"Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society."
Caritas in Veritate, June 2009.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Will a Francis eco-encyclical be the right's Humane Vitae?
I’m not one to encourage political divisions within the
Church. But I can’t ignore them.
Like it or not, there are so-called conservatives and liberals within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church and they bring with them
preconceived, divisive worldviews that complicate all forms of ecclesial life.
Given the usual place of ecology within these ideological realities, I’ve been thinking about the future response to a Pope Francis environmental encyclical.
Naturally, there will be joy among most of our liberal brothers and sisters and there will be despair (mingled with fury?) among
many who are conservative.
Put another way, a Pope Francis eco-encyclical will
likely be the Humane Vitae for the right.
Paul VI issued his prophetic encyclical on human life in
1968. He did so against the advice and hopes of many. Given a great number of errant
voices seeking magisterial approval for artificial contraception and other ills,
Paul VI demonstrated courage and trust in Christ by making clear the teachings
of the Church. A good many on the left were outraged by this—and still are.
But Paul VI was correct in his warnings about
disconnecting the conjugal act from procreation. Pope Francis will be too in
stating ecclesial concerns regarding planetary and local ecosystems that nurture and protect human life once it is conceived.
Chances are, however, the left will not be entirely
happy with Francis's take on environmental protection. As he has done to date,
Francis will most certainly connect ecology with human life issues and he will link human
choices with the grace of God. But the condemnation in an eco-encyclical of
issues like contraception and abortion will likely not soothe the fury of some
on the right who may get particularly heated if Francis mentions climate change
or biodiversity—which, of course, he probably will given that these are two of
the most pressing eco issues of our age.
All this might only widen the divides between brothers
and sisters that come from too many of us viewing things through red or blue
colored glasses rather than seeing with the eyes of faith.
Thus we have a task before us—and by “we” I mean those of
us who get the Catholic, whole-life perspective of ecology, the one that Bl.
John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis sum up in the term “human
It’s up to us to double our efforts to teach—with
love—the Church’s concerns about ecological issues as well as the hard science behind them. Following the wishes of Christ, we must work towards unity within the Church, which is why we must prepare the way for a
The last thing the Church and the world needs
is for human life to suffer similar ills as those brought about by a refusal to
accept the truth of Humane Vitae.