George Weigel whom I met at the Newman Dinner at Queen's University, Kingston, ON this past Spring, puts the new encyclical Laudato Si’ published by Pope Francis this week in its proper context:
An integral human ecology forces us, he writes, to confront the harsh facts of human trafficking and the warehousing of the elderly. And (in a part of the encyclical that the New York Times and Planned Parenthood will most certainly not cite, let alone celebrate) Francis’s counter-proposal leads him to argue that being ecologically conscious and environmentally committed necessarily means being pro-life.
It is troubling that, when certain ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be set on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human person transcends his or her degree of development. . . . A technology severed from ethics will not easily be able, by itself, to limit its own power."
Francis, with John Paul II, insists that “we must safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology,” understanding that integral human development, in both the developed and developing worlds, is not measured by GDP alone, but by humanity’s growth in beatitude. Why is it so hard, in some quarters, to see that? Because, as John Paul II taught in Centesimus Annus, the vitality of the moral-cultural sector of the 21st-century free society is crucial to living democracy and the free economy as well. Or, as Francis puts it, at the root of this instrumental view of everything is “the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives,” such that we have come to think of everything as plastic and malleable.
And why do an awful lot of people think that?
Because they have eaten of the same forbidden fruit that led Adam and Eve to be cast out of that first, paradigmatic Garden: They have, Francis writes, bought the false idea that “human freedom is limitless.” In a proper understanding of us, the natural world, and the relationship between humanity and nature, there are, in other words, Things As They Are, including moral Things As They Are. Those things are inscribed in the world and in us.
Laudato Si’ thus insists that any “anthropocentrism” that is reduced to “the language of mathematics and biology” and that is not open to wider horizons of self-understanding is one that cannot “take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” Marry the imperial autonomous Self to a metaphysics of technique and the result, Francis suggests, is something quite (if I may use the term) unnatural — even something polluted. Those who see the world only as a “problem to be solved” lose sight of the deeper truth that “the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” And that loss leads to a truncated, distorted image of the human person, and a considerable number of people living in what the pope calls “cheerful recklessness” (which strikes me as a nifty variant on the “debonair nihilism” deplored by the late Father Ernest Fortin, borrowing from Allan Bloom).
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/419933/parsing-popes-ecology-encyclical-its-about-lot-more-climate-change-george-weigel