Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It Will End In Catastrophe


Pope Francis' encyclical continues to make waves. Five Republican candidates for president -- who are also Catholic -- have attacked Laudato Si, claiming Francis knows nothing about science. They forget that the Pope's first degree was in chemistry. They and their followers profess what Gary Wills calls "Holy Ignorance:"

When a Republican politician, asked about climate change, says, “I’m not a scientist,” most of us hear just a cowardly way of dodging the question; but the politician’s supporters hear a brave defiance of an alien force. When we hear only “science,” they hear “godless science,” the kind that wants to rob them of their belief in creation and force evolution into their minds. That science is marching in a battalion of forces—the media, the academy, the government—that has them besieged. “I’m not a scientist” does not mean, “I have not heard enough about the science, and need to hear more,” but “I know the evil intent or effect of science, and I will not let it affect me.” They summon a courage not to know. 

True to his Jesuit training, however, Francis is all about the courage to know -- and the courage to argue an entirely different case:

"The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."
"The emptier a person's heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own and consume."
"Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us."
"For indigenous communities, land is not a commodity, but a gift from God, a sacred space."
"Earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone."
"We should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst."
"We have to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

What Francis has done is marry science to traditional Catholic social teaching. Concern for the planet and concern for the poor amount to the same thing. That's a case modern neo-liberalism has been trying to deny for almost fifty years.

For the pope, neo-liberalism amounts to self- centred nihilism -- and it will end in catastrophe.


Pamela Mac Neil said...

It's interesting Owen that Pope Francis critics are sayng to him, know your place, as if being the leader of the Catholic church excludes him from commenting on crucial issues like climate change and neoliberalism and he should be only commenting on Catholic issues. They also claim he does not have scientific credentials , so he has no right to comment on climate change.I wonder how many of the politicians criticizing him have degrees in political science and history. His criticizing neoliberalism, I found extremely impressive. The advocates of it and it is now the global dominant system, do not want it even named, let alone understood. Pope Francis is a Jesuit. He understands ideas, particularly philosophic ideas and because he articulates so well, people understand what he is thinking. This makes him a threat to all those who have held global power with neoliberalism and all those in power who oppose climate change. He's too powerful a man for them to silence. For once a powerful leader is speaking the truth. Their probably looking for anything in his background that they can use to discredit him or even smear him. I am an atheist and ex-catholic and do not agree with Pope francis on some issues, but I admire and like him, because I know a man of integrity when I see one.

Owen Gray said...

I think that's the point, Pam. His critics know he's a man of integrity. And that scares the hell out of them.

Askingtherightquestions said...

Is it not interesting, Owen, that the first pope in living memory to speak so clearly and directly to the "world" ....does so in a manner that clearly condemns the rampant immorality and rapacious behaviour of the modern, transnational corporation. I am not a Catholic but I am of a certain age and educational background that has some understanding of the role of Il papa.

Why so many find this surprising is perhaps a reflection on some past papal leaders who seemed out of touch with the realities of day to day modern life, but I think it also reflects how many business and political leaders seem to have lost any sort of reasonable moral and ethical compass. Clearly, Francis is different (and frankly has shown this since his election).

The push back is fascinating, especially from leaders who are practicing Catholics or deign to call themselves christians!! Will his words make a difference? Many pundits have already discounted his efforts. I believe they are way off the mark ...his previous actions suggest that his words are unlikely to empty and like it or not he has a real bully pulpit!!

It is a delight to see some of these characters squirm and wiggle as they attempt to find fault with the points he has made. It is little wonder that Harper was "allowed" only 10 minutes with the pontiff. His head was probably in danger of exploding as he was rushed out of the Vatican by the PMO minions.

Owen Gray said...

Given the case Francis makes in the encyclical, Asking, I think it's fair to assume that the Pope and Harper had very little to talk about.

lungta said...

wasn't there a bit of a book written about 2000 years ago along the same lines?
some guy bucking the system, telling power they got it wrong and supporting the people?
and full of catchy sound bite quotes
not well received the first time
and rich people being rich people
probably not well received again this time
had a bit of a trick ending too...sorta "dues ex machina"
hope this edition ends better

Owen Gray said...

Me, too lungta. There are always those who take pleasure in a crucifixion.