Monday, June 22, 2015


Everybody is ready to take up their colored pen
and mark up where they think Laudato Si' needs corrections.
This is a wrong attitude.
Original image from Pixabay. Text Added by Shannon Ball
I’d love to know how all of those people who had a statement on Laudato Si’ on the day it was released managed to read and digest a 184-page document in the four and a half hours between the time it was officially released and the time the encyclical was actually posted for public consumption on the Vatican’s website.

There’s no way I could actually digest that amount of theological writing in that amount of time.

Publishing something definitive that quickly is for the people who had their minds made up already.

In case you can't tell, I’m one of the ones who was not excited about this encyclical. The prelude made me really nervous.

For one thing, the media was like… stupid-excited about it. So excited it was stupid. The liberal media was cheerleading for the pope to finally obligate Catholics to believe in global warming. So, they're figureing that that’s like a fifth of the American population that is suddenly “forced to vote for whoever has the best environmental record”, right? (I mean, to the people who don’t know better, that’s sure what it sounds like when the pope writes an encyclical about environmental stewardship.) Oh! And then there was the conservative media wringing their hands over the same.

I was one of the ones who was kind of nervous about the prospect of the Pope binding us Catholics to believe in global warming. I wasn't sure it was wise for the Church to make binding statements about which scientific theories of our day we’re to believe.

For instance, there was good evidence to believe the theory Continental Drift, but when the theory of Plate Tectonics came along, the evidence for it was better.

Now, I'm not interested in arguing about whether global warming is a thing, but what if something were to come along in a few decades that explains things better? Catholics would have been stuck buying into a scientific theory that’s been essentially disproven. (I was relieved to read that, according to Jimmy Akin, Pope Francis agrees with me.)

So, I did start reading Laudato Si', the day it was posted, and I also started reading the things that had been written about it.

I don't know if you noticed the quote from Romans in paragraph 2, but I tripped over it and went sprawling. The encyclical quotes Romans 8:22, which talks about all of creation groaning in pain. I immediately poked a hole in this quote, saying to myself that it was taken out of context - just looking for any biblical passage where it happened to mention something about the earth being in pain... but Romans 8:22 isn’t just any pain - it’s labor pain that has the birth of something better to look forward to.

I quickly realized that I was reading with the wrong attitude. All the build up really had a bad effect on me.

I tried to force myself to reconsider how I'd understood the paragraph. Perhaps he quoted it in exactly the way it is used in context: in a spirit of hope for something good to come out of all of the problems in the environment right now. And when we do things that are “for the good of the environment”, we should do them with the hope that they will yield good fruit - just like a woman in labor suffers in faith that it will end, and when it’s over, she will have a beautiful healthy child asking to be fed, held, and loved.

So… from here on, I’ll make a greater effort to try to read Laudato Si' with a better attitude. (And the general assumption that the Pope knows the context of the scripture he’s quoting, and that he's using it correctly.)

Pope Francis certainly didn’t write this encyclical to ingratiate himself with the liberal media, or to make all of the conservative world nervous or mad. (In fact, if he's doing his job right, he should make just about every politician on the planet mad.)

Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si' because care for the planet is something that all people of good will are rightly concerned with. God placed us in charge of the earth, that doesn't just mean we are in authority over it - it means we have a responsibility to care for it.

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