Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si’: United by the same truths

Pope Francis’s just released apostolic exhortation on the family has much in common with last year’s eco-encyclical

Pope Francis’s long-awaited and beautifully written apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, or “The Joy of Love,” has some desperately looking for a disavowal of Catholic moral teachings on marriage and sexuality while others are rightly stressing that there is no such disavowal. What many seem to be missing in the midst of all this is the link between Amoris Laetitia and the 2015 blockbuster eco-encyclical Laudato Si’.

This link is the frank admission that a good many of our eco-problems and our social and personal ones are of our own making—and that they are rooted in the same human weaknesses. The good news is that the ways beyond all these struggles are united, too.

Here, from Amoris Laetitia, is a rather important and somewhat overlooked passage:

We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye. Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs. Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set. It is also worth noting that breakups often occur among older adults who seek a kind of “independence” and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another. (AL § 39)

And here is a parallel passage from Laudato Si’:

In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided. (LS § 123)

Without laboring over this (for now, anyway)—after all, reading these two passages should make the point—it must be acknowledged that Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si’ are united in profound ways when it comes to signaling what we human beings are getting wrong and why. And thus it is up to us, we Catholic ecologists, to help bring this link—this integral ecology—to a world that so desperately needs to hear and live by the united Gospel messages of temperance, prudence, mercy, justice, and, as always, the cross of sacrificial self-restraint that brings us to the Easter joys of authentic love and the common good.

Much more, of course, to come.

If you like Catholic Ecology,
you’ll love…

A Printer's Choice

The sci-fi novel with a Catholic twist.

A Printer's Choice

Learn more

About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.