I realize that it's rare for your GetReligionistas to serve up one of our "think pieces" in the middle of the week, but, frankly, I am still digging out from the move to East Tennessee and missed this handy little essay this past weekend. So here we go.
Has anyone else been amazed that so much of the coverage of the papal encyclical Laudato Si (full English text here) has (a) tried to turn it into a truly radical political document and (b) seemed to suggest, as usual, that Pope Francis is the first occupant of the Throne of St. Peter to wade into these troubled waters.
I mean, this document has all kinds of things in it, including -- for liberals, surely -- some highly troubling language in which the pope's communitarian and Catholic moral vision is applied to, let's say, abortion:
120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?
Or how about that passage that many are interpreting as a statement addressing life choices facing those who see themselves as transsexuals?
The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.
So with some of these newsy quotations in mind, I invite journalists and others interested in this still hot document to dig into Rebecca Hamilton's recent essay "Fourteen Things Laudato Si Says. Nine Things It Does Not Say" at the Public Catholic weblog. Here is the chunk of this piece that hit me the hardest:
3. Laudato Si specifically condemns the idea that population control is the way to “save the environment.”
4. Laudato Si specifically condemns business practices which ignore human rights and encourage human trafficking, drug trafficking, disruption of populations, seizure of individual’s property and wars for profit. It also condemns embryonic stem cell research and attempting to destroy the complimentarity between men and women.
5. Laudato Si calls for respect for local cultures and economic reforms which take the common good and human life into consideration.
6. Laudato Si says that all of life is interrelated and that human beings, as stewards of the earth have a grave responsibility to care for it.
7. Laudato Si condemns the out-sized consumption of goods by some parts of the world (ouch) which leads to impoverishment of people in other parts of the world. It calls us to look beyond consumerism to God to fill the emptiness of our lives.
Read it all, because it's quite short and punchy. As you read, note how many of these doctrinal hooks you have NOT seen in the press coverage of this document, especially in coverage in network and cable television. Keep reminding yourself: This is a pastoral document, built primarily on Catholic doctrines; this is not a political manifesto, no matter what journalists keep chanting.
Will this document have life? Hang on and let's see.