Yesterday I completed the task of slogging my way through the Italian “draft” of this 185-page book-length excuse to tie the Church’s credibility to eco-fascism and the global warming scam, which appears to be identical to the final document released today. As the world knows, Sandro Magister leaked the “draft” to the press two days ago at the cost of his Vatican press credentials. A summary of what I found—the bad and, as always with the massively verbose Vatican documents of the post-conciliar epoch, some elements that are good—has already been published if you care to endure the painful experience of reading what I wrote.Here, back at my journalistic home, I would like to focus on one of the most troubling aspects of what we all expected would be yet another eruption of a Vesuvius that has been burying everything in its path with rhetorical lava over the past two-and-a-half years. After informing us that “the actions man imposes today contrast with the natural slowness of biological evolution,” Francis—meaning the committee who put together this gargantuan platypus of a document—provides this evolutionary depiction of man:
The human being, even supposing evolutionary processes, involves a novelty not fully explainable by the evolution of other open systems. Every one of us has in himself a personal identity able to enter into dialogue with others and with God Himself. The capacity for reflection, reasoning, creativity, interpretation, artistic elaboration, and other original capacities demonstrate a singularity that transcends the realm of the physical and biological. The qualitative novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within the material universe presupposes a direct action of God, a peculiar calling to life and to the relation of a Thou to another thou.
I searched in vain for a reference anywhere in the main text of LS to what we fundamentalist Catholics commonly, however quaintly, refer to as “the soul.” There is none, save a passing reference in paragraph 233, occurring in the final few paragraphs of the document as part of a kind of “Catholic supplement” to an otherwise thoroughly humanistic presentation of the “ecological crisis.” In fact, at the beginning of Chapter Two of this book called an encyclical Francis poses this amazing question (not accurately stated in the official English translation): “Why insert [inserire] in this document, addressed to all men of good will, a chapter referring to the convictions of faith?” That a Pope would view the “convictions of faith” as an insertion (or inclusion) in a papal encyclical tells us all we need to know about the problem with Laudato Si’.
Let us assume that the words to which Francis has apparently put his name are to be taken according to the ordinary signification of words, as opposed to what Jimmy Akin will undoubtedly tell us they “really mean” in one of his “things to know” con jobs. On that assumption, LS declares that by some unspecified “direct action” of God, man has “emerged” as a “personal being” from the material universe, but possessed of a “qualitative novelty” that distinguishes him from the other animals that have also “emerged” from the material universe via “evolutionary processes.”
In Genesis we read that “the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” We do not read that man is “qualitative novelty” emerging from an evolutionary process as a “personal being.” Because man has a soul, he is ontologically superior by his very nature to every other living creature, indeed all living creatures put together. Thus it would be right and just—in fact morally imperative—to sacrifice every lower animal on the face of the earth to save one human soul. This is why Our Lord declared to the crowd He had just warned against the lies of Pharisees:
Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows. (Lk, 12:4-7).
God does not forget even things as trivial as sparrows sold at market for a pittance; infinitely less so each man with his immortal soul, who is worth far more than any mere animal. That is the point of Our Lord’s teaching.
In answer to the question “Whether Adam in the state of innocence had mastership over the animals?” Saint Thomas teaches what the Church has always believed: “as man, being made to the image of God, is above other animals, these are rightly subject to his government.” (ST, I, Q. 96, Art. 1). Only as a consequence of Original Sin was “man was punished by the disobedience of those creatures which should be subject to him.” The state of things after the Fall, therefore, is that of a natural order in rebellion against its divinely appointed earthly governor. But man has not lost his intrinsic superiority to all other animals, nor his title to governance over them.
So why does Francis not state the simple truth that God endowed man with an immortal soul of infinite worth, thereby setting him above all other creatures? And why, in quoting Our Lord’s reference to sparrows in the Gospel of Luke, does Francis excise the immediately following words: “you are of more value than many sparrows.”Perhaps the answer lies in the consequence of what man is by virtue of his soul: the ruler of lower animals: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth (Gen, 1:28).”
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But this poses a problem for Francis in his attempt to fashion yet another post-conciliar novelty in the Church: a call to “ecological conversion,” which requires a subtle demotion of man to merely a part, albeit a “qualitatively novel” part, of the natural world. This is in keeping with the evolutionary eschatology of Teilhard de Chardin which surfaces two paragraphs after LS introduces man as a “qualitative novelty” among “the evolution of other open systems.” With citations to “the contribution of P. Teilhard de Chardin,” Francis declares:
The end of the way of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been reached by Christ risen, fulcrum of the universal maturation. In this way we can add a further argument against an irresponsible and despotic dominion over the other creatures. The final end of other creatures is not us. Instead, all advance, together with us and through us, toward the common destination, which is God, in a transcendent fullness where Christ risen embraces and illuminates everything. The human being, in fact, gifted with intelligence and love, and attracted by the fullness of Christ, is called to lead all creatures toward their Creator. (LS 83).
Let us put aside the idea that the Risen Christ has “reached” the fullness of God. There is only so much of Francis’s 1970s Jesuit theology that one can process in a given day. Suffice it note that man is here reduced to the role of a kind of evolutionary Dr. Doolittle, leading his fellow animals to heaven in the process of “universal maturation” because he knows which way to go and they will follow. This vision of man and the animals proceeding together toward what would appear to be something like Teilhard’s Omega Point seems difficult to reconcile with man enjoying, say, a good steak or a morning of duck hunting. Indeed, it seems difficult to reconcile with selling five sparrows for two farthings so that they can be eaten.
What, then, of the traditional teaching of the Church that the creatures of the Earth are for man’s use, albeit a responsible use that does not waste what God has provided? That, of course, has to go, and Francis gives it the heave-ho without admitting that he has done so:
Today the Church does not say in a simplistic manner that the other creatures are completely subordinate to the good of the human being, as if the did not have a value in themselves and we could dispose of them at our pleasure.
Here we see what has become thematic in the pronouncements of Pope Francis: the use of the false antithesis. The “complete subordination” of creatures to man is not really opposed to their having “a value in themselves,” for everything in Creation has a value in itself, including the trees we chop down “at our pleasure” for firewood or the various kinds of animals game hunters “dispose of” at their “pleasure.” For that reason, in the section of the Summa quoted above, Thomas observes that “the hunting of wild animals is just andnatural, becausemanthereby exercises anatural right.”
One might as well argue that a king cannot subordinate his subjects because they have a value in themselves. Nor does the word “completely” add anything but confusion to the matter. Are animals partially subordinate to man? Is there some limit of subordination beyond which they have rights against us? Is Francis, then, attempting to smuggle “animal rights” into the thinking of the Catholic Church?
Now of course it is wrong to inflict cruelty on animals or to waste the food animals provide when we slaughter them. But that is because abuse of man’s dominion over animals is an offense against God, not animals. One can no more anthropomorphize animal life than one can literally say that Earth is our Mother against whom it is possible to commit offenses. Yet Francis does precisely that when he proclaims in LS (49) that we must “integrate justice into discussions of the environment, to listen as much to the cry of the earth as to the cry of the poor.” And he does it again at the end of this mammoth, rambling and repetitive document by appending a “Christian Prayer With Creation,” according to which we are expected to say: “We praise you, Father, with all of your creatures…” and “the poor and the earth are crying out…”
I don’t think Saint Francis of Assisi had anything like this encyclical in mind when he composed his famous canticle, on the basis of which Pope Francis is now attempting to build an entire “ecological spirituality.” (Cf. LS, Ch. 6). Nor do I think Saint Francis would be pleased to see that while LS begins with the opening words of his canticle and quotes it repeatedly, Francis somehow never gets around to mentioning the dramatic closing lines:
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
That Saint Francis called not only the Moon but bodily death “our Sister” reveals the egregious misuse of his trope by the Pope who took his name.
Today I read a blog post at Pewsitter.com, accompanied by a still shot from the TV series All in the Family, whose title expresses quite well the deepening absurdity of this pontificate: “Time to Turn off the Francis Show and Stay Faithful.” I would love to turn off The Francis Show, but the problem is that The Francis Show cannot be turned off. If only it could. Quite the contrary, the world seems intent on renewing the series for as long as the star can go on, broadcasting it daily to every corner of the earth.
As Joe Biden said of Francis after Laudato si’ was leaked: “We have a good one now.” God help us. And God help His Holy Church.