Are you making progress in your reading of Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on “The Care of Our Common Home?” I am working through it. Of course, we all read with our own perspective. For me, Pope Francis is trying to extend a moral sense of vision to us all. He affirms the inherent dignity of all creation due to each creature and all creation bearing an imprint of its Creator. Pope Francis references this latter point when he says that, “The Franciscan saint [Bonaventure] teaches us that each creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be readily contemplated if only the human gaze were not so partial, dark and fragile.” (no. 239) The Holy Father calls us to follow the example of St. Bonaventure in terms of contemplation, coming to “discover God in all things.” (no. 233)
It is all a lot to consider, and there are other perspectives other than Franciscan. So I try to read a chapter or two, give it a day or two of consideration, and then scan the internet to see if there are insightful comments and other perspectives. The comments strike me as narrow – but then it is an awful lot to read, digest, and think about. There are lots of people who have reduced it all to, “See, the pope agrees with us.” There are others, who with a wave of the hand, assert that the pope should leave this area to the scientists and policy makers.
Whether a commentator believes there is a problem or not with the environment, I find a somewhat recurring theme that most believe technology will provide an answer. But as Bishop Kurtz of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted, “Technology can tell us what we can do, but we do need moral voices to tell us what we ought to do.” That got me to musing….consider that as you consider my very poor analogy: you have an aquarium with beautiful fish and other aquatic life. Your roommate dumps acid in the tank because that is the most convenient place to get rid of it. You have a system that can regulate the pH to balance the water to the desired balance. Most of the acid can be removed. Sure, some is being absorbed in the fish and aquatic life, but no worries, a more efficient pH regulator will soon be available to address this problem. Technology will save the day. But is that the core problem being faced? And is technology the only means by which we should address the problem and save the day.
Funny thing about technology as “savior,” George and Jane Jetson (yes, they of the early 1960 cartoons) had exactly the same problems with their children as did Fred and Wilma Flintstone. The movement of technology from stone age to space age did not affect the need for moral voices to guide and shape life. In Isaac Asimov’s “Robot Novels,” one theme that is constant is the conflicts between Spacers — technologically-dependent descendants of human settlers who live in off-world planets, and the people from an overcrowded Earth. The former become more and more detached from each other, as technology is used to solve “all the problems.” The moral consciences of their world are possessed by the robotic servants. Meanwhile on Earth, it is the moral voice that unites the people as they attempt to address their overcrowded world issues. The Earth folk struggle, but they have not lost their humanity.
Where am I going with all this – a papal encyclical, aquariums, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Isaac Asimov novels? I am not sure yet; I’m still reading. One thing is clear: the needed moral voice will not be technologically dependent. It will be as the pope has outlined: the is an inherent dignity, God-given, in each creature and in all creation. We are the conscience in this world proclaiming what we ought to do because of the moral vision we possess, rooted in the Divine.