William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Laudato Si’: How To Live?

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First, an update. Mid-way through the class. Keeps me busy from dawn to dark every day. And I’m taking advantage of the libraries while I’m here. I have hundreds of emails to catch up on. This encyclical is providing plenty to do. And isn’t the Supreme Court about to release some rather momentous decisions?

I’ve been on several radio shows so far, from Fr Johnathan Morris’s on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel, to Frank Beckman’s show on WJR in my hometown. This morning I’ll be on Ross Kaminsky’s NewsRadio 850 KOA (Denver) at 9:20 AM. And next week I’m already scheduled to be on three more. When I recall when, I’ll post the times.

What’s missing from Western Society is a discussion of the Big Questions. Even asking them is deemed a triggering microaggression. Occasionally, however, queries slip past the goalie, but regardless of their structure or content, the answer is always “Victims” or “The Poor” and “The State”.

Well, who can be against Victims (a group which encompassed pretty much everybody, with well known exceptions) and The Poor? And who but the State can heal their wounds and provide their needs?

Politicians are delirious over the encyclical because it says, or it is being read to say, that their services are in ever-greater demand. That they should accumulate more power and more control over the lives citizens so that Victims and The Poor find succor.

It has already begun. Here’s Damon Linker at The Week saying Catholics can no longer be good Catholics and good Republicans (the party of slightly smaller but still increasing government). So, in the States, what alternative have they? To be Democrats? The party viciously hateful of everything Catholicism stands for except, perhaps, its environmentalism?

But very well. Let us all become Democrats or Socialists or whatever. Let Victims be soothed and enrich The Poor and let the State grow without bound. Then what? What purpose this beneficence?

What is life all about? To provide temporary comforts? If everybody (except for our necessary leaders) is made equally poor, to what end?

Pope Francis, doubtless in a hurry, or perhaps thinking his audience already knew these things, forgot to quote the catechism (emphasis mine).

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”

1894 In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies.

1895 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life. (1883)

Sin is mentioned twice in the encyclical: (8) (quoting another author) “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”; (66) “This [harmonious relationship between human beings and nature] is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.”

Salvation four times: (79) “This [applying our intelligence towards things evolving positively] is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction”; (112) “Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it”; (149) “This experience of a communitarian salvation often generates creative ideas for the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood”.

It’s not clear how “communitarian” differs from a form of collectivism, of which all forms are opposed. And all of the “salvations” appear to be the kind of earthly “salvation” commonly found in Heaven-on-earth interpretations of scripture.

The one exception is (235) where Pope Francis exhorts all environmentalists (presumably even Democrats) to look to the Eucharist, which the Holy Father accepts as being the real presence, i.e. the actual body of Our Lord. St John Paul II is quoted:

“Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act, whereby the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation.”

It’s not likely this passage will be quoted often.

30 Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to welcoming the multitude of newcomers who have been moved by the Pope’s encyclical to the pews on Sunday.

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 20, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Politicians are delirious over the encyclical because it says, or it is being read to say, that their services are in ever-greater demand.

    Except for:

    (123) We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

    and

    (211) The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct, even when effective means of enforcement are present. If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond. Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment.

    — Laudato Si

  3. It will take me some time to read and digest Laduato si’, but I think the following is an IMPORTANT THOUGHT.

    Our formidible intelligence, knowledge, and creativity set within our much greater ignorance and our tendency to sin has gotten us into what Laudato si’ characterizes as a huge mess. So, every solution offered better take the same human condition into account. Hence, we need great prudence before entrusting ourselves to any solution, still less to “experts” or “saviors” who promise to solve these problems.

  4. Katie: Let’s just hope their first attended service doesn’t include the Pope’s words on abortion and gender identity.

  5. I think His Holiness’s concessions to Liberation Theology and radical Greens will not satisfy the Left. In our local paper this morning there was reprinted a screed from some crazy endorsing Maoist population control: he urged the Pope to rescind Catholic teachings on birth control and the Church to call for limiting families to two children. His Holiness has allowed the camel to get his nose into the tent–will the whole body soon follow?

  6. It should be noted that His Holiness, growing up in Latin America, was immersed in Liberation Theology at that time, as were the Jesuits there.

    My wife posed me the following riddle:
    Question: “What’s the difference between a Lutheran and a Jesuit?”
    Answer: “The Lutherans know they’re Protestant.”

  7. Bob Kurland, What in the encyclical is liberation theology or radical green environmentalism?

  8. “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”
    I have no idea what constitutes a crime against the natural world and I can’t find a list of these crimes. Looks to me like one of those vague and ambiguous statements that has no objective meaning. It’s like politicians talking about fairness. Everybody is for fairness. Fair sounds good but has no objective definition.

  9. Sander van der Wal

    June 20, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    So going faster than the speed of light is now a sin too.

    Fortunately it is impossible to sin this particular sin then.

  10. Ray,
    Torturing an animal is a sin that degrades the person who does it.

  11. Coast Ranger, to answer your question completely would require a chapter, not a comment. But you first have to know what Liberation Theology is all about, how it grew in South America during the 20th century, the political philosophy of the Argentinean Peronistas and their followers, and then read between the lines of the encyclical.

  12. Coast Ranger, but read the encyclical–I have–and examine carefully the excerpts quoted in Brigg’s fine article.

  13. Bob,
    I know enough about Liberation Theology to recognize it. I also know plenty about the Jesuits.

    I see you don’t care to support your claim.

  14. If you don’t see the parallel, Coast Ranger, then I can’t help you. I’ll post one quote from “First Principles” article on Liberation Theology:
    “The movement pitted the poor against the rich, as if their interests were in intractable conflict” and although Laudato Si does not advocate revolution (as was done by many of the priests who followed the tenets of Liberation Theology) the anti-capitalist tone is evident throughout.
    With respect to the Jesuits, I’ll cite one example: the Jesuit publication in the United States is “America”. In 2000 they supported Al Gore for President despite his pro-abortion stance. My letter to America’s editor about this was never published nor did I receive a reply. If you can cite anything done by the Jesuits to support pro-life and religious freedom causes, I might have cause to change my opinion.

  15. I have not finished reading Laudato si’ but so far it has not pitted the poor against the rich in class warfare fashion but says that the poor must always be taken into account. One reason is that they suffer the consequences of many policies.

    I’ll concede that the Jesuits in the United States have major problems but Bishop Barber of Oakland is a Jesuit. So is Fr. Robert Spitzer. So is my brother, an orthodox moral theologian, pro-life “activist,” and missionary in Taiwan.

  16. Milton Hathaway

    June 20, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Is the Pope Catholic? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    Sometimes arguments and discussion seem to dance around the obvious. In this discussion, there are two obvious things that a wise person should keep in mind:

    1) Jesus’ teachings concern individual behavior, not government.

    Yes, individuals are to share what they have with those who need. This is to be done primarily for the spiritual benefit of the giver. But taking from others by force, whether the act is committed by an individual or a collection of individuals (a government) is stealing.

    If you like the concept of your government assuming your individual responsibilities as a Christian, there is another religion you should embrace instead, because Christianity clearly isn’t a good match for you.

    2) No one of at least moderate intelligence, and with at least a moderate awareness of human nature, truly believes, as in put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is believes, that humans can do anything to significantly impact future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

    Therefore if someone advocates that society do X to lower future CO2 levels, one should evaluate this person carefully in light of the knowledge that the person is either a) hiding an underlying true motive, b) lacking in intelligence, or c) lacking in an awareness of human nature.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 20, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    A “crime against nature” is shorthand for acts of wastage and despoilment, such as those Dante placed in the third and fourth circles, resp. the gluttons and the hoarders/wasters. Basically, the ukase here is “Don’t live like pigs” but as the Pope says in the encyclical, laws and regulations are not the means for achieving this.

    For another view, see:
    https://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/a-magnificent-a-wonderful-encyclical/

  18. It is always amazing to hear republican claim that they are in favour of personal liberty and small government:

    The reality is quite the opposite:

    Republican don’t care s***about personal and civil liberties of all individual, they only care about their own..

    If they did they wound not care what kind of marriages government do recognize. They would not reserve the shaming of other to themselves.

    If they were in favor of small government they would favor policies that reduce its size and its reach, yet they favor laws that can reach into the bedroom, that forces drug test on people that don’t have money to by it and dictate what people can do or not with food stamps.

    Of course, they don’t mind enriching friends with private prisons (who then bribed judges to fill them), the charter school, or transfer the payment of tickets to private company who can charge individual more than the tickets in monthly fee sending the poorest people into bankruptcy.

  19. Coast Ranger, I am familiar with Fr. Spitzer, having served on his Magis Academic Advisory Board (as a scientist) and having contributed to Magis Facebook pages. And congratulations on having such a brother; he is, and I mean this sincerely, praiseworthy. But as in many other situations, individual exceptions do not necessarily invalidate a judgment on a group, taken as a whole and measured by the pronouncements of its leaders.

  20. Sylvain, get a soap-box so more people can hear your false-to-fact screed.

  21. Bob, We both write for Catholic Stand! I write SF as well.

  22. Bob you can thank the spam box. Links that prove all I said.

  23. Sander van der Wal

    June 21, 2015 at 7:33 am

    the wealth generated by cheap energy has also resulted in people not living like pigs at all. A couple of farmers can support a lord by giving him 10% of their income, and with them living like pigs (you would not be able to tell the difference between their housing and the pig’s housing).

    Modern man can support an entiere Welfare State by giving the government 50% of their income, and even the pigs have better housing than the lord had in the olden days.

  24. Briggs

    June 21, 2015 at 8:11 am

    YOS,

    Excellent post, your link. That “Science” was never the answer is not just right, but should be shouted from every corner. And then, neither was “Bigger Secular Government” the answer, either.

    But—the big but—it’s not what the encyclical is that is (now) of primary interest, it is what it is seen as. I’ll have much more to say on this. And there’s no escaping that some of the contingent propositions written by the Holy Father are wrong or are far more doubtful than he lets on. He could have made the same moral and theological arguments without these.

  25. And our progressive returns with a tirade of projection. How can progressives be so blind to their projections? Oh, wait, if they weren’t, they’d be conservatives. Projection is a wonderful proganda tool, however, for those who are completely blind. Sadly, blindness seems to be increasing in the world. So when the government swallows up the minions, there will be shock and awe and wailing among the faithful. They never learn.

  26. Coast Ranger–didn’t recognize your picture. I’ll admit (and this is a rare event) that terming Laudato Si an exercise in Liberation Theology may have been extreme. However, considering Pope Francis’s background in Argentina, it might not be unwarranted that his judgment has been colored by an environment of authoritarian, socialist government and by other governments that have in fact oppressed the poor. A group judgment does not exclude different judgments on individuals. Not every Muslim is a terrorist or terrorist-sympathizer, even though one can cite the Koran and history to show that Islam is a religion that uses force and terror to spread its doctrine.
    I’ve finished reading a well balanced (+ and – ) article on the Encyclical by Tom Trinko. See
    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/06/pope_francis_offers_a_trinitarian_document.html
    I think I can agree with him.

  27. Coast Ranger, if you write science-fiction, I have a project for you: write the sequel to “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. If I were 20 or 30 years younger, I’d try to do that myself. See
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-theology-of-science-fiction-iv-end.html

    (Briggs et al: my apologies for being off-topic)

  28. Bob, what exactly is false in what I pointed out?

    About shaming you just have to look at Sheri to see that it should only be a Christian/republican right. It seems that Christians realize that it hurt when you are the victim of it.

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/drug-testing-and-public-assistance.aspx

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/ken-cuccinelli-sodomy-law/

    http://nypost.com/2014/02/23/film-details-teens-struggles-in-state-detention-in-payoff-scandal/

  29. James Bernard

    June 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    The scientist that was “banned” from participating in the climate debate was
    Overruled by the goofy “anti-Catholic” GAIA secularists .
    The SUN powers and generates ALL CLIMATE on this planet.
    And secular humanism is infecting and destroying the Catholic Church.

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