On Laudato Si’: “It is an earthquake”

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A great evaluation of the new encyclical by Ted Widmer: 

Of course, Laudato Si is likely to be chopped up, packaged and sold in exactly the way it advises us not to. Politicians from both extremes will distort it, or simply ignore it until the news cycle is comfortably past. Yet it is not a reductively conservative or liberal argument; it’s an ethical appeal that springs from years of reflection. Throughout, he offers a bracing critique to the self-absorption of the Connected, right and left, and to the tools that have made us so dumb and so smart at the same time. He comes back again and again to the very audiences that cannot read him — the poor who cannot help to contaminate themselves though primitive cooking techniques, who can no longer find the bread and fish for daily sustenance, whose names are not even known by their governments. They may not have heard of climate change, or even of the Catholic church. But Laudato Si speaks to them.

…It is so refreshing to read something so different from our usual political discourse, and so courageous. This is hardly a typical environmental screed. It came from the centuries, and it was written for the centuries, including those who will live hundreds of years from now. It doesn’t easily fit into the world that we have come to know. That’s a good thing.

With erudition, with style, and with no small amount of daring, this 78-year old man has written a young person’s message, about a young person’s topic. The Church remains imperfect, and this document has unsettled more than it has settled. But from its spirit of restless self-examination, enlightenment will come. Among other things, Laudato Si is a teaching manual, and the immense hierarchy of the Church will now swing into action to spread its doctrine, including the specific teaching that insults to the earth are a sin. It may not bring peace on earth, as Pacem in Terris did, briefly. But it could help us to redefine those terms. In a week in which the world was celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta; another document has emerged that might endure just as long. It is an earthquake.

Read it all. 


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