I've finally decided to tackle the divisive topic of Laudato si', the encyclical that many of us want to love but can't. I am not writing to foment division but rather to explain my concerns within the context of a great love for the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. After first reading the document, I was not planning on writing in spite of concerns that I had. At that point, most of the internet world hadn't read it yet and I felt that my points would not be understood in context. (In other words, I was sensitive to the possibility that you all might think I was nutty as a squirrel.) Now that others are finishing the document, community thoughts are steadily splashing onto my screen. I'm seeing a lot of anger and a lot more confusion. It's not necessary that people hear my thoughts, but I would like to join the conversation. My aim is not to be right, but to seek Truth. Onward...
I'm going to work hard at simplicity and thereby hope to avoid misunderstandings. Giving only a basic framework for my thoughts means that many other thoughts will go unwritten. With that, here is a brief overview of my position:
There are points of beauty and Truth in Laudato si' to which I can happily give my assent as a faithful daughter of the Church. There are also elements with which I cannot agree, nor am I required to since they do not fall under the category of "faith and morals" and the teaching authority of the Holy Father. I give him my attention and deference in all things but, at the end of the day, I am obliged to follow my properly formed Catholic conscience.
The Catholic internet has done a marvelous job of highlighting all that is beautiful and worthy of attention in this document. I don't see a need to restate the core of that, particularly since it is immediately accessible in the document itself. We are obligated to give our assent to the truth concerning spiritual connection between all of creation and God. And what believing Catholic wouldn't? This is not new teaching, but only a reiteration of what the Church (including popes of recent memory) has always taught. In fact, you might say that the need for an environmental encyclical was already met by Pope Benedict XVI (sometimes referred to as "the green pope") in 2009 when he published Caritas in Veritate and in multiple other writings and speeches. Many readers of Laudate si' have the mistaken notion that Pope Francis has done something earth shatteringly new (no pun intended). This is not necessarily the case if we're only looking at the elements that are binding on the faithful. For example...
So we know these are not new themes. But there is something new in Pope Francis' encyclical which is causing concern...
The real stumbling block of Laudato si' for me (and for many others) is not the beautiful and good truths contained within but the elements which depart from the deposit of faith and step into dubious scientific and political theories. This is where things can get confusing for faithful Catholics who are not accustomed to finding non-binding and controversial secular elements in a papal encyclical. Our identity is wrapped up in Holy Mother Church and it is a wretched feeling to think we might somehow be at odds with her. Can we disagree with certain assertions contained in an encyclical and still be good Catholics? Yes, we can, but it is certainly an uncomfortable position to be in and we must be extraordinarily careful.
There is an idea making the rounds (perhaps to help people come to terms with that internal conflict) that being made uncomfortable by a work is a proof positive indication that it is of the Holy Spirit. While the Truth is almost certain to make us uncomfortable, it is also true that an intelligent and faithful Catholic can correctly feel "uncomfortable" by ideas which are at odds with Truth and beauty. I'll discuss a couple of these problematic ideas later in the article.
THE PROPER RESPONSE
Whether or not you agree with all of the Holy Father's views in Laudate si', the fact is that good Catholics are finding themselves with a problem of conscience. The simple (but not simplistic) solution to this problem was summed up well by my friend Michael Hichborn, who has researched this document (and it's context) thoroughly. He wrote:
So we are free to disagree on those matters. But what's the big deal? Why would anyone want to disagree with anything in a papal encyclical?
ABORTION, GLOBAL POLITICS, SHADY SCIENCE
I knew going into the encyclical that the Pope would touch on abortion and that he would say good things. What I hadn't heard from anyone was that he would also repeatedly and positively refer to international environmental efforts and organizations which are anti-life, anti-family, anti-Christian, and pro-abortion to the core. My pro-life sensibilities went into shock as I tried to reconcile a papal encyclical with what I saw as outright scandal. I cannot adequately address here the depth of moral decay within the organizations that the Pope mentioned with such enthusiasm. I will instead leave you with a couple names and brief comments. Please, research these on your own...
1992 Earth Summit in Rio - Hosted by the UN (United Nations), the "Planned Parenthood" of the international community. Whatever it's laudable origins or periodic good works, it is now taking the lead in the promotion of population control, anti-family, anti-freedom efforts around the globe. Consider that the UN has formally cooperated with China's forced one-child policy and you will have some idea of how distressing this connection is.
The Earth Charter - There's family planning language right in the document. It doesn't say "kill all the babies" but "family planning" to these secular entities does not mean NFP... it means contraception, abortion, sex education, and often even encouragement of deviant lifestyle.
Those are just two examples. Let's keep going...
The encyclical is overflowing with language promoting global authority equipped with the power to enforce laws and penalize countries. In an ideal Christ-centered world, this could be a productive pursuit. However, a governing world body based on Christian principles is a practical impossibility at this historical juncture and we are left instead with the Holy Father's rather alarming suggestions for positive long term global guidance. In a papal encyclical of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we are giving a glowing account of...
The Basel Convention (U.N.)
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio (U.N.)
The Earth Charter
The Stockholm Declaration (U.N.)
The Vienna Convention (U.N.)
The Montreal Protocol (U.N.)
The Conference of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, "Rio+20" (2012)
All of these agreements have fatal flaws and, without a doubt, would be used by corrupt political entities to inflict great harm upon innocent people. Why is that important to know? As faithful Catholics, we need to know that we are not bound to the Pope's opinions on these matters, even if he writes it in an encyclical. And we are NOT morally obligated to work with corrupt global organizations in order to be good stewards of the natural world.
Pope Francis takes a strong stand for cooperation with global authority regarding environmental concerns. In fact, in a recent speech to international NGO's, he said that the environmental protection issue is "perhaps the most important facing us today." More HERE. I strongly (but respectfully) disagree that these specific efforts bring us closer to a sustainable, life-giving, God-honoring worldview and solution. On the contrary, direct evidence shows that they would purposefully lead us in the opposite direction. Working with the U.N. to build a Christian worldview is like working with Planned Parenthood to stop abortion. They will ultimately only use and abuse your good will in the service of evil.
SHADY SCIENCE & SCANDAL
Of all the sections of this post, this is the one I am most loathe to tap out. It is larger than a blog post and it is disturbing because it highlights the reality of crisis at all levels in the Church. We know corruption and human error plague us. Pope Benedict strongly referred to it. Pope Francis has also referred to it. But how are we to respond to that reality? That is the question that has been occupying me since I read the encyclical and was the reason I finally decided to hit "publish" on this post. What are we supposed to do when ecclesial authority uses the holy office to promote fallible (and erroneous) opinion?
As you read the following details, please continue to keep in mind that we are not obligated to give assent to the elements of the encyclical that are non-binding and violate our properly-formed consciences. We do not have to cooperate with evil people or their organizations. We don't have to conform ourselves to the Holy Father's political leanings or those of his advisors or collaborators. We are followers of Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church and not the shenanigans of men. The following details are individual pieces that apply to the larger context but are important enough to include here because they all have bearing either on the creation or implementation of the goals of Laudato si'.
Although the encyclical is a product of Pope Francis' study and opinions, the document itself was the result of a much larger collaborative effort. There were many who were invited to prepare the way for, help write, and also to promote the encyclical. Within that context, there have appeared some alarming names...
Cardinal Peter Turkson and a team of advisors wrote the first draft of the encyclical. The Cardinal has been a high ranking Vatican official for a long time (predating Francis) and his views favoring a U.N. collaboration and a one world banking and environmental system are well known.
The team of experts consulted also included Hans Joachim Schnellhuber, the founder and head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, and staunch advocate of a one world government. His presence has caused some alarm among good people. Learn more about him HERE, HERE, HERE.
In September of 2015, Pope Francis hosted a Vatican summit on climate change in Rome. All things being, well, Catholic... this should not have been a problem. But there were some disconcerting elements. Among those elements were hosts, presenters, and attendees whose life work lies in direct contradiction to the Catholic faith. For example...
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was invited to lead the summit. In other words, the leader of the one of the most aggressive population-control, anti-family, anti-Christian organizations in the world was invited to lead a Vatican summit on pressing moral issues. The U.N. announced it's support of Laudato si' in 2014, well before most Catholics were aware that it would be written. This knowledge has caused significant concern among pro-life and pro-family activists.
Then there's Jeffrey Sachs who moderated and co-hosted the event. He is an outspoken proponent of legalized abortion to control population. (more here)
Naomi Klein is another scandalous addition. She is an anti-capitalist/environmental activist who wrote: "For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their belief system as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion." There's abortion again.
I'm providing a snapshot here, not a complete story. My awareness of many of these things comes, not because I am some kind of Vatican watchdog, but because I am a pro-life Catholic who has a Gospel mandate to build a culture of life. Within my vocation, I have been able to keep up a little with the 'who's who' among the enemies of life; hoping to recognize them when they try to posture as sheep in my community and country. I am not foolish enough to believe that they are actually in the Church as united family; they have simply walked through the open door and are preparing to dismantle it like the Trojan horse guests that they are. To recognize their mission and to own a blog and stay quiet feels irresponsible. The Holy Father wishes to publicly collaborate with such people on projects of such magnitude, and I believe I am obliged to publicly question these decisions.
FORMAL AND MATERIAL COOPERATION
At the risk of stepping into a theological rabbit hole, I must touch on the important distinction between formal and material cooperation with evil; because support of the global Sustainable Development Goals mentioned in Laudato si' and encouraged by the Vatican, appears to at least be flirting with material cooperation, if not fully engaged. (If you are not familiar with the theological distinction in cooperation with evil, you can brush up HERE.)
This can easily turn into a complex discussion but I'll break it down (for my own benefit as well as yours)...
The Vatican fully supports the global environmental objectives of the U.N. which DO include population control initiatives (i.e. contraception and abortion). Don't believe me? Read more HERE.
Work that moral equation out for yourselves but remember: These are papal opinions and assertions that are non-binding on the faithful. But in order to justify material cooperation with those who promote intrinsically evil acts, there needs to be a proportionally grave reason. The reason we are given in Laudato si' is the highly controversial idea of man-made climate change. Personally, I think that anthropogenic climate change is junk science. Regardless of whether I am right or wrong about this, nobody is bound to believe or support such speculative scientific theories.
As Catholics, we are already taught to be good stewards, to be honest and generous and self-giving; we are taught to look upon God's creation with reverence and act accordingly; we know that it is wrong to destroy healthy environments and to abuse technology to the detriment of community, family, and personal dignity. We know all this.
I encourage you to click on the links throughout this post and to do your own research, but I have to warn you... You will find a lot of what looks like scandal. To do in depth research into the weakness and wickedness of mankind we must also go armed heavily with prayer, Scripture, spiritual reading, and foundational teachings of the Church. If we know who we are in the Body of Christ and know the promises at our Lord makes to His Church, we will not be depressed by revelations of difficulty, but strengthened by Hope and grace.
I love Pope Francis and I always will. I am his spiritual daughter and I take joy in his holy office as Father and shepherd. But in the tradition of he Church, I am also his spiritual mother and am charged with the care of his soul. I accept his authority and at the same time, exhort him to separate himself from association with those who seek to destroy the Church. Walking with and smelling like the sheep does not also mean allowing the wolves to invade the fold.