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.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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