Yesterday liberals were high-fiving and fist-bumping over the Pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si” (“be praised”) for its seeming to suggest that a “higher authority” agreed with the left-held view that global warming is man-made and a threat to the future of all living things. Their end zone dance may be a little myopic, however, inasmuch as the 184-page encyclical covers far more than environmental issues. In his letter, Francis also reaffirms the Catholic Church’s stance against abortion and contraceptives, its rejection of “gender theory,” and its plea for the wise use of technology and the value of human work.
Unless liberals are willing to cop to a plea of cherry-picking, they are going to have to concede that the news from the Vatican is at least not all good. Here are the specifics on those topics as they are treated in the Pope’s missive.
No Abortion and Contraceptives
Francis rejects arguments that contraceptives and abortions should be made more available to developing countries. Advocating for population control, the Pope writes, is “refusing to face the issues.”
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.’
At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health.’ Yet ‘while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.’
To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and ‘whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.’ Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.
A Rejection of ‘Gender Theory’
In “Laudato Si,” Francis takes time to discuss the idea of “human ecology,” which has been seen as a rejection of “gender theory” that serves as the basis for “transgender identification,” reports the Catholic News Agency. Francis says our bodies are “God’s gift” that should not be manipulated.
The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.
Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek ‘to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.’
Use Technology Wisely
Francis also implores people to use technology wisely. The Pope recognizes that technological advances are important to improving the human condition, but cautions that the recent past show that “technoscience” has not always been used for good.
Technoscience, when well directed, can produce important means of improving the quality of human life, from useful domestic appliances to great transportation systems, bridges, buildings and public spaces. It can also produce art and enable men and women immersed in the material world to ‘leap’’ into the world of beauty. Who can deny the beauty of an aircraft or a skyscraper? Valuable works of art and music now make use of new technologies. So, in the beauty intended by the one who uses new technical instruments and in the contemplation of such beauty, a quantum leap occurs, resulting in a fulfilment which is uniquely human.
Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power.
More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used.
We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose 30 hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.
Don’t Take Away People’s Work
The Pope also asks that technology not be used to “increasingly replace human work” — much like fears among some that robots will eventually replace human workers. Indeed, media reports come out all the time that places like China are being increasingly mechanized. Francis wants technological progress that encourages human work.
We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.
Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves. The loss of jobs also has a negative impact on the economy ‘through the progressive erosion of social capital: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules, all of which are indispensable for any form of civil coexistence.’
In other words, ‘human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.’” To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society.
This report, by Michael Bastasch, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.