As I promised, I will devote several blogs to Pope Francis’ recent papal encyclical, Laudato Si’. It is difficult to know where the to begin, but a good place seems to be with the concept of the common good, which the Holy Father refers to more than 30 times in his encyclical.
Pope Francis uses the traditional Catholic definition of the common good: “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment,” (No. 156) elaborating on how we should understand what that means in today’s world.
Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights … It also has to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups … [especially] the family, as the basic cell of society. (No. 157)
Thus, the common good is centered on the respect and dignity due each human being and their right to develop and flourish. But the common good goes beyond the individual to embrace the whole of society.
Recognizing that society is dynamic and subject to disruptions due to inequities and disequilibrium, the Holy Father cautions that “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; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.” (No. 157)
Reality is a far cry from the ideal and the Pope paints a vivid picture of today’s world:
In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. (No. 158)
We cannot however, think only of ourselves and our contemporary situation; we must be aware of our debt to the future. Pope Francis reminds us that, “The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.” (No. 159)
Thus the Holy Father outlines the basis for the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which will require solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms.
We will examine those environmental problems and the Pope’s proposed solutions in future blogs.
Image credit: Sreyena, right, and her sister Salim stand in front of their house near the dump, where they scavenged for metal, plastic, glass and anything else they could sell to a recycler to make money. Each child would make about $10 a month at the dump to help out their families. They had no electricity or water. (Courtesy of anewdaycambodia.org)
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish