Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why Liberals May Not Like Francis's Eco-Encyclical

Earlier this month I responded to a Commonweal article about the way conservative Catholics, especially George Weigel, seem to stress Pope Francis's views on abortion while essentially ignoring those parts of Catholic social teaching that might conform better to the American left. 

In today's post I want to point out how liberal Catholics, like those singing the praises of Francis's recent encyclical on the environment, are cheering the Pope's condemnation of corporations, human selfishness, and the so-called "throwaway culture"while downplaying his views that the protection of the environment is directly related in Catholic social teaching to the opposition to abortion.

Charles Camosy, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham, says it best in his recent Washington Post op-ed.  Here is a taste:

Conservatives obviously find themselves indicted rather strongly here, but the pope gives no quarter to liberals either. His reference to “eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted” is another reference to abortion. Perhaps an abortion-rights liberal could reply that his comments are unfair, and that women and men who seek abortions would never do so for such a casual reason. Perhaps, they could argue, this is an unfortunate but marginal part of an otherwise progressive encyclical.
They would be mistaken. Pope Francis, when he speaks about the throwaway culture, almost always includes abortion. The pope’s diagnosis of our ecological problem is that we have a spiritual sickness: Westerners are caught in a consumerist lifestyle which rewards selfishness and greed — and the lifestyle has produced a culture which ignores, abandons, or marginalizes the vulnerable and inconvenient.
In his recent exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Francis insists that prenatal children “are the most innocent and defenseless among us.” If the developed West is ever going to get serious about the radical transformation necessary to resist the throwaway culture and reverse the global climate crisis, the pope argues we must develop virtues and practices of welcome and nonviolence with respect to all marginal populations — including inconvenient prenatal children.