June 21, 2015


Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power.
Those without a background in Catholicism may not catch the gravity of that. Mary is highly revered in Catholic Doctrine and many -- especially "Old World" Catholics choose her for a personal relationship in prayer, sharing their sorrows with the Mother who understands loss. Rhetorically, Pope Francis is "launching nukes" with that statement: we with the air-conditioning are equivalent to those who crucified Jesus.

I read Laudato Si' [Kindle version] [HTML] cover to cover. It is short but grating on a person who has any belief in liberty or human achievement or individualism. I will endeavor to keep this respectful as I truly feel for church members who appreciate liberty. I mentioned the WSJ Editorial Board and know we've at least a couple who read these pages.

When Pope Francis made casual remarks about Marxism and when an early version of Laudato Si' was leaked, I was cautioned to not accept the "Mainstream Media" version. There was much nuance and they had an agenda. Having watched their treatment of Gov. Palin, I deferred judgment. But I found no mitigating text -- and several outrageous, completely over the top, contrary examples. This is 187 pages of 1970's Paul Ehrlich environmentalism seasoned with Marxist economics.

We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that "less is more". A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment.

That can be thought to be religious asceticism (of which Catholics are enthusiastic), but in the context of this document it is "observe limits," and "don't take too much."
In any event, if in some cases sustainable development were to involve new forms of growth, then in other cases, given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity. That is why the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth. Benedict XVI has said that "technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency".[135]

Preaching to the ThreeSources choir, I needn't rebut; our mad consumerism has lifted billions out of poverty -- the bulk of those remaining are precluded from engaging on trade by tyrannical government. But the Pope has the authority of . . . another Pope!

There is much commentary on the encyclical: most better than mine, very little not critical. But I wish to plant my flag here. There are 172 footnotes, giving the paper an academic feel. Francis is from the Jesuit order and their order produces the intellectual spine of the church. I learn from Facebook memes that Pope Francis has a Masters degree in Chemistry.

But it is all self referential. The footnotes refer to other Papal pronouncements or "PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE" or "BOLIVIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE," or "PARAGUAYAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE" (African, Mexican, &c.) I read a couple of academic theology books last year and was struck by the same disappointment. They quoted religious sources, but included leftist academics to give it secular balance.

I don't expect the Pope or a Theology professor to quote Ayn Rand. But I'd love to feel that they have perhaps encountered Hayek or Mises or Milton Friedman. Hell, a John Locke or Mary Wollstonecraft reference would give me comfort. But, no, these people read others who think just like them. Several of the footnotes in Laudato Si' are to other works of Pope Francis. That would not be a flaw if the other references displayed wider thought.

I looked for a few quotes I could support -- not because I am so wonderfully fair, but that is my style of disagreement. All I can muster is that I see where is coming from on occasion, even if he is completely wrong. Let's stipulate the swellness of St. Francis and a true appreciation for the wonder of the world we inhabit. There is literally nothing in here that would help preserve it.

We read in the Gospel that Jesus says of the birds of the air that "not one of them is forgotten before God" (Lk 12:6). How then can we possibly mistreat them or cause them harm?

You may, if you chose, read that as a suggestion to use more fossil fuel and less wind power, because the former is kinder to the Avian co-members of creation -- but I'd suggest you're being wildly optimistic.

The words I've heard from others: pessimistic, misanthropic sound harsh until you plow through a few pages. This has the joy and celebration of human advancement of President Carter's "malaise speech." In fact:

A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment.

One star. And the title? Look it up!
"If you paid for this epub you were wronged and should demand the return of your money. This is a document by the Holy Father Pope Francis belonging to the Catholic Church and intended for free, unlimited public consumption."


Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at June 21, 2015 9:24 AM

I don't find laudito si (or the correctly spelled laudato si) anywhere on the page of Latin profanity. I did find this which cites the meaning "praise be to you."

I for one am pleased that you undertook this thoughtful, respectful, and sympathetic analysis of the complete text of what I call, the Communist Manifesto Encyclical. And what I find most notable about it is the remarkable similarity between your conclusion and mine. [First comment. Both comments, actually, come to think of it.]

Heh. The comment password du jour for today? Faith.

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2015 2:28 PM

*Ahem* You were supposed to look up "Perfututum" if needed.

I tried to be respectful and eclipsed Lawrence Reed's link to Max Borders's The New Paganism? "Who was the second-grader who wrote the Pope's encyclical on the environment? It's worse than worthless."

I know some knuckledraggers 'round these parts will watch FOX News Sunday on occasion. I am glad I read the entire piece so that I can call out Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Wuerl grossly mischaracterized the document, calling it a call to a conversation. The tone does not match that assessment in any way.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2015 2:43 PM

You say Ladato, I say Laudito...

Corrected the spelling, thanks, though the curious postpended apostrophe is a mystery. I saw it on some very Catholic looking sites so I am keeping it. How many Romans????

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2015 2:50 PM

Oh, that. I didn't need to look it up. I already knew that it means "sweet-smelling authoritarian prose." ;)

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2015 3:01 PM

...and a quick reminder to the newbies: "f@ith" refers to the character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, played by the lovely Eliza Dushku.

You may interpret literature as you like, but ThreeSources.com passwords are strictly assigned to Buffy characters, guitar gear, and jazz musicians.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2015 5:48 PM

church members who appreciate liberty.

Present! Though for the record I identify [heh; to cite a current meme] more as a "follower" who attends church.

I've never paid much attention to any church issuing that does anything but call those to heed the word; sounds like I'll feel nothing but boiling blood if I read this thing.... I've been forming an opinion of the Pontiff that he's either:

- completely addled; or
- in thrall to young firebrands

this activist form of Liberation Theology has long and apparently strong ties to the church, the titled movement started in latin america, IIRC.

As a believer (not in Catholic doctrines, tho' ours are mostly congruent) I'd say right back in his face: ".... render unto Ceaser..." (hmm, in Latin or Spanish?) and ask him to stick with stimulating our hearts, and to stay away from snatching at our purses! Perhaps a better rejoinder would be latin for "be careful what you wish for..."

It really seems to be a "Me, too!" moment, but I seem to recall thinking that about every pope except for JPII.

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 23, 2015 11:21 AM | What do you think? [6]