Laudato Si: My Take On It

As a Catholic, first and foremost I urge everyone to actually read what is written – do not trust MSM summaries of it and don’t take the word of those who have a particular axe to grind. Read it yourself – decide for yourself what it all means. Encyclicals are meant to be read; prayerfully and with mercy and charity. But, also as a Catholic, permit me to speak a bit about it. Here are just a few bits I’ve looked over so far.

The first thing which caught my eye is this:

Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.

This is an important thing to say – we are not actually entirely free agents. Our freedom granted by God can only be properly used when we are voluntarily choosing to do what is right. It is true that we can choose evil – that is built into our free will…but when someone chooses to do wrong, that is not an act of freedom. It is, actually, an act of self-slavery – someone riveting chains of servitude upon himself. There are indisputable truths to guide our conduct and we ignore this at our extreme peril.

Next up, this:

These (environmental )problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish… A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.

Indeed – and a throwaway culture is a terrible thing…both for people and things. Have you noticed that a lot of what we buy these days is low-quality trash? Just try to find a decently constructed desk, for instance…fake wood, cheap plastics; all of it falls apart in a few years. The desk I’m working on right now, however, isn’t like that. I got it at a garage sale. My guess is that it’s approximately 80 years old. It actually is nothing special – but as it is made out of real wood and put together with some thought to durability, I was able to strip it down and refinish it. It now looks wonderful…and will likely last another 80 years. I’m hopeful that one of my wife’s grandchildren will find it useful after I’m gone. If we have an attitude of make it cheap and make it for maximum profit, we’re doing things wrong…and that attitude towards things can all too easily be transferred to people. People and things have value – God created us all and called it all “good”. It is not for us to waste people, or things.

And, now, on to the global warming stuff that people are up in arms about:

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

Now, as all here know, I am an anthropogenic global warming denier. And I still am. But what the Pope talks about here is the consensus – yes, we all denigrate that consensus and understandably so – but the Pope, speaking for the Church, can’t really go against it. Believe it or not, the Church always has agreed to scientific consensus. Gallileo got in trouble mostly because he was claiming as established fact something which was at that time among the scientific community still theory (he was also a bit of a jerk who managed to tick off someone he shouldn’t have – but that’s something for another time). Right now, the consensus is that humans are contributing to global warming and the Church will go with that unless and until the scientific community reasonably comes up with a different solution – but even here we can see that factors other than purely human activity are acknowledged as being part of the problem.

I remain an AGW denier because I know what the fanatics of the environmental movement are up to – scamming us for power and money. If all they were doing is working on solutions to environmental problems, they’d get no complaints from me…but when I see them ranged to seize my property and my liberty in the name of fixing a problem which they can’t actually fix by their proposed solutions, I tell them to go jump in a lake. A bit more:

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

Indeed – and I think we all agree with that. Please note that the Pope defines neither “clean” nor “renewable”. I happen to think that nuclear power is pretty clean and renewable.

Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.

Hard to argue with that. And this is especially true in Third World nations…but anyone driving through Los Angeles can’t help but think, “ugly”. I note that our Progressive friends seem to like the idea of cramming us proles ever more densely into large cities so that the environment will be better protected. Sorry, guys, but we get to use the world, too – that means a balance needs to be struck which might result in cities actually being more spread out.

There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital: “We note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals. They do here what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called first world. Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable”

A few years ago I read a news story about Steve Jobs and the release of the I-Phone – one thing struck my mind: apparently, there was some sort of screw up in the device and a lot of them had to be hastily re-manufactured in a different way. Jobs was pleased as punch because he was able to make a phone call to China and after the workers were dragged out of bed and given a cup of tea, they worked hard at it, fixing the problem. Woohoo! You know what kind of workers can be dragged out of bed and given a cup of tea and set to work? Slaves. Even if they were paid, they were still slaves. Jobs was using the story to illustrate why he thought that manufacturing jobs weren’t coming back to the United States – because American workers simply wouldn’t do that. He’s right – we still value human liberty (and decency) here in the United States and I’m just all sorry as heck that American workers won’t help Apple make 1/10th of a percent more profit on the latest bit of I-crap. My respect for Jobs dropped quite a lot when I read that story. But that is what outsourcing is for – to increase corporate profits by screwing over foreign and American workers (they get to be slaves, we get to be unemployed)…and if you think that a government like China’s (no free press, no free political life, no freedom of conscience) is a society which won’t allow industrial toxins to be dumped wholesale into the Yangtze River as long as the local Party grandee is bribed, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Remember, its not that Apple wouldn’t have made money on a fully USA-made I-Phone, they just wouldn’t have made as much. I understand the need to maximize profits – but I also understand what is right…and it ain’t right to export our jobs and our pollution to Third World nations so that the quarterly statement looks fantastic rather than merely great (we can look into the Big Government angle of this, as well – nothing like using the massive power of the American government to work things out so this can happen…and if you think our government isn’t bribed to heck and gone to make sure this stuff goes on at our expense, then I’ll sell that bridge in Brooklyn to you, again).

This is what I’ll leave you with:

… we need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes, since there is no one path to a solution. This makes a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions.

On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views…

When it comes to what, precisely, we are to do about environmental problems – as in all human problems – it is up to the prudential judgement of the people to make the final call. The Church does point out moral issues and does state what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong – but within these parameters, it is up to us to decide. Screwball leftists who think of humanity as a plague are wrong – but so, too, are those people who think that the mere operation of a free market will make everything ok – and that is because there never will be a totally free market; there will always be ways to game the system and people will take advantage as far as they are able.

The world is made for us to live in and use. We can have a cheeseburger. Build a dam. Construct a skyscraper. Drive a car. We just have to be responsible in how we do it – because while the world is made for us to live in and use, we weren’t given ownership of it. We are stewards, not proprietors. We have a responsibility, also, to try and leave the world a little better place than we found it. That can be as hackneyed as planting a tree in order to please our tree-huggers, but it can also be building a beautiful building that people one thousand years from now will enjoy. It all comes to how we view ourselves and our world – I view it and myself as creations of God; results of a supreme act of love. I’d like myself to be a nice as I can be, and the world to be as nice as it can be.

Read the Encyclical.  See what you think of it, yourself. It is bound to disappoint different people on different things – but when someone is speaking the truth, that is usually the way it works out. But when you find the bits you dislike, I merely ask that you reflect upon just why you disliked it, using charity and mercy as your guide.


23 thoughts on “Laudato Si: My Take On It

  1. Retired Spook June 19, 2015 / 7:44 am

    she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views…

    Honoring just those two principles would make the world a better place.

    • Cluster June 19, 2015 / 8:27 am

      Honest debate ?? Respecting divergent views??

      We are far from that. Just yesterday a Democrat blamed Fox News for the shooting in SC and another climate scientist came out and predicted that man will be extinct in 100 years.

      How do you have an honest debate with these people?

      • Retired Spook June 19, 2015 / 9:55 am

        Cluster, I honestly don’t think you can. The only people who can have an honest debate are people who disagree on methods but not on principles. I’m running afoul of this right now with a life-long friend. We grew up together, went to the same church, graduated from high school the same year, and our parents were good friends. I went in the navy out of college; he went in the Peace Corps. I worked in private business, he was a college professor. We both retired a couple years ago. We visited him and his wife on our trip out east last summer, and he indicated he’d like to have on-going email communication about, among other things, politics and philosophy. I laid down some ground rules that consisted primarily of the necessity to determine whether we both subscribed to the same basic principles. He agreed that we did, but I’ve come to find that, just like most Liberals, he apparently defines those principles differently than I do, or he makes exceptions when those principles conflict with his world view. I’ve only heard from him a couple times since the first of the year, and I suspect he must have come to the conclusion that we don’t really have much in common, other than, as I noted the other day, we have lived our lives in essentially the same conservative manner. I’ve read some of what he’s posted on Facebook, and it’s pretty clear he believes Conservatives are evil and the source of virtually all the world’s problems, and George Bush was the evilist of all.

      • M. Noonan June 19, 2015 / 10:58 am

        It is hard to discuss things with people on the left precisely because of that: the completely divergent world view. One of the things in the encyclical is a call for peasants in poorer countries to be accorded enough land to support themselves and their families on. One might think that liberals would like this, but think again: that means poor people having independent means and, also, farming…with fertilizers and stuff. Progressives won’t really like either of those things…but we on the right would be all, “you know, if we could have more independent people that is a good thing and farming, as such, is also a good thing”.

      • Amazona June 20, 2015 / 5:41 pm

        “One of the things in the encyclical is a call for peasants in poorer countries to be accorded enough land to support themselves and their families on”

        Check out the miserable failure of the Agrarian Reform in Peru to see how this superficially peachy idea translates into real life. The two most obvious flaws in this simplistic plan are that merely being a peasant does not mean having an ability to farm well enough to support a family and who has to give up land (OPM) to hand over to the peasants who are assumed to know what to do with it.

        I don’t think the idea worked very well here, either. Does “40 acres and a plow” sound familiar?

        Now if the Church wants to raise money to BUY land, and set up educational programs to teach people how to farm effectively and work together to become self-sufficient that is great. But to sit in some lavishly appointed apartment at the Vatican and come up with simplistic bandaids for very serious and complex problems that depend on a stereotype that “peasants are good farmers” and the redistribution of Other Peoples’ Property is hardly something to admire.

        The Pope is a priest. A highly elevated priest, but still…..a priest. He needs to stick to priestly duties and reject the temptation to use his position to engage in social engineering schemes.

      • Cluster June 20, 2015 / 6:00 pm


      • M. Noonan June 20, 2015 / 10:19 pm

        Part of the reason we have Third World people migrating to the First World is because they have nothing to keep them at home. And while property rights are crucial – indeed, Catholic teaching requires a deep respect for the rights of private property – vast swaths of Third World land were acquired not by honest work but by political and economic trickery.

        Land reform is a tricky business, of course – from the Gracchi in Rome to, as you note, Peru’s recent experiment it has been tried, and often done quite wrong. On the other hand, it has also been done right – most notably by Douglas MacArthur in post-WWII Japan. Of course, you and I won’t have much to say regarding Third World land issues as we don’t live there – but it is downright criminal what a lot of Third World nations are doing – and south of our border, rather than make people disgorge their stolen goods, the governments down there are deliberately sending their poorest, least educated rural people up here…not only exporting their social problems, but also making bank of remittances from these people back home (and so I advocate a 90% tax on remittances…which would pretty much end the incentive for Third World countries to send their social problems up here).

      • Cluster June 21, 2015 / 8:47 am

        Rich Lowery sums up my thinking on this issue. Here’s my favorite excerpt:

        If saving the planet, or our souls, depends on giving up air conditioning or cars, we are all indeed on the road to perdition. The pope at one point favorably cites the example of the desert monks. But while living a life of contemplation in the middle of nowhere suited St. Anthony of Egypt just fine — he is reputed to have lived to 105 — most of us aren’t spiritual superheroes, nor does monasticism as a general matter tell us anything useful about improving the lives of the poor.

        Read more:

      • M. Noonan June 21, 2015 / 11:43 pm

        If that is the best Lowery can do, then try this take, instead.

        It really is a rather long encyclical and, true, you can concentrate on two chapters and adjudge the Pope a communist…but if you read it thru you’ll find out that he’s, well, Catholic. Bunches of stuff in there to annoy a liberal – they won’t pay any attention to it, of course…but, then again, conservatives aren’t either.

      • Cluster June 22, 2015 / 8:32 am

        IF global warming was a real issue, I would take the Pope’s message with more seriousness. As it is, global warming is a central planning issue in which the planners want to shut down debate:

        A French doubter who authored a book arguing that solar activity — not greenhouse gases — was driving global warming, de Larminat sought a spot at a climate summit in April sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Nobel laureates would be there. So would U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs and others calling for dramatic steps to curb carbon emissions.

        After securing a high-level meeting at the Vatican, he was told that, space permitting, he could join. He bought a plane ticket from Paris to Rome. But five days before the April 28 summit, de Larminat said, he received an e-mail saying there was no space left. It came after other scientists — as well as the powerful Vatican bureaucrat in charge of the academy — insisted he had no business being there.

      • M. Noonan June 22, 2015 / 11:02 am

        People are like that; even Vatican bureaucrats. But the encyclical is not the Global Warming Encyclical, no matter how much people try to make out that it is.

        Here’s a nugget for you – the Encyclical condemns carbon credit trading, which is the biggest bunch of bull in the whole thing…and the reason that we even have this as an issue in 2015: because plenty of people are using their ability to bribe governments in order to create carbon markets which they then scam.

    • M. Noonan June 19, 2015 / 10:55 am

      The bottom line on that part is that we don’t have to shovel a bunch of money at Al Gore in order for him to shriek at us… There is nothing in the encyclical which backs up the liberal demands on how we deal with the environment…

  2. Amazona June 19, 2015 / 10:02 am

    The Pope seems to be a good man, an honest and spiritual man rightfully elected by a handful of likewise honest and spiritual men to be the SPIRITUAL leader of his Church. I can understand his desire to use the bully pulpit of Church leadership to try to advance teachings that he thinks may help everyone.

    The problem is that he is abusing this position by making declarations that have the implied power of his position behind them. This is not a commentary by the Pope—-it is an ENCYCLICAL. It is a major writing from the Pope, speaking AS the Pope, in a clear and blatant effort to use the position of the papacy to advance his personal opinions.

    He says: A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

    Really? As the SPIRITUAL leader of a certain group of co-religionists, he is not only qualified to instruct us on this, he is not crossing a line to presume to do so under the authority of the papacy?

    He is not even correct in what he says. He says: A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events….. Well, no. And to try to excuse this mistake by saying he can’t be blamed for accepting this bogus “consensus” is just wrong. I assume he does not accept the “very solid scientific consensus” that human life does not begin at the fertilization of the egg but at the time of implantation, or at any other arbitrary time after that.

    a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

    And here we go again. What about the studies that show no connection between “greenhouse gases” and alleged warming, and of course here we have to go back to the fact that THERE IS NO GLOBAL WARMING.

    The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. I have no problem with the Pope sitting there in the Vatican fretting about those nasty greenhouse gases and so on, but when he uses the power of his position to advance politically correct claptrap I not only think he is abusing his position, he is losing credibility and for me, anyway, respect.

    I said in my original post that this was OT, but then I realized it is not, because the post is about megalomania, and I see this Pope as one who steers very very close to that term. Mark, you say “Right now, the consensus is that humans are contributing to global warming and the Church will go with that unless and until the scientific community reasonably comes up with a different solution” but you miss the point.

    When the Church throws her entire and substantial weight behind a concocted theory which is designed to give a thoroughly evil Left more and more power and control in its movement to deprive people of liberty—-including the liberty to worship as they please—–she is becoming complicit in this effort. I don’t care how well-meaning the Pope is, I don’t care that he sees this is an issue of great importance and feels that he has a moral imperative to use his considerable influence to move things in a direction he believes is the right one.

    Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is still doing the wrong thing. My opinion of Pope Francis is changing from one of respect for him to thinking of him as a slightly dotty and easily led seeker of a reputation which goes far beyond that of leader of the Church.

    • M. Noonan June 19, 2015 / 10:52 am

      One can argue that it is a stretch for the Church to comment on the science of it all, but if the Church is to comment on the science, then it simply must support the consensus as understood in layman’s terms – if the Church had condemned AGW, then all we’d be hearing is liberals attacking the Church for being anti-science – which would distract from the intent of the encyclical. On the other hand, putting in a kind word for AGW has upset conservatives…but there is also meat for conservatives to dine on in there, in the form of no definition of “clean” or “renewable”, plus the acknowledgement that other, natural factors are involved in whatever warming we’ve had. But dig a bit deep in there and there’s plenty of condemnation of the liberal world view – from the concept that humans are plague to the concept that we can do whatever we please with ourselves.

      I knew this encyclical would cause a lot of heart ache and I’m ok with that – now, just wait for the pronouncements on the family which are upcoming and our liberals will be shrieking with rage and conservatives will cheer.

      In the end, what the Pope is doing is exposing the hypocrisy of our age – which is mostly on the left. All of those liberals who are now saying they are proud to be Catholic will be stuck quite in a bind when the next word is said.

      • Amazona June 20, 2015 / 5:25 pm

        “…if the Church is to comment on … science, then it simply must support the consensus as understood in layman’s terms…”

        Including the science that decrees that human life does not begin until some arbitrary event such as implantation in the uterine wall, not at the fertilization of the egg? There is even a “scientific consensus” that a unborn child is not a human being until it takes a breath.

        Sorry, Mark, but the only way to defend this latest effort by the Pope to insert himself, and by extension Catholic doctrine and dogma, into the political arena is to just be so totally, blindly, committed to seeing the Pope as absolutely wonderful, never wrong, and infallible in areas WAY beyond the scope of Catholic teachings that you are going to pretzel yourself into all sorts of odd contortions to make excuses for him.

        Interesting to see you so comfortable with the “heartache” caused by this man running off at the mouth and dragging so many ardent Catholics into wrongful thinking and and most likely into wrongful political action. How many Catholic votes have to be handed to some AGW hysteric because of this encyclical to have it officially recognized as harmful? How big a nudge toward the evil of Leftist governance does it take to agree that this man is a danger?

      • M. Noonan June 20, 2015 / 10:11 pm

        I don’t believe the Church rules on when, exactly, life begins – we just know we can’t deliberately end it without just cause; we also are forbidden, in human life, from trying to control it in the sense of decided by artificial means to either impede or impel pregnancy (so, the Church is opposed to both birth control and in-vitro fertilization). Its a bit of a different issue.

  3. Cluster June 19, 2015 / 7:57 pm

    This is excellent analysis of why we find ourselves living in this current progressive nightmare:

    On the larger point of bitter polarization and gridlock, Obama has never led by example. From the first moments of his presidency, Obama relied on bare-knuckle politics over the supposed post-partisan principles he espoused. When Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid locked Republicans out of writing the ill-considered stimulus bill in early 2009, his response to Republicans complaining about it was: “I won.” The health-insurance overhaul informally named after Obama only passed with Democratic votes after Obama did nothing to facilitate bipartisanship, and only through legislative chicanery conducted by Obama’s hatchet man on Capitol Hill, Harry Reid.

    Read more:

    Through their irrational hatred towards any and all things conservative, their inability to accept blame preferring instead to blame others, and their contrived issues and divisive politics, Democrats are tearing apart the fabric of this country.

  4. Amazona June 23, 2015 / 10:27 am

    I suggest reading the following article about the new encyclical:

    Some of its comments:

    Viewed in its most negative way, the encyclical is not a threat to the teaching authority of the Magesterium. The Magesterium’s teaching authority doesn’t extend to economic and scientific theory and to the extent the encyclical hitches the Pope’s authority to demonstrably fake and corrupt scientific research it simply beclowns Pope Francis and the Church. This is not a good thing, but neither is my Salvation put in jeopardy by refusing to go along with gaslighting.


    I, personally, think this encyclical is gravely misguided and will, in the long run, do much more damage to the credibility of the Church than it will affect “global warming.” Just because I think the Pope bought a supertanker-load of snake oil doesn’t mean that I disagree with him in principle. I don’t.


    Where we would part company is the prescription. I don’t think giving a Paraguayan campesino a piece of land where he can try to scratch out an existence; a piece of land that will eventually be subdivided among his children ensuring that they can’t support their families and the cycle of poverty is perpetuated. I don’t think it gives a man any particular security to know that his family is perpetually on the knife’s edge of starvation and where he has the inability to develop a surplus that can carry him through bad times. I don’t think it gives any great hope for access to “technical education, credit, insurance, and markets” when a man is engaged in subsistence farming. In fact, what time does he have for the first and what need does he have of the other? In my view, this statement endorses serfdom and dependence. The principles upon which we should base our discussion our human dignity and the ability to improve oneself so that another generation isn’t living on the verge of poverty. Disagreeing with the prescription proposed by the Magesterium is not the same as rejecting the teaching.

    I think the author makes some excellent points not only about the misguided philosophy of the economic social engineering and “environmental” aspects of the encyclical but its other messages, and provides a thoughtful way of looking at it.

    • M. Noonan June 23, 2015 / 2:10 pm

      Odd that he thinks someone owning and farming their own land is (a) dependent and (b) doomed to failure. With all the problems of farming, I still think that a farmer is better off than a low-paid drudge sent north to relieve a Ruling Class social problem…

      • Amazona June 23, 2015 / 8:59 pm

        Ever farm? It takes knowledge and experience, to start with—which is usually gotten by working on a family farm while growing up. It takes a certain amount of resources set aside to get through the bad times. It takes money to buy equipment. The land, labor and investment necessary to support a family are a lot more than people understand. And the author pointed out that the land given to the original recipient, even if it is enough to support his family, will be divided among his children when he dies, meaning that there is only one generation, two at the most, with enough land to provide even basic sustenance.

        I grew up in a farming family. When my father moved us to town, I spent summers with my cousins and helped with the farming and preserving necessary for them to get by. There were several children in the family, and they had a big garden, an orchard, and farm animals. We spent weeks every fall, picking and preserving fruits and vegetables. So let’s say a peasant is given enough land to grow enough to feed him and his family, and even given seed and hoes and a plow and a mule and some goats and cows and some chickens. Let’s assume he has the knowledge and the discipline to plant the seeds instead of eating them, and breed the livestock instead of eating it. He has to grow enough to feed his family and his livestock, because he has to keep those cows and goats and chickens alive and healthy enough to breed to provide eggs,milk and meat. Without his mule to pull the plow, his work is much harder if it can be done at all. So to survive he has to grow enough to keep this whole farm going. This assumes predictable and consistent harvests.

        When he dies, this land will be divided among his children, so each of them will have a fraction of what it took to keep the original family alive, presumably while producing families of their own. Without more land available to support these new families, they will starve. The American colonies were peopled by those who outgrew their homesteads and needed new places to settle. The American West provided such places when the colonies outgrew their land and the children or grandchildren of settlers needed to find land of their own to survive.

        Without a different possible future for the children of the original beneficiaries of this feel-good scheme, they will be as impoverished and starving as the peasants are now. Handouts of a few acres is not a solution because with each new generation more land will have to be found/confiscated to provide for them.

      • M. Noonan June 24, 2015 / 12:25 am

        The French peasantry found it very hard going, indeed, in post-Revolutionary France – but, they managed and eventually became prosperous. The Stolypin reforms very swiftly created a few million Russian peasant-proprietors who were just starting to do pretty well until Stalin decreed them “kulaks” and destroyed them all. My understanding of history is that when you give people a chance to work for themselves, they go to work for themselves and, on balance, do well out of it. The only thing worse than tenant-farming is slave-farming. Given the tenants a chance to own a plot of land and I think it will go better…oh, and about all the breeding like rabbits thus restoring rural poverty: didn’t work out that way for the French peasants…once freed from having to provide free labor to the noble landlords (and once responsible for their own plots of land) the French peasants started to limit the size of their families (and without birth control or abortion – or, indeed, what we call sex education…it is an odd thing: the peasants responded rationally to changed circumstances). Now, in military terms this worked out ill for France as they had fewer people than the Germans when they came knocking in 1914…but in terms of social policy, it worked out just right.

  5. Amazona June 25, 2015 / 9:45 am

    Another take on the encyclical. My observation is that ardent Catholics find it difficult, if not impossible, to separate the man from his position, and so find themselves under great emotional pressure to make excuses for his follies. This makes objective discussion of his errors very uncomfortable for them. Yet elevation to the papacy did not instantly, immediately, confer upon him any additional insights into politics, economics, science,etc. I have never heard that the candidates considered for election as pope were reviewed in those areas. I always thought it was based on spirituality, the ability to be a spiritual leader. This huge leap from “spiritual leader of his Church” to statesman, economic expert, environmental expert and political guru miraculously freed from any old prejudices related to how he grew up, the political environment of his development, etc just does not compute. Fame and a position of trust in one area hardly conveys expertise in others—think of Jane Fonda in a North Vietnamese tank of Sean Penn rowing around New Orleans with a shotgun.

    “……..the Fraser Institute prefaced “Religion, Wealth, and Poverty” (1990) by Jesuit scholar James V. Schall with this:

    The relatively sudden appearance of religion not primarily as worship or doctrine, but as social activism, has been not a little perplexing. Numerous sympathetic critics, many of the faithful, and interested observers sense that something is occurring with vast and unsettling implications for the well-being of the public order and for religion itself. They are not at all sure, however, that what is happening is itself in the best interests of religion or of the poor and outcast for whom it is said to be occurring.”

    • M. Noonan June 25, 2015 / 10:54 am

      But that is what the head of the Church has always been – and always must be. To the accusation that that Church is trying to influence all areas of life, the only plea possible is “guilty”. The Church IS for all areas of human life. Now, to be sure, just what practical steps we, the people, are to take to live life and govern States is up to us to decide – the Church won’t tell us what the top marginal income tax rate should be, for instance. But everything we as humans do has a moral significance, and thus the Church must provide teaching on all possible human actions.

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