Faith Perspective: Pope Francis' message of mercy for ecology

Fri, Apr 22nd 2016 04:00 pm

I have heard comments from some who are upset over the fact that Pope Francis is "sticking his nose" into areas which are not of his concern. Most of these comments were in reaction to his encyclical letter on the ecology, "Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home." It is disturbing that these good people seem to be missing the message and mission of our pope.

In taking the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, and titling his teaching document "Laudato Si'," taken from the first line of the Franciscan Cantle of the Creatures, the pope was sending all mankind a message. St. Francis of Assisi gained his saintly status largely due to his extraordinary love and care for the poor, and for all of God's creation. Pope Francis was telling us upfront that these two issues are inseparable and emphasizing the fact that it is the poor who suffer most from abuses of our earth and its resources.

In his encyclical, Pope Francis is certainly not advocating any radical thought in Catholic social teaching. He is not the first pope to address the ecology in his writings. Pope Francis, however, is the first to write an encyclical (a teaching document) on the subject.

Throughout the encyclical, Francis relates to three models of creation. He speaks negatively to the Dominion Model which embraces the thought that God has given the earth to humans to do whatever they want with it. He gives credence to both the Stewardship and Kinship models.

The Stewardship Model projects man as a steward or landlord over the earth.  As stewards, God expects humanity to be caretakers of His gifts, not exploiters.  The Kinship Model teaches that man is neither ruler nor landlord over the earth, but rather siblings or kin, along with the rest of creation in the created world.  We are part of the same family with all animate and inanimate parts of the world.

Pope Francis reminds us that the abuse of the natural world is a sin against all who inhabit it and against He who created it. He often concentrates on the issue of global warming.

In doing so he is emphatic about the topic not being subject to debate on whether or not it exists and that it is caused by human practices. Rather, he is saying that these are facts and that discussion should be on how we are going to solve the problems we have created.

At the heart of the pope's message is the fact that some governments, corporations, and individuals horde and/or abuse natural resources solely for the sake of profit. In doing so, they do not take into account how their actions affect the rest of creation. A small percentage of the world's populations monopolize the majority of its gifts and resources. He repeatedly points that it is the world's poor who suffer the most from these actions.  

The pope suggests some "marching orders." He asks us to be aware of the downsides of consumerism: the practice in our society which encourages us to buy more products than way may need, and purchase the best of quality when a lesser one would be suitable. He reminds us to think about what we are buying.

He is asking us to interject moral thinking when making purchasing decisions. He also asks us to become active in political, economic, and social activities that are aimed at addressing the issues related to the abuse of the ecology at a local level.

Pope Francis lives up to his name in calling attention to the abuse of our earth and to those most often negatively affected by it, the poor of the world.  He is advocating Christ's message to love one another.

He is sticking his nose into the subject of ecology. He would say that as the leader of Christ's Church and ambassador of His message to love one another, his nose needs to be there. He would also say that ours does as well.  

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