Laudato Si’: Surprise! They Don’t Get It

The Editors of the National Review, et al., don’t get Pope Francis’ encyclical. There is much accusation that Francis employs a simplistic approach to economic matters — a “pot calling the kettle black” scenario if ever there were one — since the writers are guilty of doing the very same thing (i.e., asserting without basis that the surest way for developing countries to improve living conditions is to increase their economies).

The Invisible Hand is an economic theory. It is not, in practice, infallible, any more than any other theory can be infallible. Something even greater than economic theory is the anthropological reality that people act chiefly out of self-interest. Christianity is the only true remedy to this reality.

It is not a given to state that the market is “self-correcting” and therefore any and all regulation is superfluous. Rather, that particular argument is a red herring now that we have examples of how unrestrained capitalism (read consumerism) AND communism — at their respective extreme polarities — are both capable of enslavement. Self-correction is not the same as “self-preservation”.

While there are now thousands of billionaires, there are billions of nothingaires. But stop counting. What resonates clearly in this encyclical, and what is desperately needed to respond to threats of a New Economic World Order, is that humanity is at the center of creation, and any economic or political system that intentionally violates the rights and dignity of even a single human being is not fully tenable in its current form.

Universal recognition of this clearly-defined principle (which is not at all novel when viewed through the lens of Church teaching) would actually solve the problem, in which case, no need for any other “Power” or “Authority”, and therefore no need for scary music or harsh lighting to emphasize the point. “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

There’s far more at stake than global warming. The “science” on that issue can be easily set aside for now. What about (a) pesticides harming people (and honeybees!), (b) hormones in municipal water supplies, (c) devastations to animal populations, (d) people living atop landfills, (e) “food” being sold, primarily to the poor, that isn’t really food, and (f) toxic pollutants in the air that people breathe? Are these not important to life and health?

Humans are chiefly responsible for these symptoms, even if climate itself is a far more tenuous connection. We are reminded by Pope Francis that to “fill the earth and subdue it” is not license to destroy and ruin for posterity. We are stewards, not masters.

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