Today Pope Francis released his second encyclical, Laudato Si'. It is very long, more like a book. Probably most people won't read the whole thing but will get an impression of it from news outlets. Here are five things they will not tell you about it:
1. The encyclical has six references to St. Thomas Aquinas, including this: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end.” no. 80
2. The great Catholic theologian Romano Guardini figures prominently in the section on technology. Guardini heavily influenced Pope Benedict’s theological thought. I wonder if Francis talked to Benedict about this topic.
3. The pope criticizes abortion:
120. 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 toward the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” (quoting Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate, no. 28)
4. The pope also upholds the importance of sexual differences:
Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
5. He also criticizes advocates of population control:
At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health.” Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. no. 50
I hope to post more thoughts about it later. In reading it, a lot of questions came up for me. Undoubtedly this encyclical will stir a lot of debate, since Francis clearly believes in climate change. He also has a lot of faith in international organizations like the UN to bring about change, as well as big government. Personally, I have some reservations about those structures, since there are many reasons to doubt their effectiveness. That's an important question to be discussed.
Also, the pope himself says in the encyclical, “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” (no. 61).