3 thoughts on “Why Liberals May Not Like Francis’s Eco-Encyclical

  1. Only one is imago dei, though. If it is “both” they are not equal, “nature” is not made in the image and likeness of God, only people are.

    Thus the dignity of the human person is primary: Francis speaks of a “human ecology,” not ecology as an end in itself. Which is why he goes into the pro-life stuff as part of his greater message: We would not compromise human life or human dignity for the sake of “nature.”

    “This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility. Such notions would end up creating new imbalances which would deflect us from the reality which challenges us. At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure.”

    I wish there were more of this in the text, and as you note, the pro-life aspects are glossed over by many who share its warm & fuzzy eco-friendliness. Still, Francis's explicit purpose is to restore

    The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole [that] was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture.

    I think perhaps his perspective is influenced by growing up outside the First World, where burning out a few hundred acres for farmland–or a few thousand for a commercial plantation!–bears little moral stigma save from First World eco-warriors, and I think his economic worldview is serious need of an update–prosperity of the First World variety is a key facilitator of environmental awareness.

    Human ecology starts with a full stomach, and nowhere does Francis deny this.

    More from the often-sneered-at but never-cowed conservative George Weigel:

    http://eppc.org/publications/the-popes-encyclical-at-heart-is-about-us-not-trees-and-snail-darters/

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