I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine & NewsTalkers and will add my comments over time. Papa Francisco's 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.
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. In my
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote
to all the members of the Church with the aim
of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In
this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue
with all people about our common home.
4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed
Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern
as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human
activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of
nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and
becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.2
He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations about
the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under
the effective explosion of industrial civilization”,
and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change
2 Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 21:
AAS 63 (1971), 416-417.
in the conduct of humanity”, inasmuch as “the
most extraordinary scientific advances, the most
amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing
economic growth, unless they are accompanied
by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively
turn against man”.3
3 Address to FAO on the 25th Anniversary of its Institution (16 November 1970), 4: AAS 62 (1970), 833.
5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”.4 Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.5 At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”.6 The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern
4 Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 15: AAS 71 (1979), 287.
5 Cf. Catechesis (17 January 2001), 4: Insegnamenti 41/1 (2001), 179.
6 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 841.
societies”.7 Authentic human development has a
moral character. It presumes full respect for the
human person, but it must also be concerned for
the world around us and “take into account the
nature of each being and of its mutual connection
in an ordered system”.8 Accordingly, our human
ability to transform reality must proceed in
line with God’s original gift of all that is.9
7 Ibid., 58: AAS 83 (1991), p. 863.
8 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30
December 1987), 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559.
9 Cf. Id., Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991),
37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.
6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed
“eliminating the structural causes of the
dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting
models of growth which have proved incapable
of ensuring respect for the environment”.10
He observed that the world cannot be analyzed
by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the
book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes
the environment, life, sexuality, the family,
social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the
deterioration of nature is closely connected to
the culture which shapes human coexistence”.11
Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the
natural environment has been gravely damaged
by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment
has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately
10 Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See (8 January 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 73.
11 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 51:
AAS 101 (2009), 687.
due to the same evil: the notion that there
are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and
hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten
that “man is not only a freedom which he
creates for himself. Man does not create himself.
He is spirit and will, but also nature”.12 With paternal
concern, Benedict urged us to realize that
creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the
final word, where everything is simply our property
and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse
of creation begins when we no longer recognize
any higher instance than ourselves, when we see
nothing else but ourselves”.13