Friday, June 19, 2015

Laudato si': Onto-Ecology and Responsibility in the Folds

The most recent encyclical letter of Pope Francis, Laudato si', is an exhortation of integration, of enfolding, unfolding and folding again. Had Keller's Cloud of the Impossible appeared after the pope's letter, the Cloud would have enfolded it in a tight embrace. The apophatic entanglements in each paragraph of Laudato si' expose the interrelatedness of the natures of the human and the non-human, of the living and non-living, and they link them within an inextricable matrix of an onto-ecology comprised of any number of sub-ecologies. Francis also seems to admit an uncanny object oriented ontology, wherein all objects are made of other objects and interact in a relationality of surfaces; for example, humans interact with their environments through their very embodiment (155).

Francis returns to a favorite theme of the 'common good,' which the encyclical defines as the totality of conditions leading to individual's and community's fulfillment (IV). The securing of the common good means securing it at all levels of the onto-ecological system, from non-human ecological systems to the human, societal and global. Hence, Francis, as his namesake before him, embraces all of creation, in all its chiasmic splendor and entangled intricacies declared 'good' by its creator. The integrity of the whole of creation must go all the way down and all the way through, and none of it, says Laudato si', can maintain its integrity without a commitment to each moment down and through (13 ff).

Laudato si' must be read by all concerned Catholics and other people of good will. The encyclical presents a moment, embarassing to some but a boon to others, that identifies a world and its people at the crossroads and a time for action. Some readers will misinterpret the simplicity of its presentation as quaintness or provincialism, but the encyclical's plainness should be understood as its desire to communicate its themes to a very broad audience. Laudato si' is nothing less than a call to interconnectedness, a call that haunts us all.

Perhaps comments to this blog, which has addressed the ecology of the home and stewardship of the earth before, pertaining to the encyclical will foster a fruitful dialogue about this most crucial opportunity presented by the pope.



    A funny title, a bit reminiscent of the response to Mater et Magistra. The comment is sound, and worthy of a read.

  2. So far, the media reception of Laudato Si' has been predictable. But the most disappointing piece I've read is Fr. George Rutler's "Mixing Up the Sciences of Heaven and Earth" in _Crisis_ (Catholicism's Fox News, at least lately). Rutler has perhaps done more damage than Francovich's piece in the _National Review_ (casts the pope as a community organizer and the Church as a non-Government Organization [NGO])or even the talking heads on Fox News (labeling the Pope a Marxist, the most dangerous man on the planet, etc), mainly because he has so caricatured the encyclical that readers of _Crisis_ might not bother to actually read it.

    Now, more than ever, responsible Catholics and other people of good will must find out for themselves the ipsissima verba of pope Francis. I predict that more cogent commentary will surface when the silliness and stupidity of the early reception subsides, giving real people to take a breath and read Laudato Si'.

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  5. This is all very fascinating; can you spell out how interconnectedness, in the way the encyclical means it, is something that should less interconnected? It seems to me that the very fact of ecology undergirds the 'horror.' The Pope is calling for a reevaluation of interconnectedness, not for horror but for proper stewardship of the earth, and the amelioration of the poor. From what you've implied, Harman's 'cogent observation' looks backward, while the pope's looks forward with hope.

    Make the connections for me. What are the terms of Laudato Si'? What have we brought into relationship? Who is doing the subversion? The pope? Hermeneutics? Where is the power in the encyclical if not in its hope?

    1. My blog blurb was not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of Laudato Si', but to place in within a certain context. If 'apophatic entanglements' non-communicative, perhaps 'an opening into a moral space' is better. And, forgive my hyperbole: not "every" paragraph does this, but most do. By onto-ecology I mean an ecology of vision and hope, shot through with a good version of relationality, one whose object-surfaces have an ethical dimension. So, for example, the now [in]famous 'air conditioner' paragraph is not so much about BTUs as it is about the injection of perspective, a space where responsibility might make an appearance. What does it mean to turn the thermostat from 75 to 70 F in the summer, or from 68 to 74 in winter in terms of the embodiment of the human person? How many of us think about power consumption when we employ such strategies? Is there a 'moral' dimension to such manipulations of the ambient temperature? Such a simple act of 'creature comfort,' seeking the good/pleasure can be taken in isolation, or can be open to an onto-ecology where trying to get a little cooler or warmer is connected to the scarcity of finite resources, the price of commodities, and to the people who can and cannot afford them.