Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Laudato Si, "The Curate's Egg" II. The political/economic parts I find difficult to swallow.

fBishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones";  Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
"True Humility" by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895



"(1) He [the Pope] cannot speak as a private theologian but in his official capacity as Vicar of Christ and head of the Church; (2) He must officially define a doctrine relating to faith or morals (unfortunately, the pope[sic] is not infallible when it comes to science, politics, weather, and the outcome of sporting events); and (3) The pronouncement must not be directed only to a single individual or particular group of people, but it must be promulgated for the benefit of the entire Church" Patrick Madrid, The Papacy and Galileo
"Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins." St. Thomas Aquinas. III Quodlibet 27.*
In this post I will discuss the positions Pope Francis takes which have political / economic consequences.   These discussions are difficult for me, because I respect Pope Francis, not only because of his office, but because of his stated goal, to benefit the "not-haves" of our earth.  Nevertheless,  I am obliged, following St. Thomas's admonition in the quote above, to follow my conscience.

MY BIAS

Everyone has a political bias, on the basis of which he or she evaluates propositions.   Mine is best illustrated by the story below:
Wife (answering daughter's call for a donation to her radical Community Organization)--
     "No, no donation for such an organization"
Daughter--
     "Let me ask Dad"
Wife--
     "When I married your father, he was a Jew, a liberal and a Democrat;  he is now a Catholic, a conservative and a Republican;   you'll not get a donation from him either."
So, to be up front:  I am wary of "I'm here from the Government and I'm here to help you."  Government bureaucracies, whatever may be their nominally altruistic purpose, suffer from the lack of competition, are beset by red tape,  and are motivated primarily to increase their next appropriation.  They are, in effect, dinosaurs that have not been eliminated by evolution.   I'm wary of rules that might be set by international bureaucrats, who have no experience of the democratic way of life or what the free market can accomplish.

THE PARTS  I FIND DIFFICULT TO SWALLOW

In the quotation at the head of this post, Patrick Madrid says "the pope [sic] is not infallible when it comes to science, politics...".     Accordingly, as faithful Catholics we are enjoined to consider prayerfully and carefully pronouncements of our Holy Father which are directed to political and economic policies, but we are not obliged to follow them, if they do not directly involve matters of morals or faith or if we honestly believe they will  not effect a moral good.

Disentangling moral and faith issues from political and economic policies is not an easy task. I discussed this matter with our priest, and he brought up the question of abortion--certainly government policies on abortion should not violate Catholic moral precepts.  Nevertheless, many eminent Catholics (for example the famed Catholic legal scholar, Douglas Kmiec, and the Jesuit Editor of "America") supported pro-abortion candidates for president.  Can their example be followed, so that one selects which Catholic precepts enter into one's policy choices,  presumably justifying choices by some sort of  "Double Effect Doctrine"?   I think not.

Well, let's see what Pope Francis has to say about desired political and economic means, either national or supra-national, to bring about the goals of the Encyclical*.
  Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalance....The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. [emphasis added]  #51.
Is the emphasized statement verified or verifiable in any sense, either premise or conclusion?
The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development. #52
And which supranational agency is to decide on the amount of the debt, the amount of energy limitation and the amount of support?
The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.  #53
Is this legal framework to be an international code, superseding national laws? 
The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order”.  #93
What does "universal" mean?   In the Acts of the Apostles, private property was subordinated to the community.   In monastic orders, private property is subordinated to the monastic community.
Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; #157
What might be "distributive justice"?
Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan  #164
And who is to make that plan and enforce it?
A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. #164
Again, what if a consensus cannot be reached? 
As the bishops of Bolivia have stated, “the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused”.#170  quoting from the Bolivian Bishops' Conference, 2012.
Where is it proven that greenhouse gases have caused a problem?
Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. #173
Ipse dixit.
 because the economic and financial sectors, being transnational, tends [sic] to prevail over the political. Given this situation, it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions. [emphasis added] #175
And again, ipse dixit.
 At the same time, on the national and local levels, much still needs to be done, such as promoting ways of conserving energy...  [and] removing from the market products which are less energy efficient or more polluting  #180
Such as replacing incandescent light bulbs by fluorescent, which are hard on the eyes and hazardous when broken?
In the face of possible risks to the environment which may affect the common good now and in the future, decisions must be made “based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives”.#184   quoting from Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Who is to establish these risks and benefits--the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the UN or???
The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures” which prevent environmental degradation..Here the burden of proof is effectively reversed, since in such cases objective and conclusive demonstrations will have to be brought forward to demonstrate that the proposed activity will not cause serious harm to the environment or to those who inhabit it.   #186
The bold-face statement is that which I find most disturbing.
There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.  #188
In the face of all else that is said in the Encyclical, this statement seems to be no more than a token, an ambiguous admission that some parts of the Encyclical may be based on false scientific premises.
Here too, it should always be kept in mind that “environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces”. Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market    #190  Quote from Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Does this not show a bias against capitalism and the free market?
For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change “models of global development”;this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications”.  #194  quotes from Message for 2010 World Day of Peace.
Ditto.

THE BIAS OF POPE FRANCIS

The quotes and other parts of the Encyclical not quoted show a bias against capitalism and a bias for international government control.  This bias for state control is, in my opinion, naive.   It ignores the fact  that the worst pollution and scarring of the earth has occurred in governments which are most authoritarian--the USSR and Russia, China, Zimbabwe--rather than in the free, capitalist nations. Whether Pope Francis's apparent bias for state and international control is part of the general culture of the South American hierarchy and the Argentinean Jesuit Order, or engendered by Pope Francis's Argentinean background, is a question I'm not equipped to answer, but it's clear that it is there.   Pope Francis also seems disposed to accept as fact the false assertions of radical environmental organizations.

THE BAD SCIENCE IN LAUDATO SI

I find the assertions about global warming are not founded on good science;  the oceans have not risen significantly, the glacial and polar ice has not decreased, the temperatures in the southern hemisphere have not shown a warming trend.    However this aspect of the Encyclical has been well covered by Matt Briggs in his post, Laudato Si: On the Science of GlobalWarming, so I won't beat a dead horse.

WHAT SHOULD THE ENCYCLICAL HAVE DONE?

As I stated in the first post on the Encyclical, I applaud the goals of the Encyclical:  to reduce consumerism, to reduce pollution and generally to overcome the Culture of Death and immediate gratification.    Since Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ, the head of The Church Militant, why should he not call upon the faithful to try to fulfill his goals, rather than  atheistic environmentalists (Naomi Klein, Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Schnellhuber), who oppose all the doctrines of the Church?   Why not have local parishes set up groups to work for the goals he sets forth?  Governments do not change the hearts of their citizens.   In order to accomplish Pope Francis's Goals, he should start from the bottom, working through the faithful, rather than from the top, through a state and international bureaucracy.   Work through us, not against us.




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About Me

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Retired, cranky, old physicist.   Convert to Catholicism in 1995.   Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith.   Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/   and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland)

Extraordinary Minister of Communion volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC.
Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

And, finally, my motivation:
“It is also necessary—may God grant it!—that in providing others with books to read I myself should make progress, and that in trying to answer their questions I myself should find what I am seeking.
Therefore at the command of God our Lord and with his help, I have undertaken not so much to discourse with authority on matters known to me as to know them better by discoursing devoutly of them.”
St. Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity I,8.