Laudato Si: Worth Careful Reading

By Shlomo Maital

“Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.   This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which G-d has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. … This is why the Earth itself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor…she ‘groans in travail’.  

These are the eloquent opening words of Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si, “Praise the Lord…”.   Yesterday was the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement.   My sister in law Rabbi Suri led a discussion of Laudato Si, as we read excerpts, and discussed the Jewish and Catholic views on ecology and ethics. I plan to read the entire document. Meanwhile, based on excerpts, I urge you to read it all.   Most Papal encyclicals are dense and scholarly. This one is written in Pope Francis style, clear, well-reasoned, with beautiful metaphors and sharp admonishments.

   We have indeed laid waste to our earth. The 15th COP Conference of Parties (the UN’s euphemism for impotent political gatherings) will take place in November in Paris. But there is a groundswell that holds out hope.   Rather than ineffective top-down political leadership to deal with global warming, we now are seeing increasing bottom-up activism, with each individual everywhere asking, what can I do to use less water, waste less, plunder less, in order to be a moral human being, as Pope Francis counsels?   If each of us acted on our beliefs, even in small ways, the aggregate effect would be immense.

   Perhaps Laudato Si will ignite such a groundswell of rebellion and action world-wide.  We will listen carefully to Pope Francis’ address to Congress today, and to the UN tomorrow.Laudato Si