49. It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric....
50. Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”....Pope Francis is exactly right here. Many of those wringing their hands about the poor and using them for political purposes seem not to care about them at all. They use poverty to promote an agenda. But this important point is almost lost in the long ramble about the environment and a plethora of other issues like drug abuse, information overload, consumerism and increasing air conditioning use (!). Some of those issues could be the source of encyclicals themselves. I find the document somewhat baffling in its breadth of issues raised in almost a stream of consciousness approach.
One statement rang clanging alarm bells for me:
53...The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice. 54. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been.What exactly is the pope saying here? Is he lamenting the lack of an international court to rule the entire world...with power to make laws and a police force to implement them? That certainly would be welcomed by the U.N. elitists, but would it really serve the poor?
Near the end of Chapter 1 is this paragraph identifying two extremes and calling for dialogue to find solutions:
60. Finally, we need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes, since there is no one path to a solution. This makes a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions....And then comes this ironic statement:
61. On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.And yet, the pope is offering a "definitive opinion" on many "concrete questions" in the encyclical, opinions that are not necessarily based on a true assessment of the situation. And, actually, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Science and the encyclical itself do not "respect divergent views" which were completely excluded at the Academy's April meeting and found no place in the encyclical. Only popular opinion on global warming is evident in the document. There is little nuance in Chapter 1, but many definitive statements that don't necessarily correspond to reality.
Let us all pray for the Holy Father and for Holy Mother Church. (To Be Continued....)