Will a Francis eco-encyclical be the right's Humane Vitae?

Im not one to encourage political divisions within the Church. But I can’t ignore them. Like it or not, there are those within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church that bring with them preconceived, divisive political ideologies that complicate all forms of ecclesial life.

Given the usual place of ecology within these ideological realities, I’ve been thinking about the future response to a Pope Francis environmental encyclical.

Naturally, there will be joy among some of our brothers and sisters and there will be despair (mingled with fury?) among many others. Call them "progressives" and "conservatives" respectively, as is often the case—although the reality of all this is a bit more complicated.

But in general, I think it's fair to say that a Pope Francis eco-encyclical will likely be the Humane Vitae for the right.

Paul VI issued his prophetic encyclical on human life in 1968. He did so against the advice and hopes of many. Given a great number of errant voices seeking magisterial approval for artificial contraception and other ills, Paul VI demonstrated courage and trust in Christ by making clear the teachings of the Church. A good many on the left were outraged by this—and still are.

But Paul VI was correct in his warnings about disconnecting the conjugal act from procreation. Pope Francis will be too in stating ecclesial concerns regarding planetary and local ecosystems that nurture and protect human life once it is conceived.

Chances are, however, the left will not be entirely happy with Francis's take on environmental protection. As he has done to date, Francis will most certainly connect ecology with human life issues and he will link human choices with the grace of God. But the condemnation in an eco-encyclical of issues like contraception and abortion will likely not soothe the fury of some on the right who may get particularly heated if Francis mentions climate change or biodiversity—which, of course, he probably will given that these are two of the most pressing eco issues of our age.

All this might only widen the divides between brothers and sisters that come from too many of us viewing things through red or blue colored glasses rather than seeing with the eyes of faith.

Thus we have a task before us—and by “we” I mean those of us who get the Catholic, whole-life perspective of ecology, the one that Bl. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis sum up in the term “human ecology.”

It’s up to us to double our efforts to teach—with love—the Church’s concerns about ecological issues as well as the hard science behind them. Following the wishes of Christ, we must work towards unity within the Church, which is why we must prepare the way for a Francis eco-encyclical.

The last thing the Church and the world needs is for human life to suffer similar ills as those brought about by a refusal to accept the truth of Humane Vitae.

Photo of Pope Francis: Flicker/Catholic Church (England and Wales). Photo of Paul VI: Public Domain

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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.