Fr. Schall on “Laudato Si”

 

SchallEighty-seven years old, Rev. James Schall, S.J. is one of the most respected Catholic scholars in the nation. A philosopher, theologian, and political theorist, Fr. Schall, the author of dozens of books, served as a professor of government at Georgetown University for 35 years before retiring to a Jesuit home here in California in 2012. (If you’d like a thrilling intellectual experience, go to YouTube, then, in the search bar, type “Fr. Schall’s final lecture at Georgetown.”)

Fr. Schall has just published a long article on Laudato Si, the encyclical on the environment that Pope Francis published earlier this summer. Fr. Schall’s analysis is respectful, erudite, intellectually humble — and devastating.

Excerpts:

In the Pope’s view, the poverty of modern times, not its relief, is due mainly to uncontrolled capitalism….

The fact is that modern centuries have seen a gradual but increasingly effective alleviation of poverty as one society after another learned the hard way or the easy way what it takes to produce and distribute wealth. In the past several decades, the amount of poverty in the world has been rapidly reduced by what can only fairly be called capitalist presuppositions or imitations of them. We look for a means whereby new ideas can come into the economy. We must recognize that the real source of wealth is the human mind and creativity… The free market systems under laws and prudence, where they are allowed to exist, are the best and probably only way to aid the majority of the poor.

But the Pope evidently does not see this connection….While acknowledging subsidiarity, Francis seems to prefer a state-engineered solution, a take-care-of-the-poor solution rather than an expanding economy solution. Actually, the whole of this encyclical seems to be telling us not to be wealthy; it is morally dangerous. The purpose of an economy is not to create wealth but to teach us how to live frugally and in very moderate ways. The Holy Father has much practical advice about turning down the heat, wearing jackets, drinking less water, and taking public transportation. He is leery of a society of abundance, which also has its problems….

If we confiscate all the world’s wealth tomorrow morning and distribute it equitably to everyone on earth, two things would result: 1) everyone would become poor; 2) within a short time, large portions of the goods distributed would end up on the hands of those who knew how to acquire, barter, and use them. If we mistake the real ways of making everyone “not poor,” we risk spreading poverty, not alleviating it….

We find little in Laudato Si’ that would indicate awareness that government is itself a major factor in causing and extending world poverty. It is not just a matter of corruption or bureaucracy, though that too is a serious problem. My point is not that the Pope does not have his own worthy opinions. But what, in fact, has been working for the purpose of poverty alleviation is not really discussed….

[T]he goal of ecological vision is posed in terms of creating a world that takes into consideration future generations. The consumption of goods must include future usage. We might note that no generation previous to ours ever seemed to worry about this issue. Usually, population control theses are posed in the light of estimates about available resources in relation to projected population sizes. What seems to happen is that when previous future generations come about, they will have figured out some way to survive and even prosper. That is, human intelligence and skill are active elements in nature.

The question here is how do we know how many ages are left for us to plan for? And is there not reason to believe that a larger, rather than smaller, population will be the incentive to learn how to deal with human needs? We simply do not know how many generations there will be, what technology will be available to them, or even whether there will be a future generation. We know not the day or the hour. What we do know is that the earth, plus human intelligence on it, is adequate to provide for the human race as it is….We simply do not know how to calculate what future generations down the ages will need so that we can reasonably restrict our development now accordingly. It is incoherent to think that we can.

A wise, holy and learned man — and, like Pope Francis himself, a Jesuit — Fr. Schall could have taken no pleasure in writing this. But there you have it.

Laudato Si, incoherent.

There are 39 comments.

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  1. Hustler46060 Inactive
    Hustler46060
    @Hustler46060

    Wow! Drop the mic and walk off.

    • #1
  2. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    I remember Father Schall! And I really, really hope he doesn’t remember me…

    This is very good. Hoya Saxa, Father.

    • #2
  3. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    A Jesuit even Paul Rahe might tolerate.

    • #3
  4. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Thank you, Peter. I knew if I was patient, someone of Fr. Schall’s stature would comment on the encyclical. Too bad Pope Francis didn’t consult him before publication.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @DanMathewson

    I enjoyed his The Order of Things.

    • #5
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Pope Francis seems to be morally clear but ethically clumsy. His moral principles are sound, but his applications of those principles to social philosophy leave much to be desired. I suspect that his ethical decisions at the level of individual, face-to-face interactions are exemplary. But illumination of society-level ethics requires a different skill set.

    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were philosophers by nature. They were thinkers devoted to loving contemplation of God. Pope Francis is a doer. He would rather be walking among people and tending to their daily troubles or joining lively celebrations than thinking or writing behind a desk.

    What does it mean to be Pope for such a man? Popes are not grunt laborers. They must be leaders of millions. How can such a personality be expressed within the role of Bishop of Rome?

    Pope Francis himself stated that economics is not his forté, yet he devoted much of the encyclical to it. He seems to be struggling to adjust to this role. I can only pray that God will show him the way… for his sake and for ours.

    • #6
  7. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Dan Mathewson:I enjoyed his The Order of Things.

    I learned a lot from Ten Universal Principles.

    • #7
  8. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Aaron Miller:What does it mean to be Pope for such a man? Popes are not grunt laborers. They must be leaders of millions. How can such a personality be expressed within the role of Bishop of Rome?

    A valuable insight, Aaron. And you’re right, of course: We should all pray for the man.

    • #8
  9. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    The Holy See’s New Alliances – I.

    Behind Laudato Si: Meet the Irish dissident who was one of the chief advisors behind this encylical – and what he said about its theology

    • #9
  10. user_536506 Member
    user_536506
    @ScottWilmot

    Fr. Schall writes:

    “Thus, we have the Encyclical on Environment. Millions of words are already spoken and written about it. It touches on issues that can be approached in many, often opposite, ways. There is nothing really “infallible” in this document, but it asks for and deserves critical reading.”

    I’ll challenge Fr. Schall that the underlying message of Laudato Si does not contain any infallible teaching. The Church claims to be an expert in humanity. As such, her social doctrine comes from the Gospel. Therefore, our political, economic, and environmental policies should support the dignity of the human person, care for the poor, and stewardship of the environment.

    There is a message in Laudato Si that adheres to the ordinary teaching of the Magisterium. It does deserve critical reading.

    Don’t get hung up on that which doesn’t.

    • #10
  11. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    This year’s Summer Symposium of The Roman Forum in Gardone Riviera, on the shores of Lake Garda (See previous reports: here and here), concluded with a strong statement on the crisis in the Church and the world, and the necessity of returning to the fullness of Catholic Social Teaching in order to meet the crisis. It calls for an end to the policy of “opening to the world,” and for an end to the “fruitless collaboration with the Church’s implacable opponents” that this opening has meant, and calls for “a recovery of the Church’s traditional teaching on the Social Reign of Christ the King.” The statement is being simultaneously published on several websites. We are pleased to publish this important document in full here on Rorate Cæli.

    The Lake Garda Statement

    • #11
  12. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    The Church claims to be an expert in humanity.

    More accurately, The Church claims to be an expert on human nature.

    • #12
  13. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I have known a lot of priests. Many have gone directly from their family homes to the seminary. There they are given three hots and a cot. They are taking care of from day one.After they are ordained they are again give an allowance. They have no wife or children to worry about. The usually have a good standard of living but not a lot of money. I have more than one tell me not to worry about money, God will provide. Well I never had any parishioners, thank you Father.

    • #13
  14. user_536506 Member
    user_536506
    @ScottWilmot

    Pseudodionysius:More accurately, The Church claims to be an expert on human nature.

    Thanks for the correction. My wording was due to more apparent Vatican translation errors.

    • #14
  15. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Most post conciliar documents use loose language that muddies the waters irrespective of the language of origin.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    The fact is that modern centuries have seen a gradual but increasingly effective alleviation of poverty as one society after another learned the hard way or the easy way what it takes to produce and distribute wealth. In the past several decades, the amount of poverty in the world has been rapidly reduced by what can only fairly be called capitalist presuppositions or imitations of them. We look for a means whereby new ideas can come into the economy. We must recognize that the real source of wealth is the human mind and creativity… The free market systems under laws and prudence, where they are allowed to exist, are the best and probably only way to aid the majority of the poor.

    Exactly.

    Having finished Laudato Si last weekend — every last word — I was really disappointed to find that it actually got worse as I continued. Francis simply cannot wrap his mind around the idea that capitalism and free markets have allowed billions of people to rise out of poverty, and are the means by which wealth becomes available to provide for those who haven’t gotten there yet. We’re witnessing an amazing explosion of wealth around the world at every level and — not only does Francis seem blind to it — he’s actively denigrating the means by which so much has been achieved and on which so much depends.

    It’s deeply frustrating.

    • #16
  17. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Thanks Peter. Father Schall’s essays appear in Catholic World Report from time to time. He reminds me of some of the priests that I had the good fortune to have as professors during my university days.

    • #17
  18. user_533354 Member
    user_533354
    @melissaosullivan

    Thank you, Peter!  Many of us have been deeply distressed by the anti-capitalist rhetoric…it’s nice to see such a worthy response.

    • #18
  19. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Scott Wilmot:

    Pseudodionysius:More accurately, The Church claims to be an expert on human nature.

    Thanks for the correction. My wording was due to more apparent Vatican translation errors.

    For the problems with both documents at both links by both Popes, please see Romanio Amerio’s Iota Unum, here discussed and reviewed on Fr Z’s blog. A book – as Fr Schall would say – not to be missed.

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Carthago

    I had the honor of meeting Schall when I was a student at Georgetown. Unfortunately, the honor was entirely lost on me.  Back then, I felt supremely confident that anything an old priest told me about the nature of life was categorically false simply by virtue of it having been told to me by an old priest.

    It was only after years of trying to sort out the universe on my own that I realized all the hard-won insights I credited to my own genius were the very things Schall and others had been patiently trying to teach me.  If only I had listened.

    But at the risk of giving the young me too much credit, my naive prejudice against anything Schall might have said wasn’t baseless.  It was born of twenty long years enduring homilies with all the intellectual rigor of a greeting card.  Ten irrational minutes at a time, the Church had taught me to not take her seriously, and it’s a lesson I learned well.

    It was only when I discovered Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, and other great Catholic minds that I found the commitment to truth I needed from my faith.  And it was the encyclicals of John Paul II and later Benedict XVI that showed me how that commitment lives on, despite what I might hear on Sunday.

    And then Laudato Si.  The very irrationality that kept me from appreciating Fr. Schall, polluting the tradition he couldn’t share with me.  Disastrous.

    • #20
  21. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    What concerns me is that we get so upset at the Pope for articulating what are really the standard, widely accepted economic ideas of the day. He speaks the lingo everyone speaks. He thinks what everyone thinks.

    Well, not everyone. Not us. But isn’t that more a problem with us?

    The car salesman doesn’t say “that idiot wouldn’t know a good car from shinola!” But conservatives always say the other guy is an idiot. And so are 7 billion of his friends.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    Pope Francis came on the scene in most unusual circumstances – the retirement of a sitting pope. He came out with gusto. I like him. But it’s not hard to note he has the left turn signal on. I thought maybe that was the culture he grew up in and writes from that place. Any sensible person cares about the environment.

    But I read something so odd years back by one of the big global think tanks like the Trilateral Commission – around the time Gore’s environmental book was out. This huge group wrote this statement, ” We need to create a crisis like climate change that the world can wrap itself around”. “Create a crisis” jumped off the page.

    In Autumn 2010, I wrote a response to an article in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin by professor Sallie McFague who bashed capitalism – even threw Jerusalem under the bus (?):

    http://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/winterspring2010/cities-climate-change-and-christianity

    They titled my response “Our Earth’s Keepers”. It’s in a PDF – not sure its readable.

    Harvard letter

    Is it a coincidence when Pres. Obama addressed the graduates of a military academy saying “global warming” is the biggest threat of our time??

    Now the pope and advisers on his recent writing seem in left field, environmentally speaking. I read a quote by CS Lewis somewhere that the devil doesn’t hang outside of bars, but churches. This push to “redistribute” and even the playing field is coming on strong.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    I forget to say thank you for this post and such an insightful article from Rev. Schall – what a smart man and I would love to read more from him; 87 years old and still sounding the alarm……  Also thanks to the Ricochet contributors who linked the advisers information who helped prepare the pope’s writings – all I can say is wow! would not expect a group like that!

    • #23
  24. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Carthago:…homilies with all the intellectual rigor of a greeting card.

    I wish I couldn’t say this, but I know exactly what you mean.

    • #24
  25. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Peter Robinson:

    Carthago:…homilies with all the intellectual rigor of a greeting card.

    I wish I couldn’t say this, but I know exactly what you mean.

    The quality of homilies declined significantly when we stopped calling them sermons.

    • #25
  26. Bkelley14 Inactive
    Bkelley14
    @Bkelley14

    Thank you very much Peter for posting this! Very very enlightening. I’m sorry to say, as a Catholic, that I am unfamiliar with Fr. Schall. His writing on this subject is brave and wondrous.

    • #26
  27. user_1100855 Member
    user_1100855
    @PaddySiochain

    Peter, the Vatican’s Minister for the Economy has his own take:

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/damian-thompson/2015/07/brave-cardinal-pell-challenges-pope-franciss-dogma-on-climate-change/

    • #27
  28. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Paddy Siochain:Peter, the Vatican’s Minister for the Economy has his own take:

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/damian-thompson/2015/07/brave-cardinal-pell-challenges-pope-franciss-dogma-on-climate-change/

    Wow, Paddy. Thanks for the link.

    • #28
  29. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Paddy Siochain:Peter, the Vatican’s Minister for the Economy has his own take:

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/damian-thompson/2015/07/brave-cardinal-pell-challenges-pope-franciss-dogma-on-climate-change/

    Muchisimas gracias, Paddy, which is close to Latin as I can come. You’re turning into Ricochet’s very own ambassador plenipotentiary to the Holy See. Now, let us all light candles for Card. Pell this weekend….

    • #29
  30. user_536506 Member
    user_536506
    @ScottWilmot

    Pseudodionysius: For the problems with both documents at both links by both Popes, please see Romanio Amerio’s Iota Unum

    I am familiar with Amerio from this 2006 article. What struck me was this:

    Amerio says, in essence, that the most serious ills present within Western thought today, including Catholic thought, are primarily due to a general mental disorder that places “caritas” before “veritas,” without considering that this disorder also turns upside-down the proper understanding that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity.

    Before Descartes’ thought asserted itself within its heart, Christianity had always devoutly placed “veritas” before “caritas,” just as we know that it was from the divine mouth of Christ that the breath of the Holy Spirit came, and not the other way around.

    But your comment is cryptic and incomprehensible to me – what is it that I should take out of this 600+ page tome to understand the “problems” in the document and address authored by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI? Pope Benedict XVI was a man who accorded primacy to the truth in his pontificate.  His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, was written to restore truth to love, seemingly in accord with the thought of Amerio. What are you getting at?

    • #30

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