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Sunday, 21 June 2015

More from The Encyclical

This is the seventeenth post on the new encyclical. There will be more posts here on this work.

I do not have time to cover all the gems, but the phrase, "practical relativism" must be pondered by readers of this text.

I want to move back to the section noting St. Benedict's rule of work and prayer. This line jumps out at me, of course,

127. We are convinced that “man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”.[100] Nonetheless, once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.[101]

Gaudium et Spes and St. John Paul II's Centesimus Annus, as well as the Rule of St. Benedict are being used here by Francis, and as one can see, those who said this document deviated from Catholic teaching are simply wrong. Look at the points being reiterated here or implied.

The main and underlying point of all is that man is the focus of all economic and social life, not governments, not nations, not special interest groups. Added to this are these notes:
  1. Contemplation is a necessary, not a luxury, as many think it is. 
  2. Reverence flows from prayer, from reflection, from contemplation.
  3. If these reasonable gifts which belong to human beings are set aside or even lost, work is no longer seen as profitable for the soul, or as needing dignity. 
  4. Work is misunderstood, as so many jobs have become mere drudgery, or worse, inhuman.
  5. Until contemplation and reverence are restore, human beings will not be able to redeem work.
Here are some key paragraphs from the section on the ecology of daily life.

Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems.

For those who are regular readers of this blog, you know this destruction of local communities has been a complaint of mine. I have written of suburbs as "demonic" structures guaranteed to destroy communal life, with no shops, no churches, no schools within walking distance. 

Daily in Malta, I would see friends just being "out and about". This is community. In England, after Mass, my little family would naturally "bump into" others walking and going to the coffee shops. A community needs a stable but open environment. 

I dislike car cultures and the lack of public transport, which also can bring people together. I remember years and years ago, meeting a dear person who I had met when he gave a lecture at my university. We met again at a train station by chance and had a lovely conversation.

The small communities are disappearing everywhere, and this loss of communal life can hardly be replicated, although some are trying to do so. Recall my many, many posts on community and podding. We lose something of the human when we all live far apart and cannot just drop in or see each other daily.

Small communities create identity. My son can identify with being from Sussex, or my mother from a particular neighborhood in St. Louis, and so on. One remembers favorite trees and lakes, small streams one used to watch wildlife live, like small molluscs or fish, or turtles. This is part of life, and the pattern of God's glory in the world.

I remember talking to a friend of mine who had never hear a morning chorus of birds until she came from the western side of the Rockies to England. She became enchanted with the early singing of the birds.

Animals, plants, people make up communities. Our lives are formed by the habits of each creature God has created.

You who read this blog know I love the sky and follow the movements of the stars and planets. All creation brings us closer to God, and those who cannot appreciate these beautiful gifts, or who are denied the possibility of loving creation become less than human. Here is Francis, again.

We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.

I am very "zen" in my tastes and living spaces if I have a choice, which most of the time I do not. To let nature join in my space creates joy and peace. Monasteries invented cloisters, which universities took over as places of reflection and contemplation. Would that all humans had this right, this need met in their living spaces. Many humans do not and are forced to live in ugly, crowded, deteriorating habitats because of the greed of others.

Brazilian police have been documented as killing street children, to get rid of them. This is merely one example of the "practical relativism" to which the Pope refers.

One can have dignity in poverty, but only if a community supports this dignity. Too often, the poor become scapegoats of anxiety and financial depression. Too often the poor are no longer supported by families or the local communities. South Carolina made homelessness illegal last August, allowing the government to "put away" vulnerable people. The is enough room and enough natural beauty for everyone.

148. An admirable creativity and generosity is shown by persons and groups who respond to environmental limitations by alleviating the adverse effects of their surroundings and learning to orient their lives amid disorder and uncertainty. For example, in some places, where the fa├žades of buildings are derelict, people show great care for the interior of their homes, or find contentment in the kindness and friendliness of others. A wholesome social life can light up a seemingly undesirable environment. At times a commendable human ecology is practised by the poor despite numerous hardships. The feeling of asphyxiation brought on by densely populated residential areas is countered if close and warm relationships develop, if communities are created, if the limitations of the environment are compensated for in the interior of each person who feels held within a network of solidarity and belonging. In this way, any place can turn from being a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.

149. The extreme poverty experienced in areas lacking harmony, open spaces or potential for integration, can lead to incidents of brutality and to exploitation by criminal organizations. In the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial behaviour and violence. Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful. Many people in these conditions are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome. This experience of a communitarian salvation often generates creative ideas for the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood.[117]

The poor are made invisible and considered not the gifts God has given to us all for tlc.

And, in this section, Francis reminds us of the powerful reality of the moral law, natural law, which holds together various cultures and societies, creating the basis for a shared communal life.

155. Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”.

...It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.[121]

A big no to androgyny and gender confusion here....

to be continued later today....