Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 31 Share on Twitter 1 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/23/15

NYT Criticism of Pope Francis' Encyclical: an Early Right Wing Response

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   9 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mike Rivage-Seul
Become a Fan
  (56 fans)

(Image by   Details   DMCA

In Sunday's New York Times, Ross Douthat offered a critique of Pope Francis' new encyclical, "Laudato Si'." His piece was entitled "Pope Francis' Call to Action Goes beyond the Environment."

The op-ed is valuable since it offers a preview of the right wing critiques of "Laudato Si'" (LS) that we're likely to hear over the next few months. Let's consider them one-by-one.

To begin with, the author is correct. Pope Francis' encyclical does go far beyond climate change. It is brilliantly overwhelming in its breadth of scope which sees climate chaos as but one symptom indicating that the present world system is fundamentally unsustainable.

Other symptoms include deforestation and loss of wetlands (8), "water poverty" and infant mortality (28), species extinction (33), over-fishing (40), destruction of coral reefs (41), uncontrolled urbanization (44), food waste (50), the north's "ecological debt" to the global south (51), debt crises in general (52), war (57), information manipulation (54), desertification (89), cruelty to animals (92), economic domination by unproductive financial interests (109), resource depletion (111), dangerous market-driven production of GMOs (134), secret negotiations of trade deals (135) and human anxiety, loss of purpose and of human community (110).

Additionally there are related problems of human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds, and the fur of endangered species . . . buying and selling of organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation. . . and the elimination of children because they are not what their parents wanted (123).

In the pope's vision, all of these problems are interconnected. In fact, that's the basic thesis underlying the Francis tour de force: EVERYTHING IS INTERCONNECTED (42, 117, 120, 137, etc.). At root what causes the problems are the unregulated nature of free markets, blind reliance on technological development, and excessive anthropocentrism (LS Chapter 3). Causes are rooted in "the lie" which denies that there are any limits to economic growth (106).

What are needed to combat such manifestations are radical changes in the ways humans live, produce and consume (23). Francis says we need a "bold cultural revolution" -- a recovery of values and great goals that have been swept away by human "delusions of grandeur" (114).

Not surprisingly, the pope finds such values and goals embodied in the Judeo-Christian tradition, its teachings about divine ownership of creation, human stewardship of the same, and its unswerving reverence for all forms of life, from the least to the greatest (Chapter Two). All life forms, the pope teaches, from algae to human embryos and the planet itself have intrinsic worth. None of them should be treated as insensate instruments put on earth for human profit and pleasure.

On Douthat's analysis, such reflections might be all well and good. However, they represent only one viewpoint. And this brings us to the right wing arguments against the pope's analysis that we can anticipate over the next months. They have to do with papal negativism, the success of the market in eliminating poverty, the Catholic approach to overpopulation, and the capacity of future technological development to solve the planet's problems.

For starters, Douthat calls the pope's approach "catastrophism." The other viewpoint -- evidently Douthat's own -- he terms "dynamism."

Dynamists are far more optimistic than the pope. They believe that the market and technological advances will possibly head off what the pope sees as inevitable catastrophe especially for the world's poor absent that earlier-mentioned bold Cultural Revolution.

Coming from his dynamic perspective, Douthat argues that (1) poverty is diminishing world-wide, (2) overpopulation (spurred by the Catholic vision of marriage and fecundity) plays an important role in the problems the pope enumerates, and (3) who knows, the pope could be wrong: technology and the market just might automatically solve the world's problems.

On the pope's holistic analysis, each of such conservative arguments fails miserably.

The first (that world poverty is diminishing) is questionable on two counts.

First off, Douthat's thesis is based on a World Bank study showing that "extreme poverty" as opposed to normal poverty is diminishing. (Normal poverty is defined as an income of $2.00 per day.)

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Well Said 4   Must Read 3   Supported 2  
Rate It | View Ratings

Mike Rivage-Seul Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program. His latest book is (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Sunday Homily: Pope Francis to Women: The Next Pope Should Be One of You!

The Case for and Intimate Relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene

"Cloud Atlas": A Film for the Ages (But perhaps not for ours)

Muhammad as Liberationist Prophet (Pt. 2 of 4 on Islam as Liberation Theology)

What You Don't Know About Cuba Tells You About YOUR Future

Sunday Homily: Pope Francis' New Song -- Seven Things You May Have Missed in 'The Joy of the Gospel'

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend