(The following was sent to The Pilot, whose correspondent contacted C.J. Doyle looking for a statement on the anticipated environmental encyclical by His Holiness, Pope Francis.)
Acknowledging the obvious — that the text of the encyclical is, as of this date, unknown — five considerations are in order:
- Catholicism has traditionally criticized liberal capitalism as an economic system, particularly in its treatment of workers and debtors. It is consistent therefore, with traditional Catholic social teaching to extend that critique to an examination of the impact of capitalism on God’s Creation — the natural environment.
- We should remember, especially in Boston, that an indifference to the environment had a devastating impact on inner city Catholic communities, when, a half century ago, a corporate driven public policy to promote highway construction obliterated urban Catholic neighborhoods. It was the incipient environmental movement which finally halted the injustice of eminent domain.
- There is a danger however, in any cooperation with an ecological movement that is militantly secularist, profoundly anti-life, and intrinsically committed to population control.
- There is also the risk that some in the Church will exploit the encyclical to revive the “seamless garment” argument, in order to diminish the centrality of the struggles to defend the sanctity of innocent human life, and preserve the integrity of traditional marriage and the natural family — the two greatest challenges in the moral order confronting what remains of Christian civilization today.
- Finally, neither the Holy Father nor any other member of the hierarchy have a specific competence in scientific matters, nor could any ecclesiastical authority bind Catholic in questions which require purely prudential judgments.