First, my apologies about the longer than expected sabbatical. It has been a crazy few months between work, health issues with my mother-in-law and trying to spend more time with family. I hope to begin posting again on a semi-regular basis very soon but I wanted to at least mention Laudato Si. I am not going to discuss its substance as I have only read it once and have not yet fully digested (hope to start doing that this weekend); plus there are plenty of other resources that can provide a better analysis than I can. (However, I will note on a personal level it is a very challenging document as it is directly asking me to step beyond my narrow, personal comfort and security, which I guess the Gospel message always does).
No, I will briefly highlight Laudato Si as being important in Catholic theology for two fairly minor items compared to its overall message but two items that should not be overlooked. First, Laudato Si is the first time I recall reading or hearing Pope Francis mention Teilhard de Chardin. It is possible that Pope Francis mentioned him previously but I was not aware of it. Second, this is the first time that Teilhard de Chardin was mentioned in a papal encyclical. St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had previously rehabilitated and endorsed the ideas of Teilhard in their writings and speeches but Laudato Si, and specifically footnote 53, was the first time Teilhard de Chardin made it in an encyclical. Set forth below are excerpts from Laudato Si that incorporate Teilhard’s overall theology:
“Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things . . .In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding. We are free to apply our intelligence towards things evolving positively, or towards adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks. This is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction.
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Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator. God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”. The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.
Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.
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The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. (Editor’s note, this is the Omega Point) Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.
(emphasis added, footnotes omitted).
I hope to get back to semi-regular writings fairly soon. In the interim, I am wishing you all a joyful summer or winter, depending what hemisphere you live in.