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The Pope’s Encyclical at Benedictine: Not Just Climate Change

This coming Wednesday, we at Benedictine are hosting an all-day reading on the Quad of Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical Laudato Si‘, as well as a symposium, 7-9 p.m. with introductory remarks by the President and four brilliant faculty members from four different disciplines:

Everything is Connected: Perspectives on Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’

Wednesday, September 30th, 7-9pm

Location: Presentation Room, Krasa

Free and open to the public

Monica Tischler

“Perspectives on Teaching Environmental Science Using the Papal Encyclical.”

Martin Tracey

“Pope Francis on the Environmental Crisis: Its Nature, Causes, and Remedies”

Phil Hardy

“Who Is He to Judge? Weighing Papal Influence on US Policymaking,
Public Opinion, and Political Campaigns.”

Chris Fletcher
“Everyone is Connected: Pope Francis’ Inclusive Encyclical”

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The Pope’s Encyclical is probably of greatest importance in regards to climate change. But that is not the only environmental problem the Pope tackles.  He also explicitly condemns the systematic poisoning of our common home and all the world’s inhabitants.

Quoting Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis says “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation;… for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”[15]. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God” [16] (Francis 2015, 8). In his own words, Pope Francis indicts chemical contamination of this sort: “Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected” (21).

Pope Francis goes on to describe the world as interconnected with humans: everything is connected. This is both literally true and symbolically important. For too long our science and our worldview has been reductive, compartmentalized. Everything is connected, and therefore, every problem must be approached from an interdisciplinary view, as we are doing at the symposium. For too long, science has been divorced from ethics, from a final cause, from a natural law: “Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes” (114). Now, we are seeing natural law in the limits we are reaching as we swell to fill the world, destroying everything else on it. The health of human beings cannot be considered separately from the health of the planet: “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49).

Benedictine is positioned to make the most of a Pope who is changing the world for the better every day; our new President, Dr. Michael Brophy, ranks environmental and health issues as one of the most important ways we can contribute as an institution: “He [Brophy] is beginning to form a methodology for his goal of molding Benedictine into a thought leader on globally significant topics such as health care and the environment — topics important to Catholics as influential as Pope Francis….So how does the environment connect with business or with community health, morals, the poor, the way we treat others, the dignity of the person? These questions matter, and involving as many faculty members as possible to answer them for a wide audience is part of what Brophy says he envisions for Benedictine.

Read more about Benedictine’s Symposium on the Encyclical in the Daily Herald: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20150923/news/150929577/

To read Pope Francis’s beautifully written encyclical, visit http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

The Symposium is sponsored by Benedictine’s Center for Mission and Identity (CMI). Contact me at jkauth@ben.edu for more information.

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