Short book review: Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis

Given that this encyclical is now fairly old news, as far as news goes these days, I will keep my comments on it brief. As most are already aware, this is Pope Francis’s encyclical letter on the environment which generated some controversy when it was first released. Having now finally read it in full, I have to express my surprise at the controversy. Far from being anything altogether innovative as I was expecting Francis instead recapitulates 2000 years of Christian thought on the relationship between wealth, cosmos, and man. The conclusion that he reaches is, essentially, that it is best for each of us to choose to live a simpler life and that rich nations should help poor nations and rich individuals help poor individuals. Throughout, the text is sprinkled with citations from some of the great Fathers of the Church as well as various medieval and modern Christian thinkers. The result is a sound synthesis of Christian thought on what it means to be simultaneously a spiritual/rational being in a material/animal existence. It is, in short, Christianity. Anyone who was shocked and/or appalled by this had best keep away from such controversial writings as those of Ss. Francis or Basil. In fact, anyone offended by this encyclical might want to stay away from one of the most shocking and subversive thinkers of all time: Jesus.

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