In his homily today my pastor talked about “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical, released Thursday, June 18th. I was surprised and delighted that he talked about it so soon, just 4 days from its publication.
Father mentioned that there had been much criticism of it so far by those who think the pope, a religious leader, should not talk authoritatively about the environment, a topic that his critics deem he is unqualified to address, because he is not a scientist. Then Father made the observation that many of the critics were not scientists either, but politicians, who want power. They want to decide about environmental issues without meddling from people like the pope.
The truth, however, is that Pope Francis, a spiritual leader par excellence also has a degree in chemistry. He knows well how to read scientific documents. He understands the scientific method and how to evaluate scientific data. This does not mean that he is an expert on everything to do with the environment, but he certainly knows how to interact with those who are. He can discern which data are most likely plausible.
Aside from the criticism of the pope’s scientific background, there are those who think his encyclical has little to do with theology and spirituality. Not so. God created the planet Earth. It is His gift to us. Human beings, Pope Francis asserts, are ruining this gift. That is a moral issue worthy of theological reflection. If anyone is competent to talk about moral issues it’s the pope.
My pastor realizes that the problems that plague “our common home” are so many that as individuals we may wonder, “What can I, one person among billions, do about a these things?” His suggestion is to make an effort to be informed about environmental concerns.
Focusing on food production, Father zeroed in on how meat and other animal products are produced these days. When we go to buy milk we envision that the milk came from farms where cows grazed on fields of green grass. But nowadays cows are rarely raised that way. Instead, they are raised inhumanely on factory farms. I took time to look up what those practices are like, and I found it disturbing. I won’t get into that here. But, if you are interested, just do a search on “factory farms.”
Father said it is morally imperative to change our lifestyle in the light of the issues highlighted in the encyclical. Such a change will not be easy. He advised to begin by becoming informed about the food we buy and eat. From where did it come? By what methods was it produced?
Honestly, I don’t think a lot about these things, but I’m going to start doing so.
If you need an overview about Pope Francis’ encyclical read this info graphic from the Toronto Archdiocese: