Church and State

The strongest parts of Laudato Si’, the latest papal encyclical, are the first sections of Chapter Three, “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis,” where Pope Francis addresses the quest for limitless power that has been the dominant ambition of the Western world since the Renaissance: power over nature, and—since, as he points out, humanity is a part of nature—power over human society and the individual persons who compose it.  While acknowledging the benefits science and technology have brought in recent centuries, Francis reminds us that “nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power.  More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world.  Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used.”  From the Christian perspective, the tendency (which is also a temptation) of modern men to idolize power for its own sake and to elevate man to Master of the Universe is more dangerous still.  This particular theme merits an encyclical of its own.

Laudato Si’ has three principal subjects: man’s responsibility...

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