Laudato Si’: When “no indisputable truths … guide our lives”

Day 10: Supporters of the US Supreme Court’s mandate of same-sex marriage should think twice about applauding Laudato Si'.

A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay. Laudato Si’, 122.

My plan for today was to post on the big thank-you rally for Pope Francis tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square. Organized by eco-groups from around the world, the march to the Holy Father’s Sunday Angelus is meant to show the great appreciation for Laudato Si’.

My plans changed with news on Friday that the United States Supreme Court redefined the civil understanding of marriage. In the hours that followed, many voices that cheered Laudato Si’ a week ago were cheering the court’s decision.

But as those know who read Laudato Si’, one cannot celebrate both.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says that “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?”

He continues,

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. (123)

In other words, supporters of same-sex marriage cannot ignore or redefine natural laws for the very reasons that the fossil fuel industry cannot ignore or redefine the laws of nature. Breaking either kind comes with harmful consequences—even if we can’t always see the harm right away.

The Holy Father lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

None of this is meant to deny love. Nor is any of this meant to denigrate individuals. These conversations are difficult and personal. I understand this. The good news is that all human love, fragile and broken as it so often is, can be a road to divine love.

Benedict XVI began to unpack this in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”). In other words, there’s much more to discuss about marriage and all relationships than what we normally hear on television. But we don't often hear this richness because too many discussions occur without a framework in natural law or an appreciation of unintended consequences, let alone the promises of revelation.

Suffice to say that there’s much to explore and much that the Church has to offer about the wider perspectives of marriage, sacrificial love, the common good, and personal fulfillment. This offering will be the task of the Church in the weeks and years to come. But one thing is certain: one voice defending traditional marriage will be the author of Laudato Si’.

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” Pope Francis said in October, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

The story continues that Pope Francis warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!”

The story notes that the Holy Father lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Given these words and in light of the many statements by ecological organizations—Catholic and secular—that applauded Pope Francis for his eco-encyclical, I hope that, for the sincere good of all people, they now issue statements in support of the Church’s teachings on natural law and the traditional understanding of marriage.

Photo: Flicker/Ted Eytan

[Ed. Note: Catholic Ecology will be blogging daily on particular elements within Laudato Si' until the Feast of SS Peter and Paul.]

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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.