Laudato Si’, life, and “a new dialogue”

For the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, a look at how Pope Francis preaches life to environmentalists, dialogue to all

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 towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”. Laudato Si' (120, quoting Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate)

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. (14)

Fears that Pope Francis would advance arguments for secular population control methods were silenced when Laudato Si’ became public (even if some kept grumbling). The suspicions rose out of news that Church officials had been speaking with scientists and international officials that don’t support the Church’s views on life.

But the Holy Father made clear within Laudato Si’ what he had made clear throughout his pontificate: one cannot authentically support ecosystems while also supporting abortion. As Benedict XVI put it, our duties toward the environment are linked to our duties toward the human person.

This link makes itself known in numerous ways. One we should focus on in light of the Holy Father’s urgent call for dialogue is this: just as there are heated, polarized debates on abortion, so there are heated, polarized debates about climate change, the relationship between business and the health of the environment, and ecology in general. Those of us who’ve engaged in these discussions for a good many years wonder if there is any way through them to true dialogue.

Within the clashes over abortion in particular, one Catholic theologian is seeking to do just that.

Dr. Charles C. Camosy of Fordham University is a friend of this blog who has often enriched it with his insights. A few months ago he published his book Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation.

I suggest that what Dr. Camosy’s book does for dialogue around abortion is something to consider for issues like climate change, eco-economics, and eco-politics.

Camosy writes, “What I’m doing in this book—and what I’m asking people in the abortion discussions generally—is to go directly after the most difficult issues. That is the only way forward. But if we do this, it means we need to think and speak about these difficult issues fairly, precisely, and in ways that invite fruitful and honest engagement”. (Italics original, pg 14.)

When I asked Dr. Camosy last weekend about Laudato Si’, he answered similarly.

He praised the encyclical saying that “most of the anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-population control rhetoric (most of which I think is spot on) has rarely been connected to such a genuine, obviously spiritual concern for the earth and for the poor.” He added that “this is new” and “it has to be explored in more detail. What would it look like to execute this program ... especially in conversation with those who obviously see ‘reproductive technologies’ as part of the answer [to environmental concerns]? Is it pie in the sky to think that people could lead something other than consumerist lifestyles on this side of the Kingdom? Again, what does this look like?”

Great questions. Even better is that you and I get to help answer them. We get to contribute to the conversation in how we advance discussions about life, death, people, and the planet.

Considering that Pope Francis is asking for “new dialogue” to help bring the Gospel to the world, let’s commit to exploring charitable ways forward. Let’s bring the Church’s prophetic voce to ecological issues just as Dr. Camosy has offered for the discussion of abortion—to go “directly after the most difficult issues” and, as disciples of Christ, to do so with love.

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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.