Tuesday, July 7, 2015


   In his new encyclical, Laudato Si', Pope Francis is inviting and challenging us to consider two kinds of climate change.  He is telling us that in order to care for, protect and nurture our natural environment, we must first change our spiritual environment.  We have to live in a world, i.e., a society and culture, that is different from the world-society-culture we presently live in.  Francis sees our present world-society-culture as one that is degrading the natural environment because it is degrading our humanity itself.

   He sees that today's world is lacking any meaningful, overall structure of unity, community, caring and common purpose.  It is a humanly degraded, fractured world marked by pathological individualism, greed and killing, self-serving competition.  It is a world in which the social, human climate is toxic.  This is the human climate he wants us to change so we can successfully change our natural environment.

   For example, the political resisters to his encyclical show that they live in their own humanly degraded world of pandering to the powers that support them financially; the corporate resisters show that they live in a humanly degraded world of maximizing profits without caring for the harm done to workers or the environment; the scientific resisters show that they live in a humanly degraded world that is totally material and therefore without meaning or purpose.  And the world of education seems to have lost its way.

   Francis' world is one in which all people, animals, plants, etc., are deeply interconnected and united in the fullness of their individual dignity.  While of course acknowledging and respecting all natural differences, in Francis' world no person, no race, no religion, no part of nature, is "other."  We are all first and last, one: brothers and sisters, with all other people and all of nature, e.g., with brother sun and sister moon. 

   In Francis' wold, any natural, acceptable inequality, e.g., of income, status, etc., occurs within a climate in which everyone has the opportunity to make a decent living in a safe world.  So our first priority is to care for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.  If any one part of our world, one race, one religion, one political or economic force, etc., pulls away from the whole and considers itself superior and/or ceases to care about all the others and nature, it becomes a point of ignorance in a world of light, reason, understanding and love. And so, the self-isolated person, race, corporation, political party, etc., becomes dangerous.

   Francis' world is based on his faith.  God created our one world, which, like the Trinity,is an interconnected, interrelated, interdependent, creative web of dynamically evolving wholeness in love.  Interestingly, Francis' worldview is practically the same as that of today's science, which sees the universe and world as one, interconnected, interrelated, interdependent, dynamically evolving web of wholeness.

   Francis therefore is inviting us into the world of 21st century spirituality, a contemplative world in which we live in the lively awareness of the presence and activity of God.  It is a world in which we are all called, empowered and responsible to build our world and move it forward toward ever evolving wholeness in love.  It is the world that Jesus called, the Kingdom of God on earth.  Even though this world will never be completely fulfilled here in space/time, it is the only world worth living in.  Francis is inviting all who live in the narrow, fractured world of politics, corporations, science, art, education, etc., to enter into this world of wholeness in love with him and with the People of God.

   We who are the People of God are called and responsible to strengthen our citizenship in our world of faith.  Given the condition of our fractured society-culture, it is time for us to stand in the face of every humanly and environmentally degrading system or action and say, "No!"  Then we are to invite the degraders and challenge them to work together with us, first to stop the degradation and then to elevate our humanity and environment to the levels that God intends.  The more we elevate our humanity, the more we will heal our environment.

   All this requires a new, 21st century expression of our Catholicism.  Are we up to the challenge?  If not, this amazing encyclical will simply pass quietly into history.  Pope Francis is waiting.  Saint Francis is waiting.  Christ is waiting.  The sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast are waiting.  The environment is waiting.