Pagans and Pope Francis - In favour
Pagans and Pope Francis
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016
if you can guess where I found each of the following quotes. They all came from
a document on this list: Mission Statement of the Order of Bards and Druids;
Jeremy Corbyn's response on a radio interview; John McDonnell's speech at PCSU
Conference; Greenpeace bulletin November 2014; Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter
2016; Guardian editorial March 2015; my diary 2015. Now, the quotes:
'Since the market
tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people
can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending.
Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm
affects individuals. This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free
as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. But those really free are
the minority who wield economic and financial power.'
'If we approach
nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no
longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the
world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters,
unable to set limits on their immediate needs.'
'The specialisation which
belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The
fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it
often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships
between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant.
Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology,
itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence.'
'I wish to address
every person living on this planet - to bring the whole human family together to
seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can
change. [and] to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless
ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular
appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects
of environmental degradation on the lives of the world's poorest. Young people
demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future
without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the
I cheated. Or, at least, I was sneaky with grammar. The quotes above all come from one of the documents mentioned/imagined. They are all from Pope
Francis' recent letter to the World.
I've taken the liberty of extracting some of the useful and
inspirational items and sorting them into an essay which I hope people will
find thought-provoking; maybe even action-provoking. Not
surprisingly, Pope Francis begins by citing a popular Christian historical
figure who has obviously been an influence on His Holiness:
'Francis of Assisi
reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life
and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. This sister now cries
out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use
and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see
ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The
violence present in our hearts, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness
evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is
why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and
maltreated of our poor. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the
earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we
receive life and refreshment from her waters. St Francis, we are told, 'represents care for the vulnerable and of an
integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is
between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and
interior peace.' And, in case you missed
that important little word, we are reminded that 'He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy.
[my emphasis] His response to the world
around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic
calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by
bonds of affection.'
Bartholomew's contribution to the debate is also appreciated. Apparently, he 'has drawn
attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which
require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of
humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to
replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a
spirit of sharing.' There seems to be a call for an asceticism
which goes rather further than may (I hope) be necessary but so far I can't ~
as we say in Sheffield ~ fault him.
can you disagree with these sentiments?
'Inner peace is
closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out
authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity
for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled
with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise,
interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances? We were not meant to be inundated by cement,
asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature. The natural environment is a collective good,
the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to
administer it for the good of all. A
sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts
lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. No system can completely suppress our
openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to
respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone
throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the
right to take it from us.'
the expression 'God-given' & reference to 'his
(sic) grace in our hearts'
is a basis for an interesting
theological debate but, in this context, I'm not inclined to be picky.
And it's not just about spiritual
approaches. There's some good
socio-political thinking, too.
'The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together;
we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to
causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of
the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet. We
are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose
fruits are meant to benefit everyone. Hence every ecological approach needs to
incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental
rights of the poor and the underprivileged. We cannot fail to consider the
effects on people's lives of environmental deterioration, current models of
development and the throwaway culture.'
His Holiness' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI also, apparently, had
something to say on this score, he likewise proposed 'eliminating the
structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting
models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the
environment'. 'The book of nature is one
and indivisible', and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family,
social relations, and so forth. Benedict urged us to realize that creation is
harmed 'where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our
property and we use it for ourselves alone.'
Pope Francis suggests that 'We need a
conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are
undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. Obstructionist attitudes, can range from
denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind
confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal
solidarity. The establishment of a legal
framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of
ecosystems has become indispensable.'
'The failure of
global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject
to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic
interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information
so that their own plans will not be affected.'
'The social dimensions of
global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment,
social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and
other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of
social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the
loss of identity.' Strong stuff (is it acceptable to say 'waytogo, Francis!'?) But, is he having
a dig at technology here? Does he yearn,
romantically, for some imagined pre-industrial paradise? Does he heckaslike! After a paragraph or two of reminding us what
science/technology have achieved in making life better for so many of us, the
Pontiff goes on to propose a new way of moving forward. We do not need to (we
may not have time to) get embroiled in futile science vs spiritualty debates.
/Men and women, Pope Francis reminds us 'have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long
time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by
the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed,
as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on
things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently
ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. There is a growing awareness that scientific
and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and
history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This
we are reminded, to reject the possibilities
which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly,
and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls
us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life.' 'The accumulation of constant novelties' is a
phrase I like a lot. I don't know about you, though, but I feel it pulls us
every which way but loose and, as Harry Nielsen said, 'a point in every
direction is the same as no point at all.'
Either way; we need to change the way we live & the way we think. Me & the Pope, we're as one on that. Oh, and it seems Pope Paul VI was with us
too. He said 'the most extraordinary
scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing
economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral
progress, will definitively turn against man.' Maybe we can even include Mary Shelley in the
'There is; (we're back with Pope
Francis here) 'a tendency to believe that
every increase in power means 'an increase of 'progress' itself; as if reality, goodness and truth
automatically flow from technological and economic power as such'. because our
immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in
human responsibility, values and conscience.
The same ingenuity which has brought about enormous technological
progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with
grave environmental and social problems worldwide. A global consensus is
essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by
unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.' But - recent World Summits on the environment have not lived
up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to
reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.
What is needed is
a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and
interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.'