The new papal encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, breaks new ground by finding the root cause of the ecological crisis and global poverty in a “technocratic paradigm” that controls a “superdevelopment” market economy (P 109). This systemic analysis of global warming in terms of epistemological, economic, and moral categories makes it a landmark in Church teachings. Yet some are asking, “does Francis depart from Catholic teachings that have gone before?”
Read for yourself what his predecessors have written:
Pope Benedict XVI, Message on the World Day of Peace (January, 2010)
“It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles, “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”. Education for peace must increasingly begin with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states. We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries.” (P 11)
Read more of Pope Benedicts XVI’s If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation
Pope John Paul II Message for the World Day of Prayer, 1990
“Certain elements of today’s ecological crisis reveal its moral character. First among these is the indiscriminate application of advances in science and technology. Many recent discoveries have brought undeniable benefits to humanity…. Unfortunately, it is now clear that the application of these discoveries in the fields of industry and agriculture have produced harmful long-term effects. This has led to the painful realization that we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations.
The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related “greenhouse effect” has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs. Industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellants,: all of these are known to harm the atmosphere and environment. The resulting meteorological and atmospheric changes range from damage to health to the possible future submersion of low-lying lands.
While in some cases the damage already done may well be irreversible, in many other cases it can still be halted. It is necessary, however, that the entire human community—individuals, States and international bodies—take seriously the responsibility that is theirs.” (P 6)
Read more of Pope John Paul II’s Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all Creation