Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ Rerum Novarum, or No Wonder Rush Limbaugh Hates the Pope.

Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ Rerum Novarum, or No Wonder Rush Limbaugh Hates the Pope. June 18, 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word

Make no mistake about it. Laudato Si is not a wimpy, tip-toe-around-and-don’t-offend-anybody encyclical. It’s a throw-the-money-changers out of the Temple revolution of an encyclical.

No wonder Rush Limbaugh hates this pope.

A lot of you are going to find yourself challenged by Laudato Si, precisely because Pope Francis does not give you the option of ignoring what he’s saying. You can decide to go against the pope. Or you can decide to walk with him.

But you can’t pretend he didn’t say what he said.

Pope Francis comes right out and says that global warming — along with a lot of other things — is leading us to a dark future. He points out the spiritual hollowness a society whose chief goal is to blindly consume, and whose community has dwindled to the internet. He says that access to life-sustaining water is a human right, and blasts corporatist control of the earth’s riches to the destruction of the poor.

This is a long Encyclical and unpacking it will take a while. But here is my first thought about it. It is a thought based on a memory and a historical fact.

The memory is of a conversation I had with a friend over a decade ago. My friend and I were talking about the universal sins of each time in history, sins that the people of that time are blind to. What we meant was that when a behavior is universally accepted and no one questions it, even great sins can pass unnoticed by the people committing them. Racism was once such a sin here in America.

Later generations often look back and are appalled by the cruelty and ignorance of their forebears. But they are committing their own sins of cultural blindness, even while they express their disdain for their forebears.

I remarked that I thought that one of the things about which future generations would look back at our time and ask “Why didn’t you do something? Were you blind?” was going to be the environment. If we bequeath a ruined earth to our grandchildren, what will they think of us?

The second thing I want to base my reaction on is a historical fact. That fact is simple. The Popes of the 1930s and 1940s did not issue an encyclical against the Nazis. An encyclical was drafted, and from what I’ve read of it, it was a strong and powerful document.

If that encyclical had been issued instead of shoved in a drawer, the many questions about what the Church did during those dark times would have a clear and compelling moral answer. I believe without doubt that if that encyclical had been issued, all of history since 1930 would be different.

Would the encyclical have stopped Hitler? Probably not. But it would have fueled the resistance to his evils by faithful Catholics. It would have either silenced the go-along German bishops who have become the shame of the Church or it would have exposed them for the anti-Christs that they were. It would have strengthened and ennobled the moral and prophetic voice of the Church for all time.

The failure to issue that encyclical was such an appalling failure of the Church that all of Christianity has been paying for it ever since.

Seen in the light of that memory and that history, I can say without equivocation that I am glad beyond glad that Pope Francis has taken the historic step of issuing this encyclical. I know that it is will unsettle a lot of Catholics who have up until now felt comfortable in their political fealties. I know that is painful. Believe me, I’ve been through such pain myself. In fact, I feel a bit of that pain with Laudato Si.

But it is necessary. Among other things, Pope Francis puts down the corporatist-created heresy that our followership of Jesus Christ stops where commerce begins.

Both the right wing and the left wing of our political spectrum want the Church to shut up and go along where their particular sins are concerned. They both claim, each with their own language, that when it comes to their sins, Jesus Christ is irrelevant.

They are both self-serving liars.

By writing this encyclical in such bold terms Pope Francis demonstrates what Hitler managed to keep an earlier pope from demonstrating: That Jesus Christ  is the Lord of all life and that He is never irrelevant, no matter the topic of conversation.

Now, to get to the touchy matter of global warming. What to do with a Pope who does not equivocate when he says that reputable science shows that global warming is, in fact, happening?

First, the Pope does not say this as a matter of morality. He bases his statement on what he terms reputable scientific studies. I am not advocating that anyone drop kick the pope’s opinion on this in favor of Rush Limbaugh’s.

Pope Francis has a scientific background, and more to the point, he has nothing to gain and lot of to lose by making this statement. The talking heads of the world are highly paid mouthpieces who get their money from the people who benefit financially by the public not believing in global warming.

If I had to pick who to believe, it would be Pope Francis without any question. The vicious and totally untrue attacks on Pope Francis’ good name by the minions of the right have convinced me that nothing they have to say about the Catholic Church or our Holy Father is worth hearing. I think they’re all about the money. Their own money.

What Pope Francis does say as a matter of morality is that we have a responsibility to the earth, to all lifeforms and to the poor. This is sound Christian theology. It is the historic understanding of our call as Christians as regards these matters.

We can think — and by that I mean think, not be led around by pundit pied pipers who slander and slime the pope –and let think on matters of scientific investigation. We do have an obligation to think and not just repeat one-sided arguments that are designed to induce us to allow ourselves to be used.

It is important to the max to listen and read widely about an issue as contentious as this. I say that because it is a grave issue. The wanton destruction of entire species and ecosystems, the loss of breathable air and drinkable water, the unnecessary deaths of millions of people to preventable illnesses that are caused by pollution, starvation and thirst are, all of them, intrinsic evils. The rape of the earth is a violation of our first compact with God to have dominion over creation.

We have, as Christians always do, the freedom to think and let think on the particulars of the science of these matters. But we have an absolute moral obligation to approach the question with integrity instead of political sloganeering, from a vantage of concern for the common good, the welfare of the least of these and the provision of a hope and future for the generations who come after us.

We are Christians and we are called to more than to live only for ourselves with no regard for anyone or anything else in all of creation or in the future.

This is my first blush impression of Laudato Si.

I’m going to read it carefully and write about it extensively. I think we may be in the presence of an encyclical as important as Rerum Novarum.

Make no mistake about it folks. Pope Francis is kind, approachable and unassuming. But he is not a wimp.


For other thoughts on the Encyclical, read All of Our Sin, All of Our Hatred, on Trial by the Anchoress,  Reading Francis Through Francis by Kate O’Hare, So Much to Say, So Much to Learn by Kathy Schiffer, Should You Read Laudato Si? by Simcha Fisher, Patriarch Barthelomew on the Encyclical: We Count it a True Blessing, by Deacon Greg Kandra, The Pearl of Great Price by Mark Shea, 3 Sources to Understanding Pope Francis’ Encyclical by Pia Solenni, Laudato Si, Hold Your Breath, Make a Wish, Count to Three by Tom McDonald, Why is THIS Missing from Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical? by Dr Greg Popcak.

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51 responses to “Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ Rerum Novarum, or No Wonder Rush Limbaugh Hates the Pope.”

  1. Re why Pope Pius did not issue an encyclical against Hitler — I had read (and sorry, I don’t remember where) that he was concerned that the Nazis would INCREASE their killing of the Jews as a reaction to that kind of proclamation, and that he gave instructions quietly to bishops/priests to help hide and protect Jews. I know that Jews were hidden in the Vatican and in other Italian churches.

  2. I notice paragraph 24 is right in line with my “Climate change skepticism” thinking. Global Warming/Global Climate Change is a fact. It is happening. The causes are sometimes in question, but undoubtedly it is occurring, and some parts of how we live are one of the potential inputs.

    I also notice this is an intensely distributist document. There is as much economics in there as ecology, and thus, I to place it in the great history of economic encyclicals that start with Rerum Novarum:

    The pro-life paragraphs I’ve read so far (50,120-130 inclusive) are ones I’m going to be quoting at pro-choice Catholics for many years to come.

  3. 100% wrong. There was an encyclical written AND published and ordered to be read in every parish in Germany in 1938. “Mitt Brendenner Sorge” . It would be good if the journalist got his facts straight about the nazis.

  4. So far, I’ve found one thing I’ve long thought was a major problem. Clean water is essential and widely unavailable for the poor. There are lots of international programs with varying success, but the same was so in the Appalachians in the early 20th century and we have dealt with it so well no one even remembers that. It can be solved if you deal with corruption.
    One thing dramatically wrong is pollution by powerful countries. The worst polluters in the world are poor countries, except for the Chinese who really do not care. An international treaty will be ignored by China, Russia and anybody else. Iran will be dumping their waste from nuclear plants in rivers, just watch.
    Climate changes. Anthropogenic is another issue far from proven so I’m not sure what they were saying. Did you know that for the last 2 years the Artic ice has been thicker longer than in years? Also, the Antarctic ice has extended so far it’s a real problem. Ships of people demonstrating the global warming issues have gotten stuck in the ice.
    Finally, when I was in high school in California we had smog alerts all the time. Now, that problem has improved.
    In NC Duke energy refuses to deal with coal ash and that has cause real damage. The governor, a R, is forcing them to clean up. They’d controlled the D governments here for so long they didn’t have to worry about it.
    I’m not sure what the solution to Eco habitat destruction is, but I’m pretty sure doing away with corruption would help.

  5. I would agree if Mr Limbaugh simply disagreed with Pope Francis. But he slanders the Holy Father, and he does it repeatedly.

  6. I am aware of Mitt Brendenner Sorge. It was a noble effort, which said the truth. But its language was far more oblique than the encyclical which was NOT published. In fact, even though it certainly upset the Nazis, who clearly — and correctly — thought it was aimed at them, it was oblique enough that later historians have tried to dispute that it took a stand against National Socialism.

    If the encyclical that was not published (which was commissioned by this same Pope, btw) had been put forward, I believe it would have made a huge difference. From what I’ve read, it directly challenged National Socialism atrocities, including their treatment of the Jews, disabled and other minorities.

    Here is the link to Mitt Brendenner Sorge

    The book The Myth of Hilter’s Pope is a good source on this.

  7. I think that the encyclical was commissioned by Pope Pius XI, who died before it could be published. Pope Pius XII, who succeeded him, made the decision not to publish it.

    I am not saying that the Pope was in support of Hitler, and I am certainly not denying or minimizing his efforts to save the lives of Jews. What I am saying is that the decision not to publish this encyclical is a tragedy that has diminished the power of the Church’s prophetic voice. The failure to speak out clearly was a missed opportunity of enormous proportions.

  8. I’m reading it, but it looks less like a highschool textbook than the encyclical does. Thanks.

  9. There is also a lot of reliance on international organizations. My husband has worked for one, still consults with several and is respected in his field. That is not who you want to rely on for broad, beneficial decisions that effect lives. Just look at the various UN “relief” involved in sex trafficking.

  10. Currently reading through it, digesting will take a bit.
    But nothing in contradiction to what any other Pope has said.
    I think a lot of nominal Catholics are going to find their politics trumping their religion, though. The Right supporters of the Corporate-Military State are having conniptions, but I also saw a swipe at the scientism of the Left. And that’s just in the first two chapters.

  11. Well, increased persecution of Jews  is exactly what happened. But Ven. Pius XII was not quiet as he lead efforts to save more than 800,000 Jewish lives.  The NYT called  “a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent.”  In 1941 and again in 1942.

    It’s easy 70 years later to say he should have done more, and he thought he should.  It was the Jewish leaders – who’s people were at risk,  who encouraged restraint.

  12. Yes, he was caught in one hell of a bind. I honestly believe he did his best though under the circumstances.

  13. Fortunately,  junk science (AGW) and junk economics (Limbaugh) are not the only options.  There is Catholic economic doctrine. 

    Americans love simple sound – bites with one point.  Catholic Social teaching has two points:  one is the right to property,  with the correlary freedom to choose how to use it.  Second, Catholic Doctrine calls for the responsibility of using property for the common good.   American  conservatives like the right to property but don’t talk as much about the moral responsibility towards their neighbors (yes, a generalization). Liberals moralize more than consider the functional usefulness of free enterprise.   Both errors lead to avarice, a sin as mortal as any.

    And another factor American the chattering class likes to ignore: faithful Catholics should all agree on the moral principles, but we can disagree on how to realize those principles.

  14. And there are actually uses for the fly ash after the coal is incinerated. There’s no reason NOT to deal with it. It’s used to prepare roadbeds around here.

  15. This author leaves out my favorite part of Laudato Si, most likely because it doesn’t fit his political agenda:

    “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.

    Laudato Si at its core seems to be an attempt to reinforce both mankind’s responsibility for nature and the fact that mankind is at the center of and the most important part of God’s plan of creation.

  16. I agree completely. I’m also so weary of people who are able to identify and call out ‘hate’ in others’ hearts. Perhaps we could learn to disagree, even disagree strongly, without accusing others of ‘hating’? As Catholics, shouldn’t we be examining our own hearts, anyway?

  17. I didn’t leave it out. In fact I wrote about it an another post. I’m also going to talk about it tomorrow.

  18. A regime which dealt with its opponents in the fashion of the Night of the Long Knives would have tolerated full-throated political opposition from the Catholic Church? I think not.

  19. Here is a hard truth…the first Christians we read about in the New Testament were distributists and lived in communities that by today’s western, Protestant definition would be called socialist. The difference is they were focused on Christ as the end-all as opposed to the Collective. The typical American, individualist, Protestant “conservative” is a big swing of the pendulum away from this early example. They have adopted and transformed Jesus to their lifestyle, and it is no wonder something like Laudato Si disturbs them so.

  20. Thank you for the reflection on the non-issued encyclical relative to Nazism. That parallel is provocative.

    Walter Jens’ question from that time recurs to me in our time: Is it ‘progress’ when cannibals eat with knife and fork?

  21. Stop trying to hijack Jesus for various political/economic ideas.

    Jesus is God.

    He is just as much the God of those who live alone in an apartment as He is the God of those who live in a commune. The salient point is that HE. IS. GOD.

    These things we burn ourselves out over are not His message. His message is redemption for our sins and salvation from our fallen state (this wrangling over these things is are a symptom of that fallen state, btw.) He never turns away any repentant sinner.

    The message of this encyclical is that we have sinned against God and corrupted our own humanity to the point that we have become destroyers of everything, our own home, this earth.

    Sounds right to me.

  22. Good analysis. I think the biggest problem I have with the progressive treatment and approach to the poor is that only government can deal with the problem of the group known as the poor. I think that denies the humanity of individuals and, certainly, of subsidiarity and solidarity. That may also be a problem from another angle of the conservatives.

  23. Yes. It was an arrangement with the previous political party, but that is changing. Duke’s excuse is , well, it will cost a lot.

  24. Welcome to the American south and southwest, Brendan. 😉
    There are lots of things we aren’t allowed to say that your father says all the time.

  25. I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh on and off since 1994. Mostly off, for various reasons, but he has been historically a very strong advocate of the Pope’s and Catholic Church in general. Title of the article should be changed IMHO.

  26. What’s your point? I’m not being sarcastic–I don’t get what is supposed to follow from your comment.

    Incidentally, the Church did have some success fighting the Nazis with respect to killing the disabled, or so I’ve heard, so even on purely factual grounds you may not be completely correct. Though I expect a full-throated Catholic opposition movement spearheaded by German bishops would have led to a lot of martyrs.

  27. He’s slandered Pope Francis repeatedly. He said that this particular Encyclical requires Catholics to vote for Democratic, which is a flat-out lie. He’s called the Pope a Marxist over and over again. He even implied that Pope Francis has said that Jesus as a Communist. These are all public statements. He does it repeatedly. It’s not a misspeak or a slip of the tongue.

  28. The Pope said we aren’t required to accept his opinion on global warming. But there’s a lot in the encyclical that we DO have to pay attention to. It’s worth the read.

    188. There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.

  29. My understanding of the encyclical is that the Pope was convinced that publishing it would have led to Hitler murdering more people.
    The Church was extremely helpful in some places in saving lives, and would have stopped being able to do so. So he didn’t promulgate it.

  30. Would it have been worth the lives of those 800000 people the Church would then not have been able to save?

  31. Pope Pius XII failed when he did not issue that encyclical. I am convinced of it. The Church and all the world since has paid a terrible price for this.

    That does not take away from the good he did do. He was faced with a terrible decision. He made the decision that was “safe” in the short term, and which, given the circumstances, almost anyone would have made. If I had been in his place, I have no idea if I would have had the courage to issue the encyclical. I have the aid of 20-20 hindsight to judge with. He only had the unfolding horror in front of him and appalling choices to choose from.

    In spite of that, the encyclical, if it has been issued, would have been the great voice of Christ, speaking against satan with prophetic power. The relative silence has damaged the prophetic voice of the Church ever since. If he had issued the encyclical, all of human history would be better for it.

  32. Yours is the third or fourth article I have read urging the reading of the entire encyclical ( I have). Most Catholics and others, however, will not. The Pope’s message could have had more impact if shorter, and written for the average person.
    I do resent the title of your article, as Rush Limbaugh does not hate the Pope, and has made a point of being respectful where he disagrees. In addition, Mr. Limbaugh has consistently been more vocal against homosexual marriage and abortion than any priest I have heard from the pulpit !

  33. You are incorrect about Mr Limbaugh. He’s bashed Pope Francis repeatedly. As for his opposition to gay marriage, if he has expressed this opposition in anything like the inflammatory and hate-filled way he has talked about other things, he has aided those advocate for gay marriage.

  34. hamiltonr You wrote “If ” Mr. Limbaugh spoke inflammatory re: homosexual
    marriage — have you listened to his show ? Please explain how he bashed the Pope ? I do not listen everyday, but would consider myself a regular listener — and argue that Limbaugh has criticized the Pope, but not bashed. Criticized Pope Francis no more than Fr. Robert Sirico did in his Wall Street Journal editorial (6/19/15).

  35. I really don’t have time to answer this question over and over again. My Limbaugh has called the pope a Marxist, not once, but repeatedly. He has implied that the Holy Father said that Jesus was a Marxist. He said that this latest encyclical requires people to vote Democratic. If your loyalty is to Rush Limbaugh rather than Christ and His Church, so be it.

  36. Are you addressing me?

    If so, thanks for the prayers. I didn’t and couldn’t have insulted you as a faithful Catholic. I’ve never met you and have no idea who you are.

  37. Dessy12, I got this whole line of conversation crossed up. I was reading through around 30 comments that I kept approving and then they would come back for approval again. That went on for a while.

    That’s why I answered this comment as I did. I thought you were someone else.

    You are correct Dessy12. I was rude and unkind when I answered you below. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. You are absolutely right. I should not have spoken to you that way. I was wrong to do so.