"We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret within it what Benedict XVI calls 'the rhythm of the love-story between God and man.'"
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Pope Francis encourages solutions from scientists
Pope Francis did not mince words on Monday when he addressed a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gathered at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The meeting of leading scientists (including the eminent Stephen Hawking) from diverse disciplines hopes to explore how scientific developments can help (or at least not hinder) the human condition and our environment.
According to Pablo Canziani, an atmospheric scientist who worked with then-Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina, the pontiff used his address to encourage the scientific community to see itself as a change agent in creating the language and expectations needed to protect the dignity and viability of all life on Earth.
While such gatherings and topics are common for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pontiff’s strong words expressed growing concerns by many about the rate of ecological damage from current economic, business, and consumption models—and the lifestyles thereof.
In short, Pope Francis is running out of patience.
“It has now become essential,” the Holy Father said, “to create, with your cooperation, a normative system that includes inviolable limits and ensures the protection of ecosystems, before the new forms of power deriving from the techno-economic model causes irreversible harm not only to the environment, but also to our societies, to democracy, to justice and freedom.”
emoaning failures and delays in the political arena—an apparent reference to the slow moving COP22 talks and word that superpowers, like the United States, may not meet existing commitments to cutting carbon output—Pope Francis said “that it falls to scientists, who work free of political, economic or ideological interests, to develop a cultural model which can face the crisis of climatic change and its social consequences.”
The entire statement is available on the Vatican website.
The tone and content of the pope’s words are in many ways consistent with his predecessors. They also uniquely reflect the experiences of a South American priest, bishop, and cardinal who has witnessed economic-driven social and eco-destruction firsthand.
“The submission of politics to a technology and an economy which seek profit above all else, is shown by the ‘distraction’ or delay in implementing global agreements on the environment, and the continued wars of domination camouflaged by righteous claims, that inflict ever greater harm on the environment and the moral and cultural richness of peoples.”
According to Canziani, when the pontiff seeks science-based “cultural models” and “normative systems,” Pope Francis is recognizing how science has often “been used for the quest of power, hence the need to endorse scientists working to understand nature and generate knowledge and expertise for the protection of creation and the fight against poverty and hunger.”
Canziani told Catholic Ecology that an independent scientific endeavor, where the results are transparent and open to society, can provide the baseline knowledge on which humanity can make critical economic, social, and business decisions.
“Without such baseline knowledge, [our decisions] will be flawed,” Canziani said. “An open scientific culture promotes debate, exchange of ideas even beyond borders and an acceptance of the limits of humankind. Thus science contributes to culture together with the search for understanding and truth.”
Stressing the Holy Father’s words, Canziani said that science today is at risk of being “limited by the interest of some who wish to protect their power and fortunes by pretending they can change everything without changing nothing.”
In other words, as humanity did in the third chapter of Genesis—when Adam and Eve ignore the consequences of taking what they wish of the garden that was given to them by God—humanity today is unleashing terrible and certain consequences on those alive today and on future generations.
Scientists, then, must champion the laws of nature by being clear what happens when we violate their limits.
Of course, Pope Francis knows that selfishness and ignorance need not get the final word in human undertakings. Here we take comfort in the Holy Father’s final words to those gathered Monday:
[W]e do not lose hope and we endeavour to make use of the time the Lord grants us. There are also many encouraging signs of a humanity that wants to respond, to choose the common good, and regenerate itself with responsibility and solidarity. Combined with moral values, the plan for sustainable and integral development is well positioned to offer all scientists, in particular those who profess belief, a powerful impetus for research.
Photo: Screenshot of RomeReports.com footage.
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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.