The Other Francis: The One Who Preaches Chastity Before MarriageEven the encyclical “Laudato si’” has been read in a selective way, ignoring the uncomfortable passages on “reproductive health” and sexual differences. An analysis of a blackout that is falsifying the image of this pontificate
by Sandro Magister
ROME, June 23, 2015 - The encyclical “Laudato si’” has had a resonance on a worldwide scale that has been enormous but also highly selective.
The overall presentation of the encyclical is that of a “comprehensive”. And in fact in its almost two hundred pages there is a little of everything, from the ultimate destiny of the universe to the little things of everyday life.
But precisely this encyclopedic exuberance, all-encompassing rather than self-contained, has led many to cherry-pick from the text only that which is closest to their own expectations.
One interesting revelation on the genesis of the encyclical has been made by the bishop who worked more than anyone else on its composition: Mario Tosi, currently the head of the diocese of Faenza but until last January the secretary of the pontifical council for justice and peace.
He said in an interview with the Swiss vaticanista Giuseppe Rusconi:
“The encyclical, as it is presented to us today, shows a face different from that of the first draft, which was to include a long introduction of a theological, liturgical, sacramental, and spiritual character. If the initial configuration had remained, the encyclical would have been addressed more immediately to the Catholic world. Pope Francis, instead, preferred to change this configuration, moving the theological part to the middle and end, as he also did with the parts concerning spirituality and education. In this way he restructured the material made available to him, arranging it according to a method of analysis and discernment that implies a consideration of the situation, an evaluation and a prefiguration of practical guidelines for working on a solution of the problems. He thus wanted to involve the largest possible number of readers, including nonbelievers, in a thought process that to a large extent can be shared in by all.”
Another interesting observation has come from an economist who contributed to the composition not of this encyclical but of the “Caritas in Veritate” of Benedict XVI, former IOR president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.
In an interview with “la Repubblica” and a commentary in “Il Foglio,” he has said that the profound meaning of the encyclical can be grasped only when to “Praised may you be” is added “my Lord.” Because the ultimate cause of the behavior that leads to environmental degradation “is sin, the loss of God,” while the proximate cause “is the exaggerated consumerism induced in order to compensate for the collapse of the birth rate in Western countries.” Of this proximate cause, he added, “I have found no satisfying explanations in the encyclical, probably because I read it in a hurry.”
If one reads “Laudato si’” with patience, in fact, one passage that coincides with the ideas of Gotti Tedeschi is there, in paragraph 50:
“Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’… To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”
But this passage has been ignored by almost all the world’s media.
And the same neglect has fallen upon other passages of the encyclical in which Pope Francis condemns abortion, in paragraph 120, experimentation on embryos, in paragraph 136, the cancellation of sexual differences, in paragraph 155.
It must be said, however, that the almost universal disregard of these passages cannot be imputed to their slight prominence in the overflowing totality of “Laudato Si’.”
Because so far the same silence has also punished all the other position statements of Pope Francis on these topics.
The proof is that the only big controversy of global dimensions that recently erupted over such a matter was centered not on the pope but on his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
It was the controversy ignited by his succinct judgment on the ‘yes’ victory in the Irish referendum on homosexual marriage: “A defeat of humanity.”
It was Tuesday, May 26, and Cardinal Parolin had been in audience with the pope the evening before, when the result of the referendum was leading all of the news broadcasts. That Parolin’s judgment was the same as the pope’s was beyond all doubt. “Word for word,” Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed.
But in the narrative on Pope Francis that continues to dominate the media, there must be no place for such judgments. They are taboo. The indelible mark of the pontificate must continue to be: “Who am I to judge?”
And this in spite of the uninterrupted stream of severe papal judgments on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, all in perfect continuity with the previous magisterium of the Church.
Perhaps what facilitates the media blackout on these judgments of the pope is in part the care with which he times his position statements to avoid coinciding with big political events, like a referendum or a vote on a law, or with a big social mobilization, like a march of “Manif pur tous” in Paris or the imposing “Family Day” in Rome on June 20.
On events of these kinds Francis is silent, or nearly so. To say out loud what is closest to his heart he chooses other moments, more distant from the pressure of events.
And in fact on the referendum in Ireland, as has been seen, the one to speak was not he but his secretary of state, against whom - and not against the pope - the criticism was then focused.
This website has already published two collections of all the statements of Pope Francis on abortion, divorce, contraception, homosexuality, from the end of October of 2014 - the end of the first session of the synod on the family - to May 11 of this year. And there were 39 statements in all:
> Vatican Diary / The two-step of the Argentine pope (17.3.2015)
> The Closed Door of Pope Francis (11.5.2015)