Laudato si’

I’m in many minds how to approach the pope’s imminent environmental encyclical, already spilling through the world in a pirated, draught version (which I have glanced over, and flinched at). Even once formally published, we may wonder which version to read, given composition in a multilingual Babel. For example, will the Italian and English say different things? This is what often happens. Crack Latinists might continue waiting for the Latin text, but its authority is diminished when it is itself a translation.

The media, and each political faction, will run with whatever comes most usefully to hand, in the mud-fight between Left and Right. It will provide an irreligious glee mostly to the former, but with a net effect on the Catholic faithful that is demoralizing, further diffusing their focus upon the Sacraments and the religious life.

Perhaps the Church should forego encyclicals and all other formal papal pronouncements, until we once again have a pope and advisers who are comfortable in the Church’s first language. We have, after all, enough to be getting on with, from twenty centuries of previous documentation; and even on relatively novel topics such as “the environment,” there is plenty of material already, that could be more carefully absorbed. And man should meanwhile husband the resources of the planet more wisely. On this, I should think, all parties are agreed.

On the “science” behind this — in fact, scientism — I have no reason to trust the advisers appointed, and many reasons to doubt them. They are for the most part not Christian themselves, let alone Catholic, and they represent very worldly vested interests. Huge amounts of money are at stake, in maintaining the “climate change” scare, and the ideological position behind them is unmistakable. These are men in pursuit of power, who wish to create vast new regulatory agencies to trump the existing worldly powers. They propose to compound large evils with an even greater evil. I only hope norms of Catholic teaching aren’t disturbed, while dancing with devils like these.

“Scientific consensus” is a bawd. There was a scientific consensus against Galileo Galilei — even greater across Protestant northern Europe than among his ex-friends in the University of Bologna. The Church is still paying today, for bowing to the scientific consensus of 1616. More broadly, the history of scientific consensus is more or less identical with the history of scientific error. Indeed, scientific truths are discerned, typically if not always, by one man outside the scientific consensus. (Sometimes they are two or three.) The dissenting voice is usually punished.

That the sun has been rising in the east, and setting in the west, is not, incidentally, scientific consensus. It is direct observation, quite another thing. Which globe revolves around which is a matter of little importance: the moon landing could have been achieved with Ptolemaic calculations. They would merely have been more cumbersome — but today we have computers.

We lack an appreciation for beauty, in God’s handiwork, and for our own. To my mind (which conducts the government of this website), this is the key “environmental problem.” We live like pigs. Catholic efforts should be directed to curing us of swinish behaviour. The Good and the True are likewise of crucial importance, but without this discernment of the Beautiful, they twist and float out of our reach.

Nor will any categorical imperative help us here, encased, for instance, in the instruction to “think globally, act locally.” We have not the ability to think things through on the planetary scale: only God can do that (or whatever angels are in His confidence). We must therefore “think locally,” too, and sound thinking comes from obedience to the conscience implanted in our hearts, by God directly. Conversely, to “act globally” is wickedly absurd.

The notion of an “integral ecology of people and planet” strikes me as a serious heresy. It is the Gaia hypothesis, which is Gnostic, not Christian. The “integral” relation is interpersonal: it is between man and Christ. The “integral” relation with one’s neighbour follows from that. The planet is not a person. It is instead our temporary abode. The word “ecology” is subject to further abuse, especially when as now it becomes one of those “ideologies” our current pope has told us to neglect. Moreover, “environment” itself has been puffed beyond reason, and to raise it to the scale of the planetary makes it an object of false worship.

Yet it remains within our power to stop living like pigs.

Here I should like to condemn one big and shameful lie, constantly repeated. It is that the little people of this Earth are somehow “victims” of grand capitalist conspiracies. Look around you, gentle reader. The people in question are very eager co-conspirators.

In practical terms, the products of our “capitalist” and “socialist” endeavours are generally ugly — or when beautiful, so by accident, or only in decay. But we can bring the capitalists to their knees if we refuse to buy what they are selling. Unfortunately, it is not so easy with the socialists who arrogate positive law, forcing us to buy and use their own viciously ugly products. More socialism is the opposite to the right answer — for it creates environmentally ruinous shortages and surpluses, in the bleak night of our lost human freedom. And it does this not sometimes, but invariably.

What a pope can do, if he feels compelled to speak on pop science and passing topics in the news, is remind us how to live and love, in beauty rather than in ugliness. Turn our attention to this, and away from the false promises of worldly fix-up schemes, and something might well be accomplished, in our environments, through our souls. The Catholic teaching on subsidiarity turns our attention from what is laughably beyond our sphere of influence, to what is frequently within it.