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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Family Fail

Did a conference break out at Pope Francis’s appearance in Philadelphia? A mixed review is here. In addition to the criticisms mentioned, no workshop on adoption. Big miss.

The perspective of family is easy when one is a fertile parent. Or a celibate, I suppose. Not so much when one lacks parents, is housed in a community facility, and is considered “unadoptable” because of racial background, or being of age to speak and walk.

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“What About You?”

I liked Pope Francis’s homiletic exploration of the call and response of one of my country’s great saints. It’s a question for the whole vector of the disciple’s life.

(Pope Leo) asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission.

One thing that struck me in this is the suggestion that this was not a revelation to Katharine, but a reminder. How often, deep down, do we know what to do? A disciple is attuned to the Teacher’s call.

Is the impulse to follow Jesus with a life only of ordained or religious life? I think that position can be rejected outright. A century and a half ago, a pope of another era addressed a question to a young lay woman. That is where the question originates today, a call to the lay person. Not only to people who have achieved a sacramental or vowed state. Not to church professionals alone. The question is often posed to the young.

(Those words) made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

These are essential questions. They are queries that might more readily come to the lips of teachers, catechists, godparents, clergy, ministers, and even parents. I was struck by the combination of values suggested: challenge, making space, and help.

Challenge: what does that look like? It probably doesn’t involve helicopter blades. My sense is that it involves really getting to know young people, and noticing emerging charisms. The challenge for us older Catholics is that we can expect to see potential when we look at young people. It will take a bit more than delegating youth ministry to a single professional in our parishes. Or shipping our adolescents off to educational institutions until they are in their twenties.

To me making space involves a selective withdrawal from some activities so as to make room for others. It involves qualities some Catholics find difficult: welcoming, inclusion, and trust of newcomers.

How do we challenge young people, and make room for them, but also help appropriately? Getting to know each person we encounter.

It’s about baptism. Baptism is the path to true discipleship:

One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world.

The term “missionary disciples” is offered. That adjective alludes to the mission of the Church, which is decidedly not preservation. It is not determined by committee meetings either. It goes to the core of Jesus’s mandate to the original Christian disciples: going forth to the world and making disciples, making followers of the Lord.

This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.

In other words, a respect for the past and its accomplishments, but new and creative ways of serving in the world. Build on the past, but look for new possibilities. It’s another way of saying we have the opportunity to explore new space.

And this:

In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.


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