Individualism, Free Market Myths, and the American Response to Climate Change

Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke at a conference on climate change at Boston College last week. Here are some of the passages in his remarks that relate to the United States and its responsibility to address climate change and protect creation:

Pope Francis is critical of the “bondage of individualism” and a culture of instant gratification that gives the immediate individual wants higher priority than the longer-term needs of many. He is critical of the “technocratic paradigm” which sacrifices morality on the altar of economic efficiency, and which places profit as the exclusive economic goal. He is critical of the myth of “infinite or unlimited economic growth”, based on the false belief that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s resources.

In some circles in the U.S., we can see traces of this excessive individualism, this belief in the liberating power of the market, this exaltation of technology and progress. We see evidence of short-term-ism—the politician subject to the electoral cycle, the business executive or investor putting short-term financial return over long-term sustainability. We see some public figures creating a dichotomy between economic issues and moral issues, forgetting that—as Pope Benedict XVI said—“every economic decision has a moral consequence”….

Yet I am confident that America can tap into the very best of its moral foundations and traditions, and play a strong leadership role in overcoming this crisis. I know there is a lot of good work going on already. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the Clean Power Plan that will reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants—and Pope Francis explicitly praised President Obama for his efforts to reduce air pollution.[18] Additionally, the U.S. has pledged $3 billion to the international Green Climate Fund that will enable lesser-developed nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change….

Ultimately, I believe that America can marshal its best resources to solve the climate challenge and protect our common home—its creativity, its ingenuity, its willingness to tackle practical problems, its spirit of hard work. But also its core values like compassion, human rights, sense of solidarity, and commitment to the global common good. America has risen to such occasions before; it can do so again.

You can read his full remarks here.


Newborn: Prayers Answered

This post by  Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ is also featured on The Jesuit Post.

I don’t think I ever prayed for anything as regularly or as fervently. Since last Christmas, when my sister told us she and her husband were expecting their first child, the constant petition on my lips was for the health of mother and baby. “For my sister and all pregnant women.” I said it a lot.

And I meant it.

I knew my sister was in good hands with my brother in-law and mother around, and since I live far from them, I couldn’t do much anyway. But I could pray. When I have nothing else to offer, I can at least do that. So I prayed for my sister at staff meetings, at Mass in my community, during my personal prayer times. I invited others to pray with me for her and asked God to direct it all, as God willed it.

And I waited. Read More

CNN: Pope Met Privately with Same-sex Couple During US Trip

Just when we thought the pope’s private meetings in the US might recede from the limelight, CNN is reporting:

The day before Pope Francis met anti-gay county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, he held a private meeting with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years.

Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Grassi declined to disclose details about the short visit, but said it was arranged personally by the Pope via email in the weeks ahead of Francis’ highly anticipated visit to the United States.

Vatican: Pope’s Brief Encounter with Kim Davis Does Not Reflect Support For Her Position

The Vatican has finally offered some clarity on the Pope Francis-Kim Davis meeting with a statement that undermines claims that Pope Francis intended to demonstrate support for her position. The statement reads:

The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

Millennials, the Whole Life Approach, and the Democratic Party

On Monday, I spoke at the 2015 Democratic Revival at the National Press Club. Here are my prepared remarks:

My position on abortion is progressive not conservative. I believe in robust government action to protect the lives of unborn children, as I refuse to draw a distinction between humans and persons. All humans are persons. To depersonalize or dehumanize others is the first step to stripping them of their innate dignity and worth in order to take away their fundamental human rights. The gravest injustices of history follow this script, and social justice is achieved by resisting these efforts and defending the vulnerable—the poor, the disabled, the sick, the enslaved, the disenfranchised, the repressed, and those who have not yet been born.

The solution to abortion, as expressed in the #chooseboth campaign, is a comprehensive approach that secures legal protection for unborn life, while addressing the root causes of abortion, particularly the economic vulnerability faced by many pregnant women and families struggling to make ends meet who feel unable to choose life. Only a pro-woman, pro-child approach, which addresses crucial issues like healthcare, prenatal care, a living wage, childcare, and family leave can lead to the abolition of abortion. Restrictions on abortion are necessary and just, but they will never be enough. We need a communitarian approach that reflects a progressive commitment to government action and social justice if we want to build a successful culture of life. Read More

Prada or Nada?: 3 Simple Fashion Tips from Pope Francis

This post by Henry Longbottom, SJ is also featured on The Jesuit Post.

A few weeks back, we heard of Papa Francesco’s escape from the confines of Vatican City to pay a visit to — of all places — his opticians. The tourists and journalists went wild, and the world applauded another instance of this humble Holy Father who loves to do the ordinary things in life. What struck me as particularly poignant, though, was his insistence that the optician only replace the lenses; he wanted to keep the frames.  Why?  Presumably because there was nothing wrong with them; they were well made, he had chosen them carefully, and rather liked them.  In other words, he eschews the type of anxious consumerism that Laudato Si identifies as leading people to “get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending” [203].

At this juncture I should make a small confession.  I love consuming.  My commendable inquisitive nature is matched by my less virtuous acquisitive habits.  And on a recent trip to the Italian city of Milan, I was reminded that I belong to a rare breed of contemporary Jesuit.  I am fascinated by the world of fashion. Read More

The Personalism of Pope Francis

Like Catholic teaching itself, Pope Francis is inspired by personalism, which is premised on the innate worth and dignity of each person and the importance of our relationships as members of numerous communities, rather than as autonomous individuals or parts of a mass collective. Michael Gerson has a great column in the Washington Post on Pope Francis’ personalism. He explains:

God regards us — all of us, proud and broken, wounded and whole — as equal in value and dignity. Francis described ‘the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.’ The social implications of this personalism are profound. Human beings can’t be reduced to the sum of their consumption or the total of their pleasures. They can’t be made instruments for the benefit of others. This is not a view of human rights rooted in contract theory or chosen behind a veil of ignorance. It is a belief that human beings can’t be exploited or abused without defacing the divine.

This approach puts the person first and rejects ideologies that dehumanize or depersonalize others:

Catholic social thought is broad and complex. It does not dictate a political ideology, but it clearly rules some out: social Darwinism, materialism, nativism, and libertarianism. Without dictating policies, Francis is leading in the direction of a more humane politics. At one point in the speech, referring to the world’s current upsurge in refugees, he insisted on the importance of “seeing their faces.” Which is a pretty good summary of his message.

Gerson also discussed Francis and his approach in a recent video, which you can view below: