Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Read It Like This: Laudato Si, And Pacem In Terris

If you see a pope referencing an encyclical from a predecessor, you should read that document. Right away, (article 4) Pope Francis mentions Pacem In Terris, the 1963 encyclical from Pope St. John XXIII. This is the part of the saint's encyclical that really caught my attention:

"From this it is clear that no State can fittingly pursue its own interests in isolation from the rest, nor, under such circumstances, can it develop itself as it should. The prosperity and progress of any State is in part consequence, and in part cause, of the prosperity and progress of all other States." (Pacem In Terris, 131)

I think this is the interpretive key for Laudato Si. Earlier, Pope St. John wrote, quoting a predecessor himself,

"The wealthier States, therefore, while providing various forms of assistance to the poorer, must have the highest possible respect for the latter's national characteristics and time-honored civil institutions. They must also repudiate any policy of domination. If this can be achieved, then "a precious contribution will have been made to the formation of a world community, in which each individual nation, conscious of its rights and duties, can work on terms of equality with the rest for the attainment of universal prosperity." (Pacem In Terris, 125)

Pope John had already reminded us that wages sufficient for the dignity of families pertains to justice, not mercy. In echoing this, Pope Francis is not offering a pious opinion in Laudato Si; he is repeating the social doctrine of the Church.

It is this interconnectedness in solidarity that forms the basis of the urgency to care for our common home. Indeed, the common good both natural and supernatural, points toward our destiny with God. Those who deny that the common good exists will naturally reject any spiritual aspects to their economic and social lives, but the children of the Church make no such assumption.

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