific and theological standpoint, as experts from both camps have conveyed unequivocally. Our Church has commanded us to respond accordingly - not as Cafeteria Catholics choosing to dismiss this clarion call but as responsible stewards of the earth.
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