The Pope’s Encyclical

The first thing I noticed about Pope Francis’s Encyclical is that the following people are screaming at him to shut up:

Ross Douthat thinks Papa Francisco is an alarmist who hates modernity. He especially objects to implications that Capitalism is hurting the poor, because even poor people have toothbrushes now, or something.

Rich Lowry criticizes the Pope’s “bizarre ramblings” and “apocalyptic climate alarmism.” Oh, and the Pope doesn’t appreciate modernity. I think Douthat and Lowry may have cribbed off each other.

Michael Goodwin of the New York Post says the Pope is out of touch. Well, Goodwin would know out of touch. Goodwin says that “­archaeological researchers found plaque on the teeth of people who lived 400,000 years ago,” and this proves the Pope is wrong. And you can’t argue with that. No, really. You should just walk away from it and hope for his sake Goodwin isn’t carrying sharp objects.

Some guy named Tim Worstall at Forbes says the Pope has gone “horribly wrong with his economics.” But Worstall misses the point. As Worstall says, economists don’t think the earth’s resources are infinite. But business and industry certainly behave as if that’s exactly what they think, and that’s what the Pope was addressing.

And so on.

This is not to say I don’t have issues with the encyclical also. His Holiness is still opposed to population control measures — still nixing birth control and abortion — and he threw in what sounds to me like an utterly unnecessary dig at transgenderism.

However, I appreciate that he feels taking care of the earth is a moral and religious imperative, not just a nice sentiment for Earth Day. He understands that, yes, capitalism does hurt the poor, and “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” Basically, our consumerist culture is causing depletion of earth’s resources while not providing for the basic needs of the poor, like water. Addressing this will require a real shift in our values and how we do business with each other. Yeah, pretty much.

17 thoughts on “The Pope’s Encyclical

  1. Little Ricky Santorum’s head was exploding, too. I can imagine him texting Papa Francis, “Hey, Your Holiness Sir: PLEASE more misogyny, less common sense.”

  2. These @ssholes are the same ones who would have burned Galileo at the stake!

    I can’t take it anymore….
    I just can’t take it anymore

    If ‘suicide was painless,’ I’d have been dead decades ago…

  3. “Modernity”

    That must be the GOP/FAUX talking point buzzword of the week. What really drives the wing-nuts crazy about the Pope coming out as a Climate Believer is that it weakens their fall back position. When cornered many wing-nuts will pull the god card, saying that it is ridiculous for man to think his actions can change the Earth’s climate? I’ve heard from more than a few fundies of Christian flavor. That argument gets a little weaker with the Popes Encyclical, I’ve never quite figured out how the Pope can speak for god, but as long as he’s on the right side of this argument then so be it

  4. I went to a Catholic mass on Sunday, where the priest talked quite a bit about the encyclical. It weighs in at 183 pages, and he repeatedly encouraged us to read it. The encyclical itself was written in, we were told, an Umbrian dialect of Italian, the same language spoken by St Francis of Assisi, who is quoted throughout the work. The argument of the encyclical is primarily theological (as you’d expect), not scientific nor economic, although those domains are part of it.

  5. I went to a Catholic mass on Sunday, where the priest talked quite a bit about the encyclical. It weighs in at 183 pages, and he repeatedly encouraged us to read it.

    I find that encouraging. Much less so the Catholic GOP candidates’ need to embrace older teachings that enable them to bully the poor, women, and gays, while rejecting newer teachings that stand up to greed on behalf of our future as a species. Not so much “cafeteria Catholicism” as the junk-food variety.

  6. It’s interesting that people try to create a dichotomy. There are a lot of different variations of ways in which productivity can be rewarded. Pure free market capitalism is not a good one – that will lead to concentrations of wealth, which will lead to greater concentrations, and, over time, will tend toward feudalism, especially with ever-living corporations.

    (Did you know that the original notion of a corporation was for certain risky ventures? Like: if a sea voyage is *really* risky, no one will be a partner if they could have to bear the whole cost of the ship and the cargo. So, a limit on liability was created for these particular sorts of ventures. It’s only in the modern day where a corporation can just be a corporation because it’s advantageous.)

    I’ll grant that we need some level of a free market, especially for luxuries (if you can get people to pay $500 an ounce for your little fish eggs, and your fish eggs are sustainably harvested, go for it!), and the distortions in the market should generally be treated with subsidies instead of controls.

    But the notion that “if you have money, the lives of people are yours to spend as long as they’re damn fool enough to trust you, and the damage you do, maliciously or inadvertently, should be ignored or subject to tiny fines” is toxic and antithetical to Christianity. (The last is MHO, of course.)

  7. I freely admit that I haven’t read the articles yet. I know that I should, but, I was just about to click the link to Ross Douthat’s article and a little chinbearded face appeared in my mind’s eye, and I wasn’t strong enough to go on.

    I know our society has the collective attention span of the average fruitfly, and that if the explanation of something requires more than fifteen seconds and doesn’t contain, sex, violence or some other strong emotional spectacle, the average American has checked out of the discussion in favor of something with a little more spice. But, so far none of the “conservatives,” even the “devout Catholics” among them seem to answer the Pope’s assertions with any sense of having revisited or rethought their positions. They just seem to have searched for a passable way of escaping the process.

    This may sound lazy in light of my admission at the beginning, but I don’t think that I am in any danger of missing a well framed argument or moral insight by skipping Ross Douthat or Rich Lowry. I suppose that I should try to summon the courage, regardless. Tomorrow is another day.

    To paraphrase something that Blackadder once said to Baldrick about the Renaissance, “So, then, the Sermon on the Mount, was something that happened for other people.”

  8. Goatherd, you shouldn’t feel bad. There’s a reason that there’s a faux-argumentative fallacy known as “JAQing off” – i.e., “I’m Just Asking Questions!” until the other party gives up in exhaustion.

    You don’t really have to encounter and refute every JAQoff out there, nor every bad argument, if you’re looking for honest-to-goodness truth. And if you do seek them out, you’re wasting precious time you could spend on actually truth-seeking.

    It’s good that *someone* is seeking out the Douthats of the world (thank you, Maha), but you shouldn’t feel that *you* have to.

    (I know – some of these folks don’t “just ask question” but you know that they’re going to raise points that aren’t directly relevant, aren’t entirely truthful, etc.. Because face it – there’s no cost for lying, and that means, from an economic perspective, truth telling is for suckers.)

  9. “I freely admit that I haven’t read the articles yet”

    Are we supposed to read the articles? I’m sure it may be a surprise given the in-depth insightfulness of many of my word turds but I sometimes don’t read the linked wing-nut articles either? Maha’s succinct summary’s are often just the perfect serving of authors like Douhat, Lowery for me!

  10. Uncledad, I think we ARE supposed to read the articles. I’ve got the memo here somewhere…

    LHW’s comments bring up some of the bitterness of our circumstances. At some point in our history, capitalism, for all the faults currently on display, might have truly been the best system that was within reach socially and technologically. But, as the means of production is shifted to robotics, 3-D printers and other technologies that are surely around the corner, it may soon be too inefficient and too technologically obsolete and socially destructive to retain. Additionally, the expanding market that feeds the process will have to confront the pressure of overpopulation and more difficult access to resources. Unrestrained capitalism makes little sense these days, and soon it may make no sense at all. But, the pursuit of profit is the methamphetamine of the masters of the universe and we’re all along for the ride, hoping to be chosen for the waitstaff or something.

    I wish I had some idea of alternative “ways that productivity can be rewarded,” I don’t, really, just some scenes from old sci-fi movies and such. But, fortunately, there are much better minds at work on the problem. Continuing along our current path just seems to be one big suicide pact.

    An inchoate quip?:

    Sometimes a potential joke or quip bubbles up and it seems off balance, fragmentary, or otherwise not quite there. So, it sinks back down into my subconscious wastebasket where it probably belongs. So, maybe some of you funnier folks can do something with it.

    There is a lot of talk about the “best generation,” and the “worst generation.” When you look at shifting demands of history, it’s hard to pick out just who the “best generation” was. But, I am pretty sure that the “worst generation” would be the one with Mike Huckabee in it.

  11. Goatherd: It’s early here and I had a stressful day yesterday so I may not make much sense but who is to judge “best” and “worst” generation? It seems old people like me are always musing and talking about the “good ol’ days”. I know I have a lot of trouble with technology such as this computer I’m using right now and I have to admit I think life would be much simpler if we all still rode horses. Maybe a little stinkier though. However, we can only live in the now. I agree Mike Huckabee is hard to tolerate; he probably would fit better in another time, maybe back with the cavemen but I see him as a symbol of a dying breed. They are trying desperately to hold on to a way of thinking that is destined to change. So they scream and rage and get attention from other idiots but people (like you, me and the rest of Maha’s regulars) can recognize the futility of his ideas and actions. A lot of us are older but sometimes with age comes wisdom. At least I hope that’s true of myself. Down through the ages, there have always been people who realized the truth no matter what society or culture says. Even though I am not a Bible enthusiast, I see the story of Jesus as one of those. He talked about love and taking care of one another. Few wanted to listen because they wanted to hold on to their view and he was threatening to them. So Mike Huckabee who professes to be a “Christian” is not following the precepts of Jesus whom he loves so much.
    I know I’m rambling so I will stop but just want to say the only thing we can be sure of is change. It’s hard sometimes but it’s part of nature and being human. So if Mike Huckabee cannot change, no matter what generation he belongs to, he will become extinct as will others like him. Hooray!!!!

  12. Actually Granny, I totally agree with you, all the talk about the best, worst, or other other terms used to rank generations has never seemed valid to me. I guess it’s been a couple decades since I first heard my father’s generation referred to as the “best,” even though the concept of there even being such a thing as a “generation” hadn’t quite caught on until the pace of technology was such that parents and their children grew up if sufficiently different worlds. The concept of a generation itself has always seemed artificial to me, and the idea of ranking them, absurd. Some events bind people into a cohort. World War two for people my parents age and Vietnam for my cohort. We all had to march down to the Draft Board and sign up, that bound us all together, some of us went and some of us didn’t, that broke us apart again. Now, we all worry that the world is about to end, some of us by global warming and others because the of Rapture Index. I hope that someday soon, we get our answer!

    I certainly don’t envy the young people starting today. For all the trials and tribulations my generation might have had, we also saw some dramatic change and some amazing achievements. We had some very good reasons for optimism and hope. I think that I would be a lot more cynical if I were young today.

    Each generation, if there is really any such thing, does the best it can with what it has. The circumstances of history change, the demands change, the resources change. One of the resources involves the concept of humor.

    That reminds me, I have this idea for a joke, that I can’t quite get right. There are these two old guys eating dinner with their wives, and one of the women asks, “Why is it that you guys always …” Maybe, I better quit while I am ahead.

  13. One of the resources involves the concept of humor

    That’s why I was glad to see Donald Trump electing to ride shotgun in the GOP clown car. Like an exotic spice he’s going to bring out the full flavor of the GOP stew. It kinda gives meaning to the old saying…You’re known by the company you keep…Birds of a feather?

  14. Swami: I agree about Trump. I am looking forward to a lot of laughs if he sees it through. “Birds of a feather”? Is that what he has on his head?

  15. grannyeagle,
    I believe that his toupee is made from the fur off off of a dead ferret.

    I think he doesn’t realize that Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone wore “coonskins caps,” and not ferret toupee’s.

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