Laudato Si’ — A NETWORK Associate’s Perspective
By Nicholas Moffa
June 19, 2015
When I was a kid, my family always took what I initially considered to be the strangest vacations. While my friends flew off to Disney World, I flew off to…Wyoming. And Alaska, Arizona, and California. While my friends enjoyed amusement park rides, I quickly grew to love hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and kayaking. To me, Denali National Park, with its glaciers and biodiversity, was way more magical than the Magic Kingdom could ever be; but what I didn’t realize at the time was that those majestic sheets of ice that amazed me as a kid might not be around for much longer.
In Laudato Si’, his new encyclical, Pope Francis explains the concept of what he calls “intergenerational solidarity” as a responsibility of current generations to protect and preserve the world in which we live for future generations. “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us” (159). As a 23-year-old advocating for justice in our nation’s capital, this passage resonated with me in a very powerful way. Politics, all too often, does not move quickly in Washington, D.C.; when it does move, it sometimes appears to edge away from the passage of just legislation (or simply sprints in the opposite direction). I have begun to realize that the work I do is not only for my current sisters and brothers on this Earth, but also for those who are still children or who are yet to be born. The arc of the world is long, but it bends towards justice, right?
I believe Pope Francis’s answer to that question is that it is all of our responsibility to help that arc bend just a little bit closer to justice. Our world is one in which humans are contributing to global climate change, which thereby results in rising sea levels, more devastating natural disasters, the depletion of natural resources, and a lack of potable water. According to Pope Francis, one of the most devastating impacts of our changing climate is its disproportionately large impact on our poorest and most marginalized brothers and sisters. We all share this one common home, he explains, in which each of us is in relationship with each other, with nature, and with God. “A conviction which we today share… [is] that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (70).
So what prevents us from forging and maintaining these loving relationships? One answer that stuck out to me was Pope Francis’s idea of the “technocratic paradigm,” or a way of life dominated by the technology we human beings invented. Technology has created a perspective that becomes more pervasive every day, one in which nature is little more than a resource to be used and an external force to be controlled. Economic and political elites “control” the most powerful forms of technology, such as nuclear weapons, which gives them inordinate power. Other forms of technology make it more difficult for us to live in relationship and stifle our creativity. I don’t think he mentioned Snapchat or Twitter, but it was implied.
But wait just one second! Pope Francis has a Twitter account (@Pontifex, if you were wondering; he tweets out some great stuff). “Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need…to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur” (114). What are those values? The answer, I believe, is one of the keys to his message in Laudato Si’. The values include recognizing the importance of living in relationship with all life on Earth and working together for the common good of the 100%. It is not only about care for God’s Creation; care for Creation necessarily means lifting up the dignity of all people, ensuring all have access to work that pays a living wage, affordable and safe housing, effective public transportation, and more. Pope Francis calls us to work for equality despite the pervasiveness of inequality; to welcome migrants fleeing their homes due to violence and the dangers of natural disasters; and to stand in solidarity with, and live out, the preferential option for the poor.
These values add up to what Pope Francis dubs “intragenerational solidarity,” a way of life in which we think about both those currently on this Earth and those coming after us. This idea, more than any other part of the encyclical, struck a chord with me. “Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting” (162). It isn’t always easy: many political leaders still allow election cycles and special interests to influence them, and the voices of the most marginalized of our sisters and brothers are not always heard. However, this encyclical has inspired me to keep working for justice. Pope Francis calls on each of us to play our part, but luckily, not a single person has to do it alone. We are all in this together, and it is our joint responsibility to care for our common home.
“Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope” (244). Amen!