Laudato Si 82: Exploitation Contrary to Christ

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Even for living things that do not possess personhood, there is no right to trample:

82. Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus. As he said of the powers of his own age: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26).

We indeed know that much of our world’s modus operandi, in any number of philosophies, is geared to victory over competitors and the subjugation of those who can be exploited. Pope Francis suggests this moves totally against the Gospel message.

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pine coneSo there are almost five-hundred trees on Planet Earth for every human being. At the time of Jesus it was 25,000 to 1. That’s just a guess.

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Laudato Si 81: The Consequences of Personhood

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Evolution may be a part of life on Earth, and even the state of Creation being incomplete. But it doesn’t totally explain the human situation. We are more than biology:

81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself.

Our personhood beckons us to share personally with others and with God. The consequence of that is that people cannot be dismissed as cogs in a larger biological system.

Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.

It occurs to me that even in the science fiction thought experiments of a human race evolved to higher levels, our breakthrough into personhood bestows on us a status beyond those living things that do not transcend into awareness. Even if an alien race, or a more advanced form of human life were to sweep us away, it would remain an uncivilized act of barbarism. And this was certainly true for the European conquerors and colonizers of previous centuries. As long as disrespect is perpetrated by the powerful, we cannot say with truth and confidence that we have truly achieved civilization.

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In Paradisum

piano and dulcimerAs a player of plucked and hammered instruments, I have yet to encounter a plainsong melody that doesn’t work wonderfully well on these. Voices, yes, of course are optimal. But there is something about plainsong on an instrument like the hammered dulcimer and its sustained tones that works for me. It might just be my long affinity for the instrument.

I’m finding just a select few people in my new parish exposed to plainsong. But one couple I met with recently raised the issue. They settled on a choir piece and a solo for the prelude. But In Paradisum came up, and they decided I would play it on hammered dulcimer.

As I was preparing a score this afternoon, I was thinking back to the last time I played it–at another funeral back at the campus parish. One elderly couple were especially fond of chant, and on the occasions I pulled something out for Mass or Reconciliation, they would often comment on it. They always knew the tune, which probably says more about my limited repertoire of twenty-something than anything else.

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More On Forgiving Abortion

Providence bishop Thomas Tobin on the pope’s initiative:

Most dioceses have had permission to (forgive abortion) that for many, many years — so while it’s a wonderful gesture on behalf of the Holy Father, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference here in Rhode Island.

There are actually a few reasons why it could make a difference.

First, Pope Francis is quite aware of attitudes within the Church, especially coming from hard-core Catholics, that some things are unforgiveable. Certainly, there’s nothing on the books about unforgiveable sins. I wonder if Bishop Tobin polled inactive Rhode Island Catholics about the local priest’s ability to forgive abortion if he would find a difference from his own understanding.

Second, that excommunication thing–something that even many inactive Catholics know about.

Third, the Holy Father is setting an example for bishops. Bishops preach the Gospel and take the message and person of Jesus to the peripheries. They do not assist the Gospel when, as a private person, they emphasize which events they will or won’t attend because they agree or not with others in attendance, and which events people who disagree with them will not attend.

Fourth, I think we actually want more people to come to church and go to confession not just in the Jubilee but from now on. This is a difference that could be happening, and we’d be happy about it, right? Clearly, the scolding approach hasn’t worked wonders.

Fifth, confessors are getting an opportunity for continuing formation, especially if they check Pope Francis’s explanation.

It’s not really that hard.

This blogpost labels it PR. Again, I think of it as continuing formation of clergy–catechesis if you will. Perhaps it is “R” in the sense of relations, or relationship. I might ask why shouldn’t that be made public?

Somehow, I don’t think Pope Francis would mind if an enterprising bishop or pastor made his own announcement this weekend that from henceforth, not only would the sin of abortion be forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, but all other sins. Even things like gossip, disrespect, giving false witness, and–gasp!–blogging in anger. And more, to pick up on the pope’s gesture, it would extend beyond the end of the Jubilee.

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Laudato Si 80: A Creation Incomplete

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Even when we’ve gotten in our own way with regard to care for the environment–and ourselves–God is able to thwart the darkness.

80. Yet God, who wishes to work with us and who counts on our cooperation, can also bring good out of the evil we have done. “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable”.[John Paul II, Catechesis (24 April 1991), 6: Insegnamenti 14 (1991), 856.]

The metaphor of knots is an interesting introduction here, given devotion of Pope Francis for Mary, Untier of them. Perhaps the most inscrutable “knot” is the persistence of human suffering. The Catechism reflects on it:

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator.[The Catechism explains that God wished to create a world which is “journeying towards its ultimate perfection”, and that this implies the presence of imperfection and physical evil; cf. CCC 310]

God does not interfere with human freedom, to the lament of many:

God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.[Gaudium et Spes 36] His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”.[Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, art. 1 ad 4] The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.[Ibid., In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis expositio, Lib. II, lectio 14]

So Creation is incomplete. What are we to make of that? Has God entrusted human beings with some small portion of bringing forth things that are new? It would certainly be new if we made a more concerted effort to uphold justice for the oppressed, to go out of our way to care for the needy and offer a hand up and out to safety, and to care for what has already been given to us in the natural world. Or is it too much to ask of lowly creatures such as ourselves? To be honest, I’d almost welcome the sight of people rolling up their sleeves out of frustration with the Almighty and saying, “Let’s show You how it’s done!”

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new low gluten hostJust curious: what do you make of Steve Skojec’s call for boycotting the reception of communion at Pope Francis’s outdoor Masses later this month? I don’t know about those less scrupulous than I, but this blog-post is scary enough to make me think of what would happen if we just had clergy celebrate Mass in hermetically sealed vaults and never let the laity receive Communion at all. Far safer, to be sure.

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