Laudato Si is a Papal Encyclical written by Pope Francis in 2015. The document is the Catholic Church's official response to the climate crisis. It is split into 6 chapters. The first two provide an analysis of the world today and examines the climate crisis from a biblical perspective. The second two chapters provides a judgement on what needs to happen for the world to survive the climate crisis and enter into an integral ecology with creation. In the last two chapters, he discusses big actions in behalf of policy makers and large corporations, as well as the everyday actions of Catholics.
Below I have created short summaries of each chapter for your perusal. If you would like to access the full document the link is here.
Prior to commencing chapter 1, Pope Francis discusses the origin of his name. He speaks about the life of St Francis of Assisi who spent his faithful life caring for creation and being one with creation. Pope Francis then calls the Church to take action to combat the climate crisis.
In chapter 1 itself, he explicitly draws on scientific research to discuss the scope of the climate crisis. In this chapter, he also explore how the climate crisis is also a humanitarian crisis. That is, it is just as much about climate justice as it is about social justice.
In chapter 2, Pope Francis looks to scripture to understand the crisis from a biblical perspective. He discusses the creation stories in the first 2 chapters of Genesis. These stories in some ways have been detrimental to human history. We now especially need to reconsider how we understand the word 'Dominion.' Other important scripture includes many of the Psalms and also St Paul's letter to the Romans Ch 8. In this chapter we really come to consider the word of God.
Chapter 3 is clearly where Pope Francis points the finger and the humans of the earth and tells them that they have, in fact, through progress caused the climate crisis. He discusses the impact of globalization, materialism, the throwaway culture, anthropocentrism and the technocratic paradigm. Anthropocentrism is the arrogance that we have to think that Humans are the centre of the creation. To the point where we believe that we are so untouchable, so far out of reach with nature that we do not abide by the same rules. This belief had led us to exploit the earth's resources for our own gain without considering the consequences.
Chapter 4 offers and alternative to anthropocentrism and asks us to enter into an Integral Ecology. An Integral Ecology is living and believing that we are not the centre of creation, but we are an integral part that impacts on every other part. From a science perspective, I like to think of it as that an anthropocentric perspective is to consider all of humanity as a perfectly closed system (which ultimately never exists). Whereas an integral ecology is to consider all of humanity as an infinitely open system. Pope Francis speaks of the fact that an integral ecology also considers our impact on our fellow humans, and our impact on future generations. In the past, Pope JPII spoke about a 'Human Ecology' and Pope Benedict XVI spoke about an 'Ecology of humanity.' Pope Francis is the first to speak of an 'Integral Ecology'.
In this chapter, Pope Francis speaks about the large scale actions that need to occur for us to enter into an Integral Ecology. He mentions specifically the need for Dialogue to occur at a leadership level. However, one of my concerns is that dialogue only every gets us so far. It is important to talk, to talk to our Indigenous communities, with our young people, with other countries, with the poor and with scientists. But action needs to be a fruit of that discussion.
In this chapter, Pope Francis talks about the individual and small community actions that need to occur for us to enter into an Integral Ecology. He talks about the need to have an 'ecological conversion.' My understanding of an ecological conversion is to see every object, every person, every creation as God sees it for it's worth, not human worth. This has ultimately caused me to enter into this new lifestyle that Pope Francis speaks of. An expression of solidarity and love for the environment and others is ultimately an expression of faith.
Virtues and Sins
Fr Joshtrum Kureethadam is an academic who works for the Vatican on all things ecological. In 2016 he wrote an article where he analysed Laudato Si and came up with 7 ecological virtues that anyone wanting to undergo an ecological conversion should work towards in their hearts. As part of a masters assignment, I took Kureethadam's wiritngs and found 7 ecological sins that we should also avoid enacting in order to benefit ourselves and the environment. Here I have created a short summary of these virtues and sins and quotes from Laudato Si on each. The quotes are not the only places in Laudato Si where these virtues and sins are mentioned. If you are wanting to have your own change of heart, or change the hearts of your family, students or parishioners, this is a good place to start.
Pope Francis ends the Encyclical with two prayers. One for creation and one for Christians in union with creation.
Below are two other prayers that are favourites of mine for reflection.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace
Taking as He did this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His will
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next
Canticle of Creation
Most high, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory,
All honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
And no mortal lips are worth to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day
Through whom You give us light. And he is
Beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
And the stars, in the heavens you have made
Them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind
And Air, and fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
By which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom You light the night and he is
Beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister
Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
Producing varied fruits with coloured flowers
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who grant
Pardon for love of You and hear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From who no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will,
No second death can do them harm.
Praised and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.