11 Things You Probably Won’t Hear about Pope Francis’ Encyclical

By The Editors Published on June 19, 2015

The official version of Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical Laudato Si was released this morning. While much of the media focus will be on the sections devoted to climate change and global warming, here are eleven things from the encyclical you probably won’t see in the headlines.

(1) Creation has a Creator, and is more than just “nature-plus-evolution”:

(75) A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.

(77) “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure,” while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy.”

(2) Human ecology means recognizing and valuing the difference between masculinity and femininity:

(155) Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man,” based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.” It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

(3) Jesus sanctifies human work:

(98)  Jesus worked with his hands, in daily contact with the matter created by God, to which he gave form by his craftsmanship. It is striking that most of his life was dedicated to this task in a simple life which awakened no admiration at all: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk 6:3). In this way he sanctified human labour and endowed it with a special significance for our development. As Saint John Paul II taught, “by enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity”.

(4) Look up from your phones and encounter each other:

(47) When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

(5) Save the baby humans:

(120) Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

(136) [I]t is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit.

(91) 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. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.

(6) Helping the poor requires more than just handouts:

(128) We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work.

(7) Overpopulation is not the problem:

(50) Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health.” Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.

(8) True ecology requires true anthropology and respect for human dignity:

(118) There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes.” A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

(65) The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). This shows us the immense dignity of each person, “who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.” Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being “confers upon him or her an infinite dignity.” Those who are committed to defending human dignity can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment. How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles! The Creator can say to each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:5). We were conceived in the heart of God, and for this reason “each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

(9) Real change requires a change in culture, not just politics:

(123) We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

(211) The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct, even when effective means of enforcement are present. If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond. Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment.

(10) The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions, and we need an honest and open debate:

(60) Finally, we need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes, since there is no one path to a solution. This makes a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions

(188) There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.

(11) Stop with the cynicism, secularism and immorality:

(229) We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that lighthearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.


For further analysis of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical and a link to the full text, visit the Acton Institute’s resource page called Pope Francis and the Environment. Also, keep returning to The Stream for additional original coverage and comment on the encyclical’s release.

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  • mbabbitt

    Big whoop. He still just gave fuel to the environmental wackos. Not wise, nor helpful.

    • Mal

      However, the wackos will realize that this is not about their rights but about their responsibilities. It also demands respect for human nature, including the important gender feature.

      • mbabbitt

        No, no one listens today to what they don’t like. They will ignore the other, traditionally Catholic dogma (neutral use of term), and just parade the environmental wacko side and gain strength. This is not an intellectually serious culture anymore. Just winning counts to the Left. And they have done quite well in selling their snake oil.

    • Mollie Norris

      Pseudo-environmentalists using the environment as a disguise for an anti-human political agenda that doesn’t involve the concept of free will and is based entirely on fraud, rather than science, while censoring all scientific truth and libeling honest scientists. Bergoglio is deceptive; his primary characteristic; regarding his personal history and political/economic agenda.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    GREAT points………I think Francis just used the issue of the environment to proclaim the Gospel to the world…..well done.

  • Craig Roberts

    Thank you for this. I was getting quite depressed about the prospects for this document until now.

  • Gordis85

    Thanks…going to print it up and study it.

  • It is simple. We are given a world to live in and have the responsibility to protect it for our own future. Simple and yet profound for Francis to speak to it.

  • R.L. G

    No offense, but paragraphs 23, 161 and 169 in LAUDATO SI’ are example of equivocations of the editors point number 10, and the Vatican’s claim of not being arbiters of science.

  • Craig Roberts

    Thing you won’t hear #12. If this collection of random banalities and pompous cliches about the environment was submitted by anyone but the pope it would be completely ignored.

  • ThePiousStatesman

    This is such propaganda. One can find good things in most of congress’s bills. Even the progressives believe in God, which makes their writings all the more dangerous. It’s easy to dismiss rhetoric of the atheists, but not the rhetoric of progressives who say they believe in God, because their aim is to take the everyday Christian along for the slow, long drive into the new age–the new world order.

  • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

    Please. These are mere platitudes placed in there to give Francis some cover. The main thrust of this Encyclical is based on false science, socialist dialectics and environmentalism propaganda. The Primate of the Roman Catholic Church needs to stay OUT of these types of debates. This is a clear indication that Francis is not a good and holy Pope, but a man that has a radical agenda to “reform” the world. God help us as we head into the Synod on the Family this Fall. I shudder to think what will happen when Francis sets his sights on issues relating to human sexuality, marriage and the reception of the Eucharist…

  • Atlas Shrugged

    “(10) The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions, and we need an honest and open debate:”

    Then why did you only invite pro-global warming scientists to discuss the issue?

    You excluded Gaeleo for being skeptical about the sun orbiting the Earth and now you excluding scientists who are skeptical about the 1% of CO2 humans contribute towards the 0.04% of CO2 in the atmosphere is creating global warming that’s not been happening for nearly two decades.

  • howard bell

    The science of climate change seems to have “evolved” into the theoretical philosophy of climate change.

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