Press "Enter" to skip to content

Pope Francis Encyclical: “Our Common Home Is Falling into Serious Disrepair”

The Vatican released Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ at noon in Rome this morning. The Pope says he seeks not merely the attention of his Catholic followers but “dialogue with all people about our common home.”

O.K., this atheist will listen.

Pope Francis personifies the Earth and portrays humanity as a violent overreacher that has forgotten its Gaian oneness with what Saint Francis of Assisi called “our Sister, Mother Earth”:

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters [Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 2015.06.18, paragraph 2].

Someone is going to holler “New Age Theocracy!” but the dust in the earth metaphor neatly encapsulates this encyclical’s attack on the perverted notion of human dominion over the world. We are not “lords and masters”; we are but elements, dependent on the Earth for our survival. The Pope does not dismiss the notion of humanity occupying a “unique place.. in this world” [parag. 15], but do I misread the Pope if I say that the leader of the Church that once castigated Galileo for challenging geocentric cosmogeny now tells us to get off our high horse and recognize that we are not as central to Creation as Creation is central to us?

Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another [parag. 42].

This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, for “he commanded and they were created; and he established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds and he set a law which cannot pass away” (Ps 148:5b-6). The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures [parag. 68].

Pope Francis emphasizes that his concern for Madre Tierra is no divergence from previous Catholic teaching. Paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 cite Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI all criticizing human-centric exploitation and overconsumption of global resources. He calls his papal namesake, Saint Francis, the “example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically” [parag. 10]. “Integral ecology” is a key phrase in this encyclical. It’s not just about hugging trees; Saint Francis’s life shows us “how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” [parag. 10], caring, as Saint Francis did, “for all that exists” [parag. 11].

And if you care for all that exists, you’ve got work to do:

  • You’ve got to throw away the “throwaway culture” that denies resources to future generations and revamp industry to follow the model of natural ecosystems, in which everything, plant and animal, is recycled [parag. 22].
  • You’ve got to accept that human activity has caused “most global warming in recent decades” and change your “lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming” [parag. 23]. And if you keep pretending that climate science isn’t clear, Pope Francis will whack you on the news: “Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen” [parag 59].
  • You’ve got to respond to the “tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation” [parag 25].
  • You’ve got to stop wasting and privatizing water, because “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights” [parag. 30].

And so on, through a catalog of deep environmental and cultural ills that reads more like the work of Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben than the standard homilies of bishops, much less the corporatist platitudes of any of God’s favorites running for the Republican nomination for President. Consider this Berryesque passage on biodiversity:

The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate. Similarly, wetlands converted into cultivated land lose the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted. In some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious concern [parag 39].

Biodiversity replaced with monoculture, wetlands converted to cultivation—South Dakota, the Pope is talking to us.

Pope Francis does not want nature without humanity. But in a fascinating turn to the ills of urban life, he says we cannot have humanity without nature:

Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature [parag. 44].

But again, the Pope warns us against letting a wealthy few secure green space as their leisurely prerogative:

In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighbourhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquillity. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live [parag 45].

Pollution, global warming, poor urban design, and other problems most gravely affect the poor—the “excluded” who make up a majority of the planet. Pope Francis says we fail to do more to protect and include those billions because many decision-makers live like me, sitting behind computer screens in comfortable houses in comfortable lands:

They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. 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 [parag 49].

When Pope Francis speaks of “the disintegration of our cities,” he’s not talking about bridges falling apart. He’s talking about losing community, about different kinds of people not living, working, shopping, and talking together. We need to connect, in our cities and around the world:

We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference [parag. 52].

There it is: the globalist enchilada. Did y’all forget the original definition of catholic?

Don’t mistake this encyclical for a papal embrace of every item in a stereotypical American liberal agenda. The Pope emphatically rejects the notion that we comfortable nations should force developing nations to adopt “reproductive health” policies to earn our help. He says that blaming population growth for ecological problems dodges the real cause, extreme consumerism, that an elite minority (and if you have time to read this essay from a computer in America, you’re probably a member of that elite) doesn’t want to acknowledge, let alone surrender [parag. 50]. We are obliged to help developing nations, without population-growth conditions, by an “ecological debt” [parag. 51] created by our long-term exploitation of the world’s resources.

Pope Francis says that economics and politics, science and religion, must work together to promote integral ecology. Pope Francis calls for global cooperation and a rejection of “the ‘myths’ of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market)” [parag. 210]. But amidst those grand-scale solutions, the Pope also calls on individuals to “cultivat[e] sound virtues… make a selfless ecological commitment,” and change simple daily habits:

A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment. There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity [parag. 211].

Laudato Si’ holds much more in its 246 paragraphs. It’s a serious read, but the English translation is also lucid, exhortative, and ultimately hopeful. The two prayers with which he closes do not ask for God’s mercy before in the face of impending doom. They ask for the power of God’s love so that “we may protect life and beauty… rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth… protect the world and not prey on it… sow beauty, not pollution and destruction” [parag. 246]. Those are prayers of action, not surrender. The Kingdom is coming, but we have work to do. Francis of Assisi understood; so, it seems, does Francis of Argentina.


  1. Bill Fleming 2015-06-18 13:49

    Bravo, Cory. Thank you for this.

    I think it’s also perhaps important for us to note that before Pope Francis became a Jesuit priest, he earned his first degree in Chemistry. i.e. he is both scientist and theologian.

  2. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-18 16:16

    Cory said, “we are not as central to Creation as Creation is central to us?”

    This is very eloquently put. It is the crux of the matter. Although Pope Francis is wrong about some things, he is absolutely right about our planet.

    The word from Genesis that is most commonly used as an excuse to defile the earth is “dominion.” It’s a poor translation of the original Koininia Greek word. Better to use steward, care for, maintain. Humanity was never called to dominate, exploit and diminish the earth. That’s a lie.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-18 17:22

    The Pope’s background as a chemist is as interesting as the line on his résumé that reads “Bouncer.”

    Thanks for that etymology, Deb! That distinction between domination and stewardship is exactly the point Pope Francis is making.

    The encyclical is a fascinating read. It strikes me as accessible, yet it connects numerous important issues (such is the nature of “integral ecology”). I could teach a nine-week philosophy/religion unit centering on just this encyclical. It’s good stuff!

  4. jerry 2015-06-18 17:42

    The future conversation will be very interesting in republican right wing circles. You can bet that there will be Catholic bashing with enthusiasm. When will the media develop the stones to dare ask the presidential candidates their views? Sanitarian will tell the Pope to just mind his business, Jeb will stay that his brother would say this and on it goes. Funny to see the circus in full swing at this. Do you think anyone will ask our dear leader here what his take is on it? What about the rest of the junta?

  5. jerry 2015-06-18 17:57

    What will happen when the Priests stand before the flocks to deliver this news from the Pope? There will be much squirming, I am thinking. What about the rest of the clergy in the land? What will their flocks do and how will they all react? Life is funny sometimes.

  6. Flipper 2015-06-18 18:08

    Inside the Catholic church that I’ve attended over the last 15 years, there hasn’t been one mention of protecting our planet which was, if we’re to believe what we’ve been taught, created by God. I hope the Pope’s words will change that.

  7. mike from iowa 2015-06-18 18:08

    Jeb Bush-the “smart” Bush told the Pope to stick to religion and leave other stuff to more knowledgeable people.

  8. larry kurtz 2015-06-18 19:31

    Pope Frank is hardly the first visionary swayed by living with the poorest: maybe just the richest.

  9. Scott 2015-06-18 19:44

    quick, someone call devout catholic marion rounds and see what he has to say about this.

  10. larry kurtz 2015-06-18 19:53

    If Pope Frank ceases to exist suspect Mossad and IDF first then suspect the vast right wing conspiracy.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-18 21:58

    Jerry, on the one hand, I don’t want to hang American partisan politics on a papal statement that should be discussed on its own merits. But the Pope aims his encyclical pretty squarely at folks who would deny the integral ecology that the Pope says the Bible calls his people to pursue. Integral ecology (don’t forget this term!) is unavoidably a challenge to the political doctrine that our Catholic Senator Mike Rounds sells us with his constant bashing of the EPA, that evangelical Rep. Kristi Noem sells us with her simultaneous attack on food stamps and defense of corporate farm welfare, and that many of the God-in-the-classroom Republicans sell us with their free-market fundamentalism and prosperity gospel.

    Indeed, Senator Rounds, what will you think when your priest discusses the encyclical at Mass this weekend?

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-18 22:00

    Flipper, I’d like to hear an update from your Sunday Mass, too. What will your priest say? What will your congregation do? Speaking generally, just how much influence should a papal encyclical have on the daily life of a Catholic congregation?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-18 22:03

    The Lutherans don’t get to have fun like this. The Lutherans (ELCA, Missouri Synod, Wisconsin, Free…) don’t have a Pope to issue infallible word. Lutherans have to get together in synod meetings, discuss, have coffee, discuss some more, vote…. Eschewing hierarchy, the Lutherans don’t have to grapple with the question of what to do when the Pope says “Jump!”

    You know, Lutherans, if you had a Pope, you might get more press! (My wife won’t go for that argument.)

  14. Lynn 2015-06-18 22:13

    Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt in St. Paul and now Pope Francis challenging policy makers on their inaction regarding climate change. He’s on a roll.

  15. Don Coyote 2015-06-18 23:18

    @Bill Fleming. Pope Francis doesn’t have a degree in chemistry, Actually what Pope Francis has is what amounts to “something akin to a certificate from a community college in the U.S.”

    Not that it matters if he did. My daughter has a PhD in chemistry with a specialization in nuclear magnetic resonance but it doesn’t necessarily qualify her to any greater degree to argue/discuss the merits of climate change either pro or con.

  16. Kurt Evans 2015-06-19 00:29

    Deb Geelsdottir wrote:
    >“The word from Genesis that is most commonly used as an excuse to defile the earth is ‘dominion.’ It’s a poor translation of the original Koininia Greek word. Better to use steward, care for, maintain.”

    (1) You misspelled koinonia.
    (2) I’m pretty sure you meant Koine Greek.
    (3) The word koinonia is Koine Greek for fellowship.
    (4) Moses compiled Genesis in Classical Hebrew, not Koine Greek.
    (5) The Classical Hebrew word translated as dominion in the King James Version is râdâh, which can be more accurately translated simply as the noun rule.

    Cory wrote:
    >“… I don’t want to hang American partisan politics on a papal statement that should be discussed on its own merits. But the Pope aims his encyclical pretty squarely at folks who would deny the integral ecology that the Pope says the Bible calls his people to pursue.”

    Indeed he does. I’m predictably less thrilled than you appear to be with the encyclical’s perspectives, but I’d say you’ve done a very good job of summarizing them.

  17. larry kurtz 2015-06-19 06:49

    Pope Frank was a scientist and conducted actual science.

  18. mike from iowa 2015-06-19 06:50

    Curious-if there is a burning ban in would a new Pope be selected?

  19. Bill Fleming 2015-06-19 07:31

    Oh, I see, Coyote, what you’re saying is that the Pope does’t really have a degree in Chemistry, he just has a degree in Chemistry. Thanks for the clarification. ;-)

  20. Jon D 2015-06-19 08:30

    I agree that Pope Francis is the best thing that has happened in the Catholic church and that he is doing great good in the world with his enlightened and intelligent messages. However, as long as the church renounces proactive birth control methods and family planning, he really isn’t going to make any substantive difference. This planet cannot support seven billion human beings, and that is the cause of every ecological problem we have. Modern technology could easily supply clean, sustainable energy for a quarter of that number, providing food, water and quality of life for all. Of course, changes of that magnitude take time; maybe he’s working up to it by trying to get people to accept new ideas little by little. I hope so. He is the only world leader at present that seems to take his power seriously.

  21. larry kurtz 2015-06-19 08:53

    $20 says Troy Jones, Mike Rounds and their fellow earth haters will start saying Pope Frank isn’t the legitimate Vicar of the Church while Ratzinger is still alive.

    About seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71%) believe the planet is getting warmer. Nearly half of Catholic adults (47%) attribute global warming to human causes, and a similar share (48%) view it as a very serious problem. But more than eight-in-ten Catholic Democrats say there is solid evidence that Earth is warming, compared with just half of Catholic Republicans.

  22. larry kurtz 2015-06-19 08:56

    Listening to fake catholic, Jeb Bush, deriding the Pontiff is pretty much gag-provoking.

  23. Douglas Wiken 2015-06-19 09:19

    With the GOP northern and southern strategies, they have been exploiting religion and racism since Nixon days. The Pope has put a twist in their undies. Fun to watch the hypocrites squirm.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-19 13:50

    Thanks for the notes, Kurt! Agree or disagree with his conclusions, I’m glad you found this summary useful and accurate. To Coyote, the Pope’s background in chemistry is relevant and surely informs his approach to the topic. Note that while the Pope understands science, he also maintains that science alone is empty, soulless, and will lead us to trouble; he emphasizes in the encyclical that science must work with religion, that his religion should work to open dialogue and provide moral guidance on how to use all the knowledge science provides.

    And on the question of the heft of the Pope’s “degree” (that’s título, hombre!), he likely knows more chemistry than anyone at this table. More theology, too, I’ll bet.

    Speaking of which, Don, bring your daughter around sometime, we’d love to her her informed opinions on the major issues of the day.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-19 13:55

    Jon D, you and the Pope have a strong, straight-up dispute on the carrying capacity of the planet. He says we can support more than seven billion, if we consume less, waste less, and recycle more. This is another point that makes his encyclical very interesting: he uses one traditionally liberal/left argument—sustainability + anti-consumerism—to beat back another traditionally liberal/left argument—the call for birth control and abortion rights. Imagine the fun we’d be having if the Pope himself joined us for this conversation.

    I am with you, Jon D, in opposition to the Catholic Church’s suppression of women’s reproductive rights. However, I don’t think the Pope’s error on that major point makes substantive progress on other issues impossible. Consider that even as he opposes birth control, there are plenty of Catholics using condoms. Despite the Catholic Church’s influence, birth rates are still going down in most places. We’re already trending toward slower population growth globally, aren’t we? The Pope’s encyclical promotes change on other fronts.

  26. leslie 2015-06-19 17:53

    1st an Obama, then a Pope Francis; wonder what the next great leader is going to do to shake things up? For awhile I was beginning to think we were asking too much hoping that a single person could make such a difference. Wyoming has democratic governors sometimes…we can’t be that much further behind:);)

    imagine no greed or hunger, brotherhood of mankind-lenono

  27. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-19 19:31

    Kurt, I’m not too concerned with spelling, but you are right about the language. I said the wrong thing. Lastly, Moses never compiled anything. The identities of the writers/compilers is unknown and probably always will be. It was most likely general consensus over the centuries.

    The Pentateuch is a collection of ancient, oral stories passed down for hundreds of generations. Without question, they changed greatly over that time, as story tellers always do with their material.

  28. John 2015-06-19 19:49

    His Eminence is spot on. This Pope, as was Pope John Paul, acts like and is a moral authority of the world. No other leader garners such respect and forces folks to look into their soul – having the power by personal example and purgation to change hateful corners of the world. The effect of Pope John Paul’s quiet work to establish a free Poland, and later his visit to war-revaged Sarajevo was a turning point that no armies or politicians could acheive. This Pope exercises even greater moral authority. Moral authority is the power product of walking-the-talk.

    I write this while having profound distrust to contempt for the Catholic Church, it’s past crimes, and many small men and women, and most churches.

  29. Kurt Evans 2015-06-20 01:18

    Deb Geelsdottir wrote:
    >“… Moses never compiled anything. The identities of the writers/compilers is unknown and probably always will be.”

    If you don’t know who compiled Genesis, how do you claim to know it wasn’t Moses?

    Deb wrote:
    >“The Pentateuch is a collection of ancient, oral stories passed down for hundreds of generations. Without question, they changed greatly over that time …”

    A well-known religious leader once said something very different.

    “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
    —Jesus Christ

    Of course, you deny that we have a reliable record of the teachings of Christ just as you deny that we have a reliable record of the teachings of Moses, which looks to me like the implied answer to Christ’s rhetorical question above (i.e. “If you don’t believe the writings of Moses, you won’t believe My words either”).

    You’re entitled to your religious opinions, Deb, but I really don’t understand how you justify calling yourself a Christian.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-20 08:01

    In the face of Kurt’s dispute with Deb, I’m going to keep stressing the power of the Pope’s encyclical to reach across ideological boundaries.

    David Brooks and E.J. Dionne discussed the encyclical among other topics on their weekly political segment on All Things Considered yesterday. Brooks called Laudato Si’ a beautiful document. Like John, we may view the Catholic Church with distrust or contempt, but we can still find beauty in the writing. That beauty is part of its power.

    Brooks also had fun pointing out cross-ideological hypocrisy breaking out, “progressives suddenly discovering that God should play a role in the public sphere in politics and conservatives suddenly discovering the opposite.” Are we liberals ready to rebut the Pope when he issues a less ideologically appealing encyclical?

  31. larry kurtz 2015-06-20 08:22

    Catholics are mostly old and dying: Pope Frank knows on which side his wafer is buttered. Young people are the future of paying for the crimes of the Roman Church.

    How Kurt can call himself human remains a mystery.

  32. Lynn 2015-06-20 11:06

    Pope Francis has a huge task before him of cleaning out the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not just the Vatican Bank and the entrenched powers there but in dealing with leadership here in the US like former Archbishop John Nienstedt from the St. Paul archdiocese which is bankrupt. During Nienstedt’s tenure he spent over $650,000 of church money to block gay marriage in Minnesota which backfired horribly, programs within the Twin Cities archdiocese were gutted, church donations and attendance declined and the Archbishop tried limiting investigation into himself in this interesting MPR story.

    Typical hypocrisy!

    This pope is one man with limited time here on Earth but what I see is inspiring.

  33. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-20 22:42

    Kurt said, “You’re entitled to your religious opinions, Deb, but I really don’t understand how you justify calling yourself a Christian.”

    There you go Kurt. You don’t understand. You don’t have to because I didn’t try to make my faith suit your understanding. It’s pretty easy to have unknown authors and still be able to rule out possibilities. I’m sure you know that. For instance, before the police were able to state that Oswald killed JFK, they were able to rule out me immediately. Seriously? Your argument makes no more sense than that.

    From a genuinely serious point about religion comes the fact that what we know about the Bible is a very small fraction of what there is to know. That’s why one’s Christianity is based on “Faith,” rather than facts. If your religion is based on knowing the facts, then it’s knowledge, like math facts. Faith is unnecessary.

    Lastly Kurt. What you think about my faith is irrelevant to me, but enjoy your opinions.

  34. Kurt Evans 2015-06-20 23:34

    Thanks for the reply, Deb, but I’m not sure how the police were able to rule you out as Kennedy’s assassin, and I’m still not sure how you claim to know Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, and I’m not sure what possible connection there could be between the two.

    I’m also still not sure how anyone can justify calling himself or herself a Christian while denying that we have a reliable record of Christ’s teachings.

  35. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-21 00:40

    I’m not talking about Christ’s teachings. Our conversation was about the Pentateuch. The two are separated by several millenia.

    As for the first part, I’ll let you think about it. It’s past my bedtime. Good night.

  36. Kurt Evans 2015-06-21 01:18

    Deb Geelsdottir wrote:
    >“I’m not talking about Christ’s teachings. Our conversation was about the Pentateuch. The two are separated by several millenia.”

    No, the Pentateuch was written less than two millennia before Christ, and according to the Gospels, one of Christ’s teachings was that the Pentateuch reliably presented the writings of Moses.

  37. Barry Smith 2015-06-21 07:58

    Aye it is more than a wee pity Kurt that there just be no true Scotsmen.

  38. bearcreekbat 2015-06-21 17:25

    Wel Kurt, if you are correct in your argument with Deb I sure hope you are not eating shellfish or wearing clothes with mixed fabrics, or eating fat, touching unclean animals, failing to comb your hair, touching any lizards, skinks or chameleons, or touching snakes or worms that crawl on their bellies, trimming your beard or cutting your hair at the sides, getting tattoos, failing to stand in the presence of the elderly, working on the Sabbath, selling land, among a myriad of other prohibitions in Leviticus alone.

    And what about Exodus? Better not kill one of your slaves with a blow, or knock out the teeth or eyes of one of your slaves, and especially you better not sell your female sex slaves to any foreigners.

    I guess anyone who does any of these things cannot be a Christian? Watch out!

  39. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-21 18:05

    Oh Kurt. I feel great reluctance to get into the whole thing about biblical scholarship again. It gets so tiring and I feel like I’ve done it so many times.

    Nah, I’m not going to do it. You are free to go ahead and feel like you’ve “won”, if you want to. I don’t care. If you need to search for Facts to support your Faith, have at it. Maybe some other time I’ll feel like describing the extensive research around the globe that makes up in depth, scholarly study. But not today. Best to you.

  40. larry kurtz 2015-06-21 18:14

    Hey, Lynn, we knew that stuff long before you told us: k?

  41. Lynn 2015-06-21 18:34


    Relax, chill and smoke another bowl!

    Some of that “stuff” was just released to the press and I was in the Twin Cities when the Archbishop resigned and heard a number of new related stories and interviews on MPR. What has happened in the Catholic Church angers not only myself but my parents also including what happened at the Catholic run Indian schools here in SD and those victims are unable to seek justice. The actions of Pope Francis gives us hope.

  42. bearcreekbat 2015-06-21 18:42

    Deb, for what it is worth your comments about the Bible have really opened my mind. Simply reading the Bible led me to the somewhat natural conclusion that I was dealing with truly crazy people. Your comments about the history of the Bible and the nature of its construction led me to much deeper research. Virtually everything I have read in your comments and analysis have been right on the money and have opened my eyes about the actual positive aspects of this text. I am still an atheist, but I have a much deeper and better understanding and appreciation of the Bible. Thank you for that!

    As for debating these points with anyone, whether it is Sibby or Kurt, please realize that your comments are read by many more of us than just Kurt. Even if you conclude that your arguments to Kurt will fall on deaf ears, please remember that there are so many more ears listening to you than just Kurt. We need and learn from your education and perspective on the Biblical questions that are raised. My thanks to you for each and every comment that seeks to shed light on the magic and mystery that we all face.

  43. larry kurtz 2015-06-21 19:29

    Lynn, if His Holiness ceases to exist suspect Mossad and IDF first then watch Justice Scalia and Opus Dei deny culpability.

  44. Lynn 2015-06-21 19:57


    Pope Francis has stated that his time is limited and he has taken risks. If something happens it happens. There have been and are other good people within the church Priests, Nuns, Deacons and Lay people that I’m sure are angered and hurt by the actions of a few. Those crimes and systematic cover ups which are inexcusable have overshadowed the good works going on elsewhere. Nuns on the Bus is one of the many efforts going on., Social Justice efforts going on in Central America or Africa by Presentation Nuns based in Aberdeen and the Benedictine Nuns from Yankton.

    The cannon lawyer who helped expose what happened in the St. Paul archdiocese responded on a MPR interview last week to the suggestion of selling the Cathedral in St. Paul to help pay the victims of crimes. She said she would be open to it. The Cathedral is very expensive to heat with a leaky roof and it might be hard to sell but before it was built Catholics were happy to kneel in mud during mass to pray.

  45. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-21 21:14

    That’s very kind of you BCB. I am pleased that I have been able to add to the religious conversations in a positive way. I will talk more about the scholarship involved at another time though. I really don’t have the energy to do it today. Without a doubt, there will be more opportunities.

  46. larry kurtz 2015-06-21 21:23

    Kneeling in mud for eternity would buy nothing for what has been wrought in Indian Country by the twenty GOP donors who would benefit by ending the estate tax, Lynn. Stan Adelstein and the Husteads bed down with serpents while the meek inherit the soured grapes of video lootery.

    Pope Frank should send Paul Swain to Marty’s house for billiards and naked cocktails.

  47. Kurt Evans 2015-06-21 23:56

    “Bearcreekbat” asks:
    >“I guess anyone who does any of these things cannot be a Christian?”

    No, the Bible doesn’t teach that violating any of the prohibitions you list prevents a person from becoming a Christian.

    Deb Geelsdottir wrote:
    >“Oh Kurt… Maybe some other time I’ll feel like describing the extensive research around the globe that makes up in depth, scholarly study.”

    When I pointed out that Moses compiled Genesis in Classical Hebrew and not Koine Greek, you replied that Moses “never compiled anything.” I haven’t asked you to describe extensive research around the globe. I’ve only asked how you claim to know Moses didn’t compile Genesis.

  48. bearcreekbat 2015-06-22 12:29

    Kurt, perhaps the key is “becoming?” But can you actually be a Christian if you simply think these “rules” are silly and violate them any time you feel like it, such as if you wear mixed fabric clothing or eat shellfish from time to time without guilt and without seeking forgiveness for doing so? Could such a person qualify as a Christian under your criteria?

    And seriously, do you really contend that a real Christian can own slaves, including sex slaves (so long as he doesn’t sell them to foreigners)?

  49. Kurt Evans 2015-06-23 00:34

    “Bearcreekbat” asks:
    >“Kurt, perhaps the key is ‘becoming?’ But can you actually be a Christian if you simply think these ‘rules’ are silly and violate them any time you feel like it, such as if you wear mixed fabric clothing or eat shellfish from time to time without guilt and without seeking forgiveness for doing so? Could such a person qualify as a Christian under your criteria? And seriously, do you really contend that a real Christian can own slaves, including sex slaves (so long as he doesn’t sell them to foreigners)?”

    Some of the rules you reference have never applied outside the nation of Israel, but yes, even those that do could theoretically be violated by a true Christian.

  50. Troy 2015-06-23 12:16


    Sorry, I’m late to the party. I’ve not gotten to reading this encyclical but I’m looking forward to it. Pope Francis has been a great successor to Peter, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI thus far. While I expected there might be some aspects of this Teaching I’d find hard, based on a couple of summaries I’ve read, I think it won’t be as hard as I thought and might even be easy. Its the converse to the encyclical “God is Love” which I thought would be easy but it is darn hard.

    Cory, knowing you don’t have the “eyes of a Catholic” (we have our own language which requires a lot of effort to put things in context relative to what has been said previously) and may miss some nuance, I’d like to comment on when you asked if we might not be “as central to Creation as Creation is central to us.”

    In Catholic theology, all of Creation was made for our sake because of God’s unconditional love for humans made in the image of God. However, that doesn’t mean we can exploit or denigrate etc. the gifts of Creation given to us by God (Deb’s commentary on dominion and stewardship is good. In Catholic theology, there is a tiny nuance which is immaterial for this discussion so I’ll skip it unless asked).

    Nor does it mean our “status” give us permission or the right to violate Nature’s Law as the Natural Law was also a gift from God which directly goes to your comment above. Nature and Nature’s Law are from God and He is superior to us. Just as one who violates criminal laws is in trouble with the civil authorities, one who violates Natural Law is in trouble with THE Authority (note the linkage between Author and Authority).

    My point is Pope Francis’ comment isn’t to re-order our relationship to creation but to remind us of the proper order with regard to our relationship to God- The created is never superior or can never supersede the Creator.

  51. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 12:24

    Pope Frank should visit Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux then pray for the tribes living in a toxic Cheyenne River drainage after a century of Republican destruction, genocide, and rape visited upon American Indians by catholics in South Dakota.

    I swear.

  52. Troy 2015-06-23 13:50


    Additional Comments:

    1) I’m real impressed with how you read this trying to understand what the Pope was saying and then communicated what you saw/gleaned through your eyes, even asking the question I addressed above. I pray when I read it I do so with the same openness.

    2) The reason for the prose you prose which I would say is diligence to words, sentence, paragraph, and the entire document is Catholics read and quote the writings of Popes going back to 2nd century as if they were written yesterday. Future Catholics have to live with what he writes until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

    3) My biggest criticism of Pope Francis is what I consider his hasty decision to not wear the red shoes. This tradition is a reminder the Pope is to get up every money willing to be a martyr for Jesus Christ if that is what is to befall him that day. Which takes me to my second biggest criticism is his willingness to be so accessible to uncontrolled crowds. Willing to be a martyr (with red shoes or not) doesn’t mean one should make martyrdom so dang easy.

  53. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 13:54

    Rai and Jiri at Lungha. Rai of Lowani. Lowani under two moons. Jiri of Ubaya. Ubaya of crossroads, at Lungha. Lungha, her sky gray.

  54. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 13:56

    Shaka, when the walls fell.

  55. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 13:59

    Troy’s last paragraph reads like a call to bring Ratzinger back to the throne.

  56. Troy 2015-06-23 17:03


    Call to change shoes and stay behind bullet-proof glass = call to resign. Makes sense I suppose somehow in alternate universe.

  57. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 17:17

    Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future. #LaudatoSi— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 19, 2015

  58. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 18:53

    Troy, if the Holy Father ceases to exist suspect Mossad and the IDF first.

  59. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 18:56

    Way off topic (sorry a little, Cory): should Junipero Serra be a saint, Troy?

  60. grudznick 2015-06-23 19:03

    The Pope should wear whatever shoes he wants and not let the world dictate what makes his dogs comfy.

  61. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-23 21:27

    Troy says the Pope is not re-ordering our relationship to Creation but reminding us of the proper order—that’s a fair restatement of the apparent meaning of Laudato Si’. Troy, I look forward to your further commentary once you’ve had a chance to digest the full encyclical.I’d welcome that commentary here, but I think your full treatment of the document likely deserves a blog post of its own. I would welcome your invoking your authorial privilege to post on Dakota War College. If such a post doesn’t fit there, I’d welcome your guest post on the encyclical as a full post on this blog.

    I haven’t read “God Is Love” (Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI’s first swing at the encyclical plate), but I wonder if the difference in reading ease you found reflects the two Popes’ divergent backgrounds. Pope Benedict was an academic; Pope Francis was a chemist and a bouncer. Would it be fair to say Pope Francis had more practice communicating with the common man before stepping into the big shoes?

    Speaking of shoes, I’ve got to say, if the worst thing you can say about a guy is that he doesn’t wear the right shoes, he must be a pretty good guy.

    I know, it’s more than that: there’s symbolism and Catholic nuance involved. But I think my wife would call the red shoes “adiaphora”—non-Scriptural tradition, the stuff that’s sprung up around the Gospels, customs we get worked up about but which don’t really count at the pearly gates.

    Accessibility in uncontrolled crowds—Troy, remind me to put you in charge of my security detail.

    I know we have the example of the assassination attempt on John Paul II in recent memory; how many other popes have folks in the crowd tried to assassinate? How should a Pope balance security concerns with his Christian humility and openness?

    And who is a greater risk to the authority and continuity of the Church: lone gunmen with murder on their minds, or powerful politicians and CEOs who see the Pope as a threat to their wealth and power and thus challenge the Vatican’s authority?

  62. Troy 2015-06-23 22:38


    I don’t see much difference in understanding or grasping Pope Benedict vs. Pope Francis. I am talking about the teaching itself in God is love, self-giving and the corresponding call for me.

    Regarding the shoes, it is less about Francis than me. I know he doesn’t need the shoes to be prepared to accept martyrdom if the is his destiny. However, I, Troy, need to see it as it is my call too.

    Finally, his security. After POTUS, is there a higher value target for terrorists? His life is not his own. As much as he loves touching people, I think not listening to his security is a serious matter. His greatest value to the world is not him glad-handing. I’d prefer he give it up if no other reason I’d sleep better.

    Oh yes, thank you for inviting my comments on this encyclical. I am pretty sure I will have nothing to add to what can be found elsewhere. And, most importantly, I don’t speak for the Church. Pope Francis’ words speak for themself. And, as a Catholic, I believe he speaks as the Vicar of my Lord and Saviour. I think I best keep my thoughts to myself or just respond to something like I did earlier.

  63. Troy 2015-06-25 12:08

    The more I read about this, my guess is Bush, Kasich, Santorum, and Rubio regret their preemptive missive against this encyclical. Pretty much everyone is getting called out for the planks in their eye, disordered attachments, and sin.

  64. larry kurtz 2015-06-25 12:15

    In Confession, Jesus welcomes us with all our sinfulness, to give us a new heart, capable of loving as he loves.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 25, 2015

  65. larry kurtz 2015-06-25 12:19

    “Cantemus pergit. Et ut cura laboratum telluris spei nostrae gaudium numquam possunt auferre.”

  66. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-25 12:55

    Red shoes—you mean that big crucifix above the altar isn’t sufficient reminder?

    High-value target—That’s an interesting question, whether the Pope may be second only to POTUS for terrorist points. It’s kind of grim thinking about how a terrorist would calculate the value of a target. The death of the Pope might hit more of humanity in the gut… although on numbers, what about the impact of assassinating the Chinese or Indian head of state? For immediate geopolitical impact, wouldn’t assassinating Putin, Netanyahu, or Iran’s Rouhani stir the pot more? For skill/danger points, wouldn’t assassinating any number of heads of state be more challenging and more impressive than taking out a less-guarded Pope?

    Yuck—need to wash my hands after typing such thoughts.

  67. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-25 12:56

    Troy, on further commentary, I appreciate the notion of not adding your two cents when you feel you have nothing new to add. I also recognize you do not speak for the Church. Nonetheless, I find it useful to hear the reactions of rank-and-file Catholics to the boss’s pronouncements.

  68. Troy 2015-06-26 08:59


    I get what you are saying- how does a cheek in the seat react or what are our thoughts.

    Encyclicals have a dogmatic/doctrinal impact for sure. But, how that flows through the heart and mind of the collective Church and individuals is manifested over time and often in ways which conflict with initial reaction.

    Plus, my initial read can be without influence of the Grace of the Holy Spirit as His plan is for it to influence me subtly or in the future. That said, in general, I like the way he linked a wide range of issues which speak to a general disorder in the culture of individuals and society in general.

    The disregard for Life, the downtrodden, and Nature all belie the same hardness of heart and lack of recognition that all comes from God.

  69. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-27 08:46

    “I like the way he linked a wide range of issues which speak to a general disorder in the culture of individuals and society in general.”

    That may be the most important and challenging part of Laudato Si’. The Pope ties everything together. His argument is as integral as the ecology he preaches. His linkage of so many issues offers some discomfort to all sides, all activists.

  70. Lynn 2015-06-27 08:59

    Pope Francis will meet with inmates in a Philadelphia prison gym, poor migrants at a D.C. church — where he may serve them lunch — and disadvantaged youth at an East Harlem elementary school, according to a working itinerary of his visit this fall to the United States that was shared with The Washington Post.

    The itinerary for the trip — the pope’s first to the United States — is not final.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.