Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Let the whining commence

Pope Francis is releasing an encyclical on the environment.

People have been complaining about it for nearly a year.  The encyclical, which will go under the name Laudato Sii, will concern the environment.  In the US, those on the political right have been unhappy about this since they knew it was coming out.  US Catholics on the political right have oddly been particularly unhappy, which might be because people have a disturbing tendency to inform their religious views by their political ones, when it should go the other way around.   But there's been a lot of that in the US to some degree in recent decades, in all areas of religion.

Another reason might be that Pope Francis is undoubtedly more "liberal" than his two immediate predecessors, and this causes concern in some quarters.  He's frankly not my "favorite" Pope, but I don't think his encyclicals, so far, have been off the mark.  And by encyclicals, I should say encyclical, as there's been only one so far. That one was   Lumen Fidei.

Lumen Fidei was pretty darned controversial in and of itself, in some quarters, as it brought up some topics that economic conservatives, or rather free marketers, were made uncomfortable by.  It didn't espouse free market economics, but then no Pope ever has, so that makes the controversy so very interesting.  People getting upset should have recalled that Pope Leo XIII made both socialist and free marketers upset when he issued Rerum Novarum, which criticized free market economics and socialism both.  Rerum Novarum was so hugely influential at the time that it gave rise to Distributism, the economic "third way" that's really more "free market" capitalist than the model we actually use.  It'd be tempting to look at the economic comments in Lumen Fidei as reviving those arguments, but people have not tended to do so.

What this does point out, however, is that Papal Encyclicals, which are simply writings of the Pope, and which do not bind anyone to agree with them in any fashion (i.e., Catholics and others are free to disagree fully with them), have tended to be pretty darned on the mark on the topics they address.  Rerum Novarum sought to explore, in part, economic justice in terms of the individual and the family.  Over a century later some similar themes still needed exploration, which shows how relevant Pope Leo XIII had been in the 1890s when he issued it.  

Right or not, it's well to remember that Popes haven't shied away from controversial topics and they've often made a lot of people mad with encyclicals.  Pope Paul VI created such a controversy when he issued Humanae Vitae in 1968.  This was such the case that it caused somewhat of a revolt in some Catholic circles and the conduct warned against has been largely ignored.  None the less, it's also often noted that the future warned against proved to be remarkably accurate.

In terms of ignored, we also have Pope Pius XI's  Mit Brennender Sorge (released in German, not Latin), released in March 1937 and aimed injusticies within Nazi Germany.  Things only got worse, of course, but as an international declaration, it's pretty darned early.  Most of the world didn't really get around to being fully appalled by Nazi conduct until Allied troops began to liberate the camps and the full nature of what occured became painfully evident.

Okay, so what's the point. Well, perhaps people need to consider what's written and ponder it, rather than resort to a political position first.  That doesn't mean that they'll agree, but sometimes pondering is in order.

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