Laudato Si 204: Consumerism and Collective Selfishness

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. St John Paul II was never one to mince words:

204. The current global situation engenders a feeling of instability and uncertainty, which in turn becomes “a seedbed for collective selfishness”.[John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 1: AAS 82 (1990), 147] When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears. As these attitudes become more widespread, social norms are respected only to the extent that they do not clash with personal needs. So our concern cannot be limited merely to the threat of extreme weather events, but must also extend to the catastrophic consequences of social unrest. Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.

Strong words from a quarter-century ago. Do they still resonate? Are they more apt for other people, less faithful than we, or do we see ourselves in these words, even those of us who carefully wrap ourselves in mantles of virtue?

About catholicsensibility

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