Laudato Si 109: Economics and Politics Driven by Technology

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope Francis continues a carefully constructed criticism of the modern enslavement to the “technocratic paradigm.”

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.

A suggestion that the role of banks and the stock market are given too large a portion of and influence over work. This one’s tough to deny:

Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration.

Where is the evidence we’re on the path to solving our biggest problems?

Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behavior shows that for them maximizing profits is enough.

Behavior tells all.

And worse for those who trust the Market, Pope Benedict had his deep skepticism:

Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[Caritas Veritate 35]

He was also expressed doubts on materialism of the First World in the face of great need:

At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”,[Ibidem 22] while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

We’ll continue on this for another five sections that follow. Any comments today, though?

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On My Bookshelf: Theology of Christian Marriage III

Theology of Christian MarriageIn the first chapter of Walter Kasper’s Theology of Christian Marriage, a few things struck me. In looking at “the human values of marriage,” he looks at the Augustine’s emphasis on the three “goods” of marriage (descendants, mutual love and faithfulness, and the sacramental sign) as integrated into a more developed work of Thomas Aquinas.

In effect, sexuality as a means of procreation ensured that women (and perhaps men) would not be seen as mere sexual objects. Human love and faithfulness was a sign of God’s relationship with people. Cardinal Kasper’s regard for the genius of scholasticism in uniting these three values is evident. So what’s the problem?

Continue reading

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Laudato Si 108: Of Technology and Power

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. More on the paradigm of technology:

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic.

In other words, we cannot create compartments: use technology ruthlessly without any impact on our humanity. Some people attempt to excise science and technology from their lives, a counterculture found in both Left and Right:

It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”.[Roman Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63-64 (The End of the Modern World, 56)] As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”.[Ibidem, 64 (The End of the Modern World, 56)] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

The challenge is that money and power are more easily amassed in the modern system. And it is difficult to convince the powerful to share.

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Laudato Si 107: The Technology Model

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. The science & tech model, to the exclusion of other considerations has been shown not good for either the environment or for human culture:

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

The challenge is not that scientific achievement is bad, but that any single aspect of human culture by itself is an incomplete expression of the fullness of humanity. Modern culture often avoids the needed dialogue between paradigms. We see it inside the Church as well: a self-limiting of our full potential.

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Open Thread: Post 12000

computer_monitorA few words on this site. When I posted the Psalm 119 piece I wrote up last week, I hadn’t realized it would be one short of a milestone. And since I thought I nice round number deserved a notice of some kind, I thought I’d pair #12k with an update for you readers. And an open thread.

Today I found four old Reconciliation readings without links, so I fixed that. Two from 2013 and two from earlier this summer. Huh. That leaves ten readings and ten psalms to go in that, um, effort. My aim is to complete by Lent 2016, then leave the three pages for weddings, funerals, and penance for seekers. About 90 percent of the traffic on this site seems to be people looking to plan their nuptials or a funeral liturgy.

As for those twenty essays on the Reconciliation Lectionary, Liam has a standard offer to write up any of them, especially the psalms. Perhaps one or the other of certain readers, too, have mentioned the two Hosea entries or Romans 6. You might find a few citations without hyperlinks here. Somebody make me an offer I can’t refuse on those unlinked citations.

I’m still leaning to a gradual shutdown here sometime in 2016. I don’t think you will be seeing 150 posts in a month again. Quite honestly, I don’t know how some of the most active Catholic bloggers do ten a day. There are times when I think I’m stretching it to put up some of the things I’ve written. I know I’ve been more selective the past few years.

I also learned last week that one of my writing gigs outside the blogosphere is coming to an end. I’m looking for something a bit different–something I can still squeeze into my open time, especially early morning. With the young miss now in college and my wife already branching out into some new activities here in the Northwest, I suppose I could play more online backgammon. Or I could get a little more serious about the upgrade from pajama writing to professional.

That’s about it from the “blah, blah, blah” corner tonight. Any thoughts? Any other writers out there with interesting things to say or links to share?

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Psalm 119:1, 10-13, 15-16

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe massive 119th Psalm, a poetic treatise on the Law–perhaps even a love song to it–offers up verse one as an antiphon:

Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord.

… and six select verses from the Beth section arranged into three stanzas:

With all my heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
In my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I recite
all the judgments you have spoken.

I will ponder your precepts
and consider your paths.
In your statutes I take delight;
I will never forget your word.

What is the “promise” mentioned in verse 11? In both the revised Grail and the NRSV, the idea is rendered, “I treasure your word in my heart.” All I know about it is that the feminine ‘imrah is often translated as “word.” Along with the verb to treasure which has a connotation of protection shading into hoarding, is there some male/female overtone to the notion, some intimacy of the God-believer relationship? If so, not a common theme in the Catholic understanding of penance. Is such intimacy enough of a bulwark against sin? That seems hopeful.

Overall, the sense of this second part of Psalm 119 is one of adherence to the Law. That rather reinforces the juridical side of Catholic sacramental practice. It is part of our tradition.

I’m unaware of any mainstream setting of this set of verses. Anybody among the readers know of one?

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Laudato Si 106: The Globalization Of The Technocratic Paradigm

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Section II of Chapter Three looks at “The Globalization Of The Technocratic Paradigm.” Pope Francis is concerned that this paradigm has brushed aside considerations of other ways.

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation.

Actually, this doesn’t strike me as new. People have enslaved and dominated others. Simply because they could. Perhaps slavery is relegated to the dark peripheries of the culture today, but it still exists. Children, women, and the needy are easy prey for those who grab power simply because they can.

A previous era of harmony is cited:

Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand.

Perhaps. But ancient cultures were limited only by technology. If the ancients had been able to strip-mine, to pollute, to exterminate, they mi9ght well have succumbed to the temptation.

Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us.

The scarcity of friendship has consequences:

Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.[Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 462.]

I don’t know that the notion of infinite resources is a lie as much as it is a self-deception based on immediate gratification.

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