Laudato Si 102: Three Popes On Human Advancement

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Four numbered sections address the first of three themes, “TECHNOLOGY: CREATIVITY AND POWER.”

A litany of human achievement, acknowledged by Saint John Paul II as arising from a divine spark in human beings:

102. Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity”.[John Paul II, Address to Scientists and Representatives of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422]

Pope Benedict XVI lauded human ability to adjust our environment, and identified it as a “tension.” In some contexts, perhaps. But it is also a part of a human will to survive and thrive.

The modification of nature for useful purposes has distinguished the human family from the beginning; technology itself “expresses the inner tension that impels (people) gradually to overcome material limitations”.[Caritas in Veritate 69]

Pope Francis adds his praise to human achievement:

Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications? How could we not acknowledge the work of many scientists and engineers who have provided alternatives to make development sustainable?

The previous three popes have weighed in for us in this section. Science and technology give us a vector that is at the same time creative, a mixed blessing of tension, and a means of achieving undoubted good. Where do we go from here?

About catholicsensibility

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