Critique of Chris Ferrara’s Criticisms of Pope Francis’ Environmentalism

Critique of Chris Ferrara’s Criticisms of Pope Francis’ Environmentalism June 20, 2015
MudVolcano2
Mud volcano in Qobustan, Azerbaijan (Bruno Girin) [Flickr / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]
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(6-20-15)

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Radical Catholic reactionary and quasi-schismatic Christopher A. Ferrara published a critique of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si at the reactionary Remnant website. It’s entitled, On the Pope’s Encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’: Talk to the Animals – After All, You’re One of Them (6-18-15). I shall proceed to write a rebuttal of it. Ferrara’s words below will be in blue.
 
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. . . Pope Francis attempts to fashion yet another post-conciliar novelty in the Church: a call to “ecological conversion,” 

This is no novelty at all. In fact, it is such an old-fashioned, non-novel Christian worldview that it hearkens all the way back to Genesis and Adam and Eve:

Genesis 1:28 (RSV) And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 


The crux of the “issue” in many ways, is what “dominion” means. The pope has given us an extended treatise on that very thing, and many others. This entails ecology or environmentalism: stewardship over God’s creation. The staunchly orthodox, saintly Fr. John A. Hardon, in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, defined “dominion” as follows:

Ownership of material goods, entitling the owner to proprietary rights, i.e., to use, change, keep, or dispose of what one owns. Christianity views dominion as not absolute, but always relative to the common good of society.


See that last part? Applied to Genesis 1:28, it means that man’s dominion is “not absolute” but rather, integrated into the common good of society (and by extension here, the earth). This is not a new thing in Catholicism, but a very old thing in man’s existence. The pope deals forthrightly with these fundamental aspects of Christian environmentalism and stewardship:

67. We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev25:23).


which requires a subtle demotion of man to merely a part of the natural world.

This is sheer nonsense. The “superiority” of man is casually assumed:

We do not understand our superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith. [220; my bolding]

The passage above about dominion makes it crystal clear that man is “above” the other creatures of the earth; having dominion over them. There is no difference here at all with historic biblical, Catholic theology. But if a cynical, reactionary mind like Ferrara’s wishes to invent one, according to his erroneous preconceived opinions, it is always easy to state a falsehood without demonstrating it (as he does throughout his piece). He engages in extended soliloquies of his own fancies and imaginary myths, while I prefer to stick to documentation from the actual text, and citations of it, with commentary; along with relevant biblical citations.

. . . an Orthodox Archbishop by the name of John Zizioulas, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who—don’t you know?—is very big on environmentalism.

Of course he is, because it is a Christian responsibility to be good stewards of the earth : God’s creation and gift to us. Why is this perceived as a bad thing? It’s similar to the radical Catholic reactionary (and, too often, mainstream traditionalist) jaded view of ecumenism. They take the worst examples of corruptions of it (liberal indifferentism and religious relativism) and collapse that into the supposed entire (or orthodox) meaning of the word ecumenism. It just ain’t so. But they continue doing it, as part of their own isolated, self-absorbed, warped pseudo-tradition.

The same (analogously) is done with environmentalism. The radical “ecclesiological right” assumes that left-wing zealots completely own that discussion and that there is no such thing as a Christian, biblical, legitimate environmentalism or conservationism. That just ain’t so, either. Newsflash: Jesus is Lord of all of life, and that includes care of the earth and its natural resources. Pope Francis has done us all a great service by engaging in the entire discussion under the grand framework of biblical / Christian premises and assumptions and categories. He “unsecularizes” the conversation. It will never be the same again, for anyone who takes this encyclical seriously.

Yesterday I completed the task of slogging my way through the Italian “draft” of this 185-page book-length excuse to tie the Church’s credibility to eco-fascism and the global warming scam, which appears to be identical to the final document released today. As the world knows, Sandro Magister leaked the “draft” to the press two days ago at the cost of his Vatican press credentials.

Isn’t it interesting that Ferrara has no qualms whatsoever about reading a mere “draft” (in Italian) of the encyclical, that he himself openly states was leaked. He’s very transparent, indeed brazen, about it. But why, I wonder, would any serious commentator do such a stupid thing? He couldn’t wait another day or two before opening his big mouth and proceeding to trash the caricature of the straw man that he creates of the document? Is this some juvenile desire to be “first” or something?

By contrast, I carefully read the entire encyclical before making my commentary on it, complete with many extended citations, from the official English document, posted on the Holy See website.

Ferrara published a “summary” of his hostile analysis at Lifesite News. Time-permitting, perhaps I will critique that as well, in due course. Now, for those of you who wonder why I have urged folks to avoid this website, here is a prime example. It publishes the bilge of one of the most notorious radical Catholic reactionaries, trashing the pope. That alone is grounds for any orthodox, obedient Catholic to ignore Lifesite News altogether. With all the alternative news and theological sources out there, you don’t need to patronize a venue that sees nothing wrong whatsoever in Ferrara’s radical reactionary analysis. It spreads poison and cancer in the Body of Christ.


. . . the massively verbose Vatican documents of the post-conciliar epoch, . . . 

This is a plainly empty-headed remark. Who cares about length? I could document many examples of the Remnant‘s own hyper-verbosity, but anyone can check that out for themselves. Surely, our era is not unique in terms of prolixity, nor in nuanced or “difficult-to-read” expression. To give but one historical example, how about St. Thomas Aquinas’ 13th century five-volume Summa Theologica? He considered that to be merely an introductory work of theology. He wrote at the very beginning of it:

 

Because the doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners (according to the Apostle: As unto little ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat — 1 Corinthians 3:1-2), we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners.


Yet to today’s reader it appears almost impossibly complex; so much so that several recent attempts have been made to summarize or abridge or selectively quote it (I undertook
one such effort, myself).

Not to mention the Bible itself . . .  Has Ferrara read that all the way through (I did, 37 years ago)? Did he not suffer through the usually remarked-upon dry legal passages of Leviticus, or all the “begats”? Or how about reading in the two books of Chronicles, basically the same thing that was already recorded in 1 and 2 Kings? The four Gospels overlap, for heaven’s sake! Would Ferrara go after them, too, for unnecessary length and reiteration?

I have found that those who complain about length of other writings, invariably engage in long, long pieces of writing, themselves. I often observed this with regard to anti-Catholic opponents. They would critique my “verbose” writing, and proceed to write, — unashamed and blissfully unaware –, tedious, boorish tomes of four, five times greater length. I concluded that such complaints (due to the double standard) were in fact, almost wholly reflective of their underlying hostility to a given document. If they agreed with it, such remarks would never be made. But since they don’t, they complain about mere length.


Depth is not to be frowned upon. It’s not an “either/or” scenario. People need to stretch their intellectual and spiritual horizons, too, and be challenged.

I always say that people manage to spend plenty of time in front of the idiot box or reading 500-page novels (many of dubious value, to put it mildly). They’ll study reams and reams of materials in college, to prepare for their vocation / occupation. But when it comes to God, all of a sudden we are supposed to dumb down and read only short things. Why should the Holy Father bow to the short attention spans and the sad “sound-byte” / Twitter reality of today?  His general audience addresses are short, if someone must have brevity. Different strokes . . . It’s much ado about nothing: what is called obfuscation or obscurantism.

I would like to focus on one of the most troubling aspects of what we all expected would be yet another eruption of a Vesuvius that has been burying everything in its path with rhetorical lava over the past two-and-a-half years. 

Now here is a prime (textbook, classic) instance of the very thing he (unjustly) complains about. He condemns supposed “rhetorical lava” in Pope Francis, yet engages in it himself, with this abjectly idiotic, sophistical remark. In fact, I would characterize pretty much his entire hit-piece as “rhetorical lava” (or much worse, but we are in mixed company).

He cites, undocumented, a portion of the “leaked” document:

The human being, even supposing evolutionary processes, involves a novelty not fully explainable by the evolution of other open systems. Every one of us has in himself a personal identity able to enter into dialogue with others and with God Himself. The capacity for reflection, reasoning, creativity, interpretation, artistic elaboration, and other original capacities demonstrate a singularity that transcends the realm of the physical and biological. The qualitative novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within the material universe presupposes a direct action of God, a peculiar calling to life and to the relation of a Thou to another thou.

Presumably, this is some version (from who knows where?) of what the official Vatican document translates as follows:

81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.

Note the difference in the first sentence (“novelty” vs. “uniqueness”). Remember the old debate about “liberal” translations of the Vatican II documents? It’s deliciously humorous that now, radical Catholic reactionary Ferrara does the same thing: citing a non-official “leaked” translation of an official papal document, rather than exercising the supreme patience of waiting all of a day, or two at the most, to get the Real Thing. Ironies never cease, among the endlessly foolish reactionaries.

Ferrara makes one of his more remarkably ludicrous assertions in response to this portion:

I searched in vain for a reference anywhere in the main text of LS to what we fundamentalist Catholics commonly, however quaintly, refer to as “the soul.” There is none, save a passing reference in paragraph 233, occurring in the final few paragraphs of the document as part of a kind of “Catholic supplement” to an otherwise thoroughly humanistic presentation of the “ecological crisis.” 

It does nothing of the sort. Let’s tackle these fathomless imbecilities one-by-one. The argument over the lack of the word “soul” is a (to me, quite comical) version of the old Jehovah’s Witnesses “argument” that the Bible doesn’t contain the word “Trinity.” Indeed it doesn’t. But is the concept there? Absolutely! I have pages and pages of trinitarian passages from he Bible in two of my books. The term “virgin birth” is not in the Bible, either. “Magisterium” isn’t there; nor is “pope” or “Blessed Virgin Mary” or “sacred heart” or “immaculate conception” or “ecumenical council” or “transubstantiation” or “Assumption” [of Mary] or a host of other good Catholic terms.

Likewise, the concept of the soul is found in several places in this encyclical, when the Holy Father discusses man made in the image of God (see sections 65, 67, and 84), or the notions of human uniqueness among creatures, as seen in section 81 above and often elsewhere. What the pope states in section 81 is perfectly consistent with St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement about the soul in his Summa Theologica:

The rational soul can be made only by creation; which, however, is not true of other forms. The reason is because, since to be made is the way to existence, a thing must be made in such a way as is suitable to its mode of existence. Now that properly exists which itself has existence; as it were, subsisting in its own existence. Wherefore only substances are properly and truly called beings; whereas an accident has not existence, but something is (modified) by it, and so far is it called a being; for instance, whiteness is called a being, because by it something is white. Hence it is said Metaph. vii, Did. vi, 1 that an accident should be described as “of something rather than as something.” The same is to be said of all non-subsistent forms. Therefore, properly speaking, it does not belong to any non-existing form to be made; but such are said to be made through the composite substances being made. On the other hand, the rational soul is a subsistent form, as above explained (75, 2). Wherefore it is competent to be and to be made. And since it cannot be made of pre-existing matter–whether corporeal, which would render it a corporeal being–or spiritual, which would involve the transmutation of one spiritual substance into another, we must conclude that it cannot exist except by creation. (I, q. 90, a. 2c)

Remember, the above is for “instruction of beginners” according to St. Thomas. Yet we are supposed to bristle under Pope Francis’ intolerably difficult and lengthy prose. The pope reiterates what Pope Pius XII stated in 1950 in Humani Generis (section 36): that man’s soul is a direct supernatural creation by God. He is saying that biology (including a posited evolution) cannot explain it; that it “transcends the spheres of physics and biology.” Yet Ferrara calls the encyclical a “thoroughly humanistic presentation.” Poppycock! Has anyone ever heard a biology professor or teacher discussing the supernatural creation of the soul? That’s theology, not biology.

Ferrara is full of hot air if he wants to make out (rather astonishingly) that this is a secularist-type “humanistic” presentation. It is anything but that; the utter opposite of it. I collected in my initial commentary many examples of the pope’s blatant defiance of mere “scientism” (a thing that both C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton wrote a lot about) and materialistic science:

It cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. [199]

Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialization leads to a certain isolation and the absolutization of its own field of knowledge. This prevents us from confronting environmental problems effectively. An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. [201]

Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. [210]

Then too, there is the recognition that God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore. [221]

The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. [233]

Standing awestruck before a mountain, he or she cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord . . .  [234]

As an apologist (34 years and running, including nine years in my evangelical Protestant period) who has been openly, frequently skeptical of the rampant materialism present in much of science today, I was ecstatic to see reflections such as these, which are thoroughly biblical:  literally soaked in biblical and Catholic tradition. Yet Ferrara is so blind that he can’t see it. It’s truly amazing.

In fact, at the beginning of Chapter Two of this book called an encyclical Francis poses this amazing question (not accurately stated in the official English translation): “Why insert [inserire] in this document, addressed to all men of good will, a chapter referring to the convictions of faith?” That a Pope would view the “convictions of faith” as an insertion (or inclusion) in a papal encyclical tells us all we need to know about the problem with Laudato Si’.

This is as stupid as his previous barb. There are different functions of documents, even papal ones. Different things are directed to different people. The pope stated outright that he is writing more so to “all men” in this encyclical:

3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet.

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. The pope writes to all men, as a great leader of mankind. He receives much respect from many non-Catholics. He is using his “bully pulpit,” so to speak (to borrow a phrase from Theodore Roosevelt). Why is this objectionable? It’s entirely biblical, as well as in accord with some of the emphases of Vatican II.

St. Paul wrote about “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22). He sought common ground with the pagan Athenians, when addressing them (Acts 17:16-34). Jesus commended a pagan Roman centurion for his sublime faith (hardly seen among Jews, as He said). St. Peter interacted with the Roman centurion Cornelius, and brought Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10). Pope Pius XI wrote his encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge (14 March 1937), in German, in order to address the growing Nazi menace. Ferrara acts, dumbfounded, as if all this were the most novel thing in the world. The pope writes:

62. Why should this document, addressed to all people of good will, include a chapter dealing with the convictions of believers? I am well aware that in the areas of politics and philosophy there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity. Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.

He is merely using diplomatic, ecumenical language in this section. It’s as if he is conveying the message: “I have sought to write, above, in the spirit of what all men have in common. Now please permit me to more specifically address my own Catholic flock [unspoken assumption: where we share common premises not shared with all other men].” I’ve done a similar thing, many times, in conversations with atheists (I just met with six of them over dinner, eleven days ago). I will be defending Christianity in general or speaking about areas where we agree, then I note that I am talking specifically about Christians, or Catholic Christians. It is a reminder that people talk in different ways to different people (back to Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22). That’s the reality of effective, adult, constructive discussion.

But Ferrara doesn’t get it. This inability to grasp differences in genres or styles of language, or various approaches to diverse audiences, is widely characteristic of radical Catholic reactionaries; strikingly in common, in many ways, with the wrongheaded woodenly literal biblical and theological analyses of Protestant fundamentalists, and also with comically flawed and fallacious atheist analyses of the Bible and Christian beliefs. The latter tendency is a thing I will deal with (I note in passing) in my next book.

Let us assume that the words to which Francis has apparently put his name are to be taken according to the ordinary signification of words, as opposed to what Jimmy Akin will undoubtedly tell us they “really mean” in one of his “things to know” con jobs.

My friend Jimmy Akin has to write his frequent analyses of the pope’s words precisely because of nitwits like Ferrara who can’t figure them out on their own, and must cynically distort them, to their own nefarious ends (quasi-dissent, quasi-schism, Luther-like private judgment, and radical Catholic reactionary error). If it weren’t for the liberal dissidents and reactionary fools like Ferrara, and those who swallow up the dim-witted “analyses” of same, Jimmy could do many other things. But he, like me, is forced to deal sometimes with such folly, in order to help protect the flock from being hoodwinked. It’s part of our duty as apologists.

I’ve written two books about radical Catholic reactionaries like Ferrara and have a large web page devoted to them. I’d love to do many other things, too, believe me, but as an apologist, I sometimes have to spend time (as I am today on this Saturday afternoon, for no pay) refuting silly, idiotic stuff like this: precisely because some (not a small number of) Catholics will fall for it. If there is any “con” here, it is assuredly Ferrara’s flatulent pseudo-analysis, not Akin’s.

LS declares that by some unspecified “direct action” of God, man has “emerged” as a “personal being” from the material universe, but possessed of a “qualitative novelty” that distinguishes him from the other animals that have also “emerged” from the material universe via “evolutionary processes.”

Yes; this is Catholic dogma: the soul is a supernatural creation (i.e., not, by definition, subject to any biological processes or laws at all), and man is above other creatures. Ho hum. ZZZzzzz . . . . This is some sort of supposed “scandal” for Ferrara’s oh-so-fertile brain to confront? Ferrara makes a big deal of the phrase, “qualitative novelty”, from his “leaked” version. The official version simply has “uniqueness” (twice in sec. 81, seen above). Is that objectionable to Ferrara, too: that man is “unique” among creatures?

Man was created from matter by any account: whether through evolutionary process or by a special instantaneous creation. Catholics are freely allowed to take either view. What is not permitted is to believe in a “materialistic ‘creation'” that excludes God. That is where the essence of the battle in theology and apologetics — with the secular world — really lies. The Holy Father takes great pains in this document to emphasize that very thing time and again.

In Genesis we read that “the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” We do not read that man is “qualitative novelty” emerging from an evolutionary process as a “personal being.”

Nor do we read it (“qualitative novelty”) in this (official) document; only in Ferrara’s “leaked” one. By making hay of this one phrase that isn’t even there (and taken out of context), he only makes himself look even more silly and foolish, many times over, than he already is. But these unsavory tactics have become part-and-parcel of the ongoing cottage industry of misrepresenting and misunderstanding this great pope.

If Ferrara insists on waxing indignant over evolution (like all good fundamentalists do), it should be noted that it is only mentioned three times in the document (sections 18 and 81, twice), and in the latter, he states, “even if we postulate a process of evolution, . . .” (my emphasis). That is hardly an enthusiastic advocacy of the theory of evolution, although the pope himself likely believes in theistic evolution. It has never been a mandatory belief for Catholics. It’s permitted as one interpretation of the origins of creation and human life in particular.

But some Catholics seem to have the most difficult time accepting different permitted beliefs among other Catholics (e.g., the debate of Thomists and Molinists regarding predestination). They demand that everything be dogmatic and infallible at the highest levels. The question of biological evolution is simply not in that category. Durational process as part of creation was held or discussed as a possibility at least as far back as St. Augustine; also by St. Thomas Aquinas. Let Ferrara quibble with them if he chooses to. I won’t be reading . . .

Because man has a soul, he is ontologically superior by his very nature to every other living creature, indeed all living creatures put together.

. . . which is why the pope taught this very thing, casually referring to “our superiority” in section 220. Pope Francis maintains the traditional concept of “dominion” (mentioning it eight times). All he does is deny that the dominion should be “absolute” (67, 117) or “tyrannical” (83) or “irresponsible” (83, 220), and he denies that it should include “attacks on nature” (66). He positively asserts that it essentially amounts to “stewardship” (116): which anyone who understands the biblical teaching on this has already been quite aware of, long before this document. One might regard the encyclical as a helpful development (even a “striking” one) of the biblical and Catholic notion of dominion over / stewardship of the earth, but as such, it is not at all inconsistent with what has come before.

God does not forget even things as trivial as sparrows sold at market for a pittance; infinitely less so each man with his immortal soul, who is worth far more than any mere animal. That is the point of Our Lord’s teaching. . . . But man has not lost his intrinsic superiority to all other animals, nor his title to governance over them.

No kidding. DUH!!!!! Nothing in this encyclical is inconsistent with this understanding. It’s standard practice of the radical reactionaries to fight straw men, rather than actual opponents or views. The RadCathRs have been doing this for two years with Pope Francis. Why should Ferrara be any different? He’s the quintessential radical reactionary; the poster-boy, so he can’t and won’t  depart from the template and the ferociously spinning playbook and hackneyed talking points.

So why does Francis not state the simple truth that God endowed man with an immortal soul of infinite worth, thereby setting him above all other creatures?

He does do exactly that, as I have been showing! Here’s some more: he refers to the “unique worth” of human beings (90). He notes “the inalienable worth of a human being” (136) and “our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings” (15). This isn’t good enough for Ferrara? Well, whoop-de-doo! Who cares? The pope has in fact done what our relentless critic claims he has not done.

To the extent that he does not do so as explicitly as Ferrara would like (which is a much more minor question), I submit that it is because it is elementary Catholicism, known to any sharp, adequately catechized fourth-grade Catholic child. One need not state the obvious over and over. It is assumed, and stated more than enough in this document. “It’s in there” (like the old soup commercial said).

Ferrara even stoops so low as to chide the pope for not citing additional words of a particular Gospel passage, as if he wished to exclude certain elements. This is beyond childish. It’s embarrassing to have to even have to take my time to refute such patent nonsense. But if I convince even one person to start ignoring Ferrara and his reactionary crowd, it will have been well worth it.

Ferrara goes on to even greater heights of attack and ridicule at the end of his screed, most of which I will not dignify with specific point-by-point reply. Suffice it to say that the pope has reiterated man’s dominion, and has not taught any form of vegetarianism. That’s all anyone needs to know, in order to disregard the last third of Ferrara’s empty-headed attack.

He quibbles, for example, with Pope Francis’ A Christian prayer in union with creation near the end of the encyclical. Here again he shows his profound biblical ignorance. Many Catholics suffer from this deficiency. I’m grieved (but not surprised) that Ferrara is among them. Holy Scripture indeed contains passages such as the following:

Psalm 69:34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein.

Psalm 148:3-5, 7 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! [4] Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! [5] Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. . . . [7] Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

Isaiah 42:10-12 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it,the coastlands and their inhabitants. [11] Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. [12] Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands.

Luke 19:37-40 As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, [38] saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [39] And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” [40] He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Romans 8:19-23 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; [20] for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; [21] because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; [23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

That’s a lot of Bible to ignore! Right from King David, the prophet Isaiah, our Lord Jesus, and the apostle Paul. Are we to believe that they can write these sorts of thoughts, but Pope Francis cannot simply say, “Father, we praise you with all your creatures”? It’s absolutely asinine.

Rather than search for Scripture to support (or refute) his views, Ferrara prefers to cite St. Francis of Assisi in supposed opposition to his namesake pope. And the key word there is “supposed” . . .

Ferrara, most appropriately, ends with wholesale mockery:

Today I read a blog post . . . accompanied by a still shot from the TV series All in the Family, whose title expresses quite well the deepening absurdity of this pontificate: “Time to Turn off the Francis Show and Stay Faithful.” I would love to turn off The Francis Show, but the problem is that The Francis Show cannot be turned off. If only it could.

Friends, I strongly recommend that you turn off the Chris Ferrara farce of a “show.” Follow the Holy Father; not clowns in a sideshow. He won’t lead you astray. This is how God designed His Church. Popes aren’t perfect. Paul rebuked Peter for hypocrisy. But they can be trusted, with faith in God’s promises and oversight, for doctrinal and pastoral instruction. Ignore bloviating boorish boobs like Ferrara (except to read refutations of him, such as this post). But don’t ignore the pope, whom God selected to lead His One true Church.

This encyclical is a wonderful way to become acquainted with Pope Francis’ ever-insightful orthodox teaching and ingratiating style.

* * * * *
See also the Facebook cross-posting of this piece. The combox contains further comments and interactions (some with Ferrara), which are not present in the comments here).
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  • Dave, I wanted to read your critique and was all set to do so until i read the words "reactionary" twice in a couple lines describing the same person and "quasi-schismatic." After reading such loaded language up front you have been completely discredited as a viable source for critique. No serious intellectual publication would let you get away with name-calling as a means of getting your sympathetic audience riled up and "on your side" to "attack the opposition." Chris Ferrara is usually pretty reasonable and helpful for understanding the current crisis in the Church. Im sorry to say your critique was defeated before it even began.

  • Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for your feedback. First of all, how I describe Chris and others of similar perspective is, I submit, FAR less objectionable than how he and his cronies describe the pope and orthodox Catholic folks like me (he was a key figure, e.g., in popularizing the highly offensive term, "neo-Catholic").

    I myself coined the term "radical Catholic reactionary" (as a replacement for the despised "radtrad"). Note that it fully accepts the canonically Catholic status of the person described as such. It's an insult to real, mainstream traditionalists (people like Thomas Woods: Ferrara's former co-author who now distances himself from him) to call someone like Ferrara a "traditionalist". This is why I coined an alternate term.

    Also note that I use "quasi-schismatic" rather than "schismatic": again acknowledging that he is still in the fold, no matter how precariously. Ferrara in effect does the same with Vatican II and popes since Vatican II: implying that they are semi-heretical (whether he uses that particular description or not). Goose and gander stuff . . . It seems that the people who love to dish it out (and their followers) can never take even honest descriptions applied to themselves.

    Those on the receiving end of such (well-deserved) descriptions are invariably offended by them. But I have tried to be as fair and objective as I can be in drawing such categorical distinctions. The reactionaries have chosen to isolate themselves. In dealing with their ideas, identifications and descriptions are necessarily made.

  • Dear Mr. Armstrong:

    I have little hope that you will post my comment here, as places like this are shooting galleries rather than forums for honest debate. Perhaps you will prove me wrong. If so, the phrase "qualitative novelty" does indeed appear in the official version, in Italian, which you obviously have never read. There is no Latin version of the document. The English translation clearly ignores the Pope's own words in numerous places, this being one of them. The Italian words "novità qualitativa" in the official version do not mean "singularity." The Italian word for singularity is pretty much singularity: "singolarità," which does appear in the same paragraph but not in the Pope's description of man's "emergence" as a "qualitative novelty."

    Your insult-laden critique goes downhill from there.

    Chris Ferrara

  • Dear Mr. Ferrara,

    Your post is here. I didn't expect any substantial counter-rebuttal, so your reply isn't surprising at all.

    As so often with inveterate critics of Pope Francis, discussions quickly descend into obscurantist attention upon one word or phrase, divorced from immediate and overall context of the thinking involved. Whatever the pope meant by this word / phrase in Italian and however it is properly translated into English ("uniqueness" being the choice of the posted English version on the Holy See website), I'm quite sure it has an orthodox and not a heterodox interpretation. All indications lead in that direction.

    I don't read Italian. The last time I was engaged in defending the Holy Father over against a severe critic of him like yourself (Elliot Bougis), there was dispute over Italian language (from one of the pope's general audiences, I believe) and how it was translated into English. I consulted a friend of mine, from Italy, and she confirmed that the English translation available was quite inaccurate. So did the Google and Babylon online translators. My opponent was forced to publicly retract his claims that the pope had taught some outrageous point of soteriology. And of course that made him angry at me, and many insults followed. I was asked to leave his site and cease and desist.

    In my reply to you I attempted to demonstrate the traditional nature of the encyclical in many ways, but as we see, you're not interested in debating that with me. You'd rather dismiss my effort with one sentence, because I let you have it in many places: none, however, that weren't richly deserved, given your constant harsh rhetoric against the Holy Father and Holy Mother Church. You are of course aware that our Lord used very strong epithets against the Pharisees, when warranted, due to their manifest hypocrisy ("vipers," "whitewashed tombs," etc.).

    There is indeed little honest debate anymore with the radical Catholic reactionary position. Not by MY choice.

    But should you change your mind, you are more than welcome to interact here. I have about 800 posted debates on this blog. I'm all for debate. And I have credentials in the Catholic world as an apologist. I have ten published books with five different established publishers (Sophia, TAN, OSV, Catholic Answers, Beacon Hill Press). You can attempt to dismiss me as just "some guy with a blog," but it won't fly.

    I completely agree with what my friend Karl Keating wrote on my Facebook page:

    "Ferrara's critique of the encyclical is what I expected. He takes whatever he is writing against out of context, hyperbolizes, and tries to make his opponent (in this case, the Pope) say things he actually doesn't say or claims he doesn't say things he actually does say.

    "Ferrara is a lousy journalist because he has no idea how to play fair with people with whom he disagrees."

    You have a chance here to do better than that, and to rationally defend your accusations against the pope against my critiques. What do you have to lose? Here you have an audience with the so-called "neo-Catholic" crowd you so despise; a golden opportunity.

  • I leave on vacation tomorrow (Monday) for over two weeks, and will be away from the Internet; should you decide to reply and notice that I have not counter-replied over that time-period. I surely will do so as soon as I return, if that is the case.

    I defend (or retract, as the case may be) everything that I assert and contend in writing, as has always been the case, unless a "reply" is nothing but insults or mere troll-like preaching, with no true interaction with what I have written (i.e., unworthy of rational reply or any consideration at all).

  • I accept your invitation to debate, and I thank you for it. My replies will follow in due course.

    As for Keating, his description of my work is actually quite a fitting description of his, as his shown by his penchant for deceptive hit pieces written to make his various targets (me included) look insane. Keating has a well-deserved reputation as a vicious muckraker and a below-the-belt polemicist.

    Francis says or clearly implies exactly what I say he says, and the Left loves the encyclical for that reason. Tacking on some Catholic orthodoxy at the end does not save it from its fatal concessions to the globalist climate-change fanatics he had advising him on this travesty, which includes calls for a world government that can only be the puppet of non-believers and the same powerful interests he condemns (rightly enough when it comes to the multinationals).

    As a general observation, before replying in detail, Francis, quite in line with the post-Vatican II blindness to the Christological crisis of modernity, which every Pope before Vatican II warned was leading to "final disaster," as Leo XIII put it, evinces here an absolutely astonishing preoccupation with ecology at a time when the whole world is descending into total depravity. For example, he devotes more lines, and far more eloquence, to lamenting the extinction of animal species, fungi, algae, worms, and plankton, than he does the mass murder of children in the womb, which he refuses to call murder. Antonio Socci, who is no traditionalist, rightly remarked this utter absurdity in his widely read blog.

    More later.

  • Good for you. I'm glad to hear that you have the courage of your (in this case, gravely mistaken) convictions. Credit where it is due . . .

    I may have *some* time today to make a few replies, if you post, but as I said, we depart tomorrow on vacation so I'll be getting ready for that. It's a car trip across the country, and so involves a lot of meticulous planning. Thus, no promises . . .

    Even when I get back, I won't respond to anything and everything you throw out on the table, just as you have here. I'm interested in those parts of your article that I responded to, and your counter-replies to *my* arguments (which I will defend, as stated). I can't possibly (nor do I have the slightest wish to) deal with every jot and tittle of the tragic radical Catholic reactionary mentality. I would have to write a book as big as the Bible to do *that.*

    Subject matter has to be confined to the immediate issues in play if there is to be hope of any constructive debate at all.

  • I've decided the appropriate forum for this debate is the Remnant website. I will reply to you there. I don't think you have earned the right to have me address your series of insults and arguments that miss the point on this obscure website, ranked four millionth in the world.

    And the only reason you attracted my notice in the first place—I otherwise ignore your non-stop ranting against traditionalists—is that John Medaille decided to inflict severe damage on our friendship by linking to your vituperative "commentary." So, I will "see" you over there when I have the time to post replies. But I too am about to embark on a trip. So, whenever.

  • After this comment, I'm no longer interested (per an earlier comment of what I ignore), as it gives us a flavor of things to come. Seeing that you relentlessly insult the pope, why would I expect any better treatment? You go flail away with your fan club rah-rahing the whole time (as you noted, you obviously get a lot more traffic than I do, so you'll certainly have plenty of cheerleaders).

    My prediction on my Facebook page 13 hours ago has now come to pass: "It'll be extremely interesting if Ferrara actually replies. I predict more or less total insults if so."

    It's true that I need a lot more traffic than I am getting. That's why I'm moving my site to Patheos soon. So you tell me nothing new (I was talking about this very issue yesterday on Facebook), but you were quite entertaining and self-revealing in the way you did it. Thanks for that!

    May God bless you abundantly and guide and keep you. Enjoy your vacation!

  • If you aren't willing to debate in my forum, I will answer you anyway, as time permits. Your "commentary" is a useful example of why you do not have a serious forum. And your prediction was wrong: there was no insult in the comment I posted. The insults came entirely from you, which is the reason I don't care to dignify this forum. If you don't wish to address my replies that is your prerogative. But I have no duty to address them here, where nobody goes anyway.

    This will be my last posting here.