First Things Magazine’s deputy editor Matthew Schmitz over at the Washington Post and Fr. Robert Barron at Catholic World Report both explore the influence German theologian and philosopher Romano Guardini on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Here are some excerpts, first from Fr. Barron:
It is only against this Guardinian background that we can properly read the Pope’s latest encyclical. Whatever his views on global warming, they are situated within the far greater context of a theology of nature that stands athwart the typically modern point of view. That the earth has become “piled with filth,” that pollution adversely affects the health of millions of the poor, that we live in a “throwaway” culture, that the unborn are treated with indifference, that huge populations have little access to clean drinking water, that thousands of animal species are permitted to fall into extinction, and yes even that we live in housing that bears no organic relation to the natural environment – all of it flows from the alienated Cartesian subject going about his work of mastering nature.
In the spirit of the author of the book of Genesis, the Biblical prophets, Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi – indeed of any great pre-modern figure – Pope Francis wants to recover a properly cosmological sensibility, whereby the human being and her projects are in vibrant, integrated relation with the world that surrounds her.
Given how much Francis draws on Guardini, it is worth noting their disagreements. Whereas Francis is optimistic about the possibility of erecting a global bureaucracy to battle our current crisis, Guardini recoils at the idea of “universal planning.” What actually motivates calls for managing resources according to “statistics” and “theory” is not a practical concern for the best outcome so much as a spiritual desire to impose one’s will on others.
The two men also envision different roles for the church. Whereas Francis believes that the church can express universal desires and lead all men of goodwill in healing the planet, Guardini predicts that Christianity “will be forced to distinguish itself more sharply from a dominantly non-Christian Ethos.” Francis expects cooperation; Guardini, conflict.
Lying behind these political and ecclesial differences is a philosophical one. Guardini believes that our future will be an illiberal one — either humanely under a Christian consensus or inhumanely under a technocratic one.
As for me, I am sorry the encyclical’s mention of global warming and negative view of markets have dominated news coverage and reaction. I think there is so much interesting, though-provoking and convicting (in a good way) about Laudato Si that will be ignored because of this.