By JR on Monday, May 04, 2015
A foolish Pope?
Excerpt from a report below on a projected Papal encyclical on global warming. If expectations are correct it will make old Frank a very foolish Pope indeed. From encyclicals De rerum novarum to Centesimus Annus (and, Yes, I have read both of them) Popes have always trod a middle way between Left and Right. Even Brennender Sorge can be read that way. And for a church that claims universality, that is the only prudent path. Times change and hitching your wagon to ANY current enthusiasm is likely to make you look ridiculous in the long run. Redemption is the only proper enthusiasm for the church.
An encyclical is clearly an occasion when a Pope speaks ex-cathedra on a matter of faith and morals so it gives the seal of Papal infallibility to whatever the encyclical says. It commits all his successors to his assertions. Endorsing any particular secular gospel would therefore be exceedingly unwise.
The Pope does however have many conservative advisers. Perhaps he will learn from the carefully-worded waffle of his predecessor, a predecessor who is still alive and nearby to advise him. Benedict basically said: "Yes the environment is super important and we should all do something about it". Which committed him to precisely nothing. So, despite present appearances, the new encyclical could well be as cautiously worded, with emollient words for everybody but no explicit committment to anything.
Frank is a strange Jesuit. Jesuits are supposed to be scholarly but I have seen no sign of that in him. He is just a typical South American priest under considerable influence from liberation theology as far as I can see. Liberation theology is all heart and no head. But Frank is undoubtably a man of great personal holiness so being influenced more by emotion than by reason is in keeping. He is a good man, whatever else he is
Perhaps I should take back my claim that he is no intellectual. He does after all tweet in Latin, which must help to keep Latin alive. And as an old traditionalist and a very amateur Latinist, that seems somehow important to me. His latest tweet at the time of writing was "Tot rebus, interdum gravissimis, afflicti, spem ne neglegamus in misericordia Dei infinita ponere". Since at the time of writing I could see no translation into English online, perhaps I should have a go at translating it: "Concerning afflictions, even the most grave, we must never lose hope in the infinite mercy of God."
The tweet appeared to be a response to the disaster in Nepal. It is appropriately holy but whether the Hindu Nepalese were in any way comforted by it we may never know. Nepali and Latin are related languages but the relationship is not close
The encyclical on the environment from Pope Francis is stimulating a great deal of discussion and hope in academia and the environmental movement. The encyclical is expected in June or July.
The pope wants to make the environment one of the signature issues of his papacy. As he explained to reporters three days after his election, one of the reasons he took the name Francis was because St. Francis of Assisi is “the man who loves and protects creation.” He went on to say, “These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”
Conservationists are hoping that the encyclical’s attitude toward animals, especially wildlife, will reflect the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, according to Lonnie Ellis, associate director of Catholic Climate Covenant.
The encyclical is widely expected to give support to those who attribute climate change to human activity since the pope has already said he accepts this scientific conclusion. Although popes are clearly not infallible when it comes to science, Francis is the first pope to have a modern scientific training: He was educated as a chemist and worked as one in Argentina before he entered the seminary.
Christiana Peppard of Fordham University said she hopes the encyclical will affirm that “contemporary science is a marvelous way of knowing the world and that it represents a collective, collaborative way of discerning important realities about the Earth that we share, and thus that there is zero justification for skepticism of climate change among Catholics.”