Technocratic Model vs. An Integral and Integrated Vision

Chapter Three of Laudato Sí is entitled “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis;” it could well be called “Original Sin, Reprise.” Once again, humans have participated with God in creating things with enormous potential for good, in this case all that falls under the term “modern technology,” then proceeded to spend an inordinate amount of time distorting that potential goodness.  We have done it now to the point that we worship (there is hardly another word for it) “an undifferentiated and one-dimensional technocratic paradigm” [italics his], increasing the tendency of the scientific method as “a technique of possession, mastery and transformation” (L.S. 107) to the point that this paradigm devastatingly dominates the world economy. “The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings” (L.S. 109).

As if that critique were not disturbing enough, the Holy Father goes on to strike at the very root of the distortion, “an inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology” that has resulted in an “anthropocentrism” of mastery over rather than stewardship of the rest of Creation (L.S. 115-6).  (Notice how deeply ingrained the distortion is: we tend to say “creation” when we mean “everything except us.” The paradigm of dominance is woven into our everyday language.) Pope Francis wisely highlights the interconnectedness of the reality, and hence of the distortion: we cannot heal our relationship with the rest of creation in isolation, nor heal our human relationships without addressing the former: healing, like violence, is of a package (L.S. 119).

The counterpart of the technocratic model in which we are living according to Pope Francis in Chapter 3 is the need for a humanism with an integral and integrated vision, as Pope Francis explains,

We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. (LS, 141)

This integral and integrated vision of reality is urgently need right now because modernity img_0856based its great progress in the separation of the subject form the object. For Roberto Goizueta, theology professor at Boston College, modernity gave birth to “the autonomous agent of his or her own life” who does not just live in history but makes history. In this way “history is a product of the human activity or praxis.” The consequences of this view are reflected in our own language: “The modern subject ‘makes’ a living, ‘makes’ love, and strives to ‘make something’ of himself or herself.” This “making” of everything creates a separation of the subject from the object that Goizueta sees as a “precondition for the subject to control the object in order to manipulate it.”

The separation of the subject from the object implicit in the understanding of human activity as praxis has lead us to great advances in modernity. However, what caught Goizueta’s attention is the fact that “human beings can control and transform their natural and social environments, as well as their own lives,” which also carries with it the ideology of progress characteristic of modernity.

Thus, for Goizueta, modernity gave birth to the human subject as “maker” of history, as alienated from the object and able to “control” and “work on” his or her environment.

Human action–praxis, grounded in the separation of the subject from the object as modernity understood in Goizueta’s view has also “laid the foundation for the devastation of the environment”

This devastation of the environment which foundation was laid on by the separation of the object from the subject and that brought great progress, today is in need of an integral and  integrated  vison or what Pope Francis calls integral ecology, an approach to ecology that insist that environmental and social problems are interconnected, as Pope Francis explains,

We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. (LS, 139)

This integral and integrated approach to ecology described by Pope Francis implies an “economic ecology” which considers that   “the protection of the environment is in fact ‘an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.’” (L.S. 141). A “social ecology” that understand that” the health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life.” Because as Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas Veritate says, “Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment.” (51) Finally, this integral and integrated vision of ecology requires a “cultural ecology” that lead to accept that “Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment” (L.S. 143).

Nelson Araque teaches History of Latino Catholics in the Ministry to Latino Catholics Certificate Program and Pamela Hedrick teaches Sacred Scripture and spirituality forSaint Joseph’s College Online.

Maine: The “Least” and the “Most” Christian State

MAPThe Huffington Post reported on the to-date most comprehensive statistical study of religious bodies in the U.S. and, specifically, a state by state look at the percentage of Christians, as self-reported.* Maine fared the worst, with only 27% identifying as Christian, while Utah was at the top with 78%. Northern New England is among the least Christian in the nation, according to this 2010 study, and I would venture that at least the Maine stats are lower in 2015 than 2010. Saint Joseph’s College is the only Catholic college remaining in Maine, and there are but three Catholic high schools, two in Portland and one about 45 minutes away, in a state that covers a huge geographical area.

When I moved to Maine almost three years ago, it was a shock to the system. I had to work harder at being “intentionally” Catholic. Most churches have only one Mass on Sundays, and it is even more difficult to get to Mass on Holy Days of Obligation. Because of the shortage of priests, they have become like the “priests on horseback” of old, traveling great distances to attend to the sacramental and pastoral needs of the faithful in parishes consisting of “clusters” of individual churches several towns apart. I taught the high school faith formation class in the local church, with a scant four regular students attending, all girls in grades 9-12, one of whom was my daughter. This is vastly different from the metro-NY area from which I came, where there was a palpable Catholic rhythm to life that was easy to spot for the aware. I could roll out of bed any time on Sunday and find an available Mass in any number of churches close to home. Daily Mass was a breeze, with so many options, and just five minutes from my house was a shrine with priests to hear Confessions from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and if the penitent needed absolution right away, a priest would answer the door until 11:00 p.m.

SJCSaint Joseph’s College has become a Catholic haven, of sorts, for me, because during the school year we are blessed with a priest on campus who offers weekday Masses and a Sunday afternoon Mass that late sleepers can appreciate. Everywhere I look I see crucifixes, meatless cafeteria-food Fridays in Lent, and opportunities for prayer. I pass the welcoming statue of the Venerable Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, and the college campus regularly peppered with quotes from her, such as:

Mercy receives the ungrateful again and again, and is never weary of pardoning them.

If the love of God really reigns in your heart, it will show itself in the exterior.

No occupation should withdraw our minds from God. Our whole life should be a continual act of praise and prayer.

As I turn into the campus driveway every morning (aptly named McAuley Drive), I pass the sign bearing our patron’s name and offer a little prayer to Saint Joseph for the well-being of our college community.

While the state of Maine may be the least self-identified “churched” population, the “state” of Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Community may be among the most “churched” population in the nation. Our large body of online theology students comes from all over the United States and beyond its borders to learn and drink in the beauty of the Catholic faith. Our on-campus and online theology faculty possess the Mandatum to teach according to Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Our theology family-at-a-distance, by virtue of being tethered in mind, heart, and spirit to our beautiful campus on the shores of Sebago Lake—dare I say—maybe inches us towards the “most” Christian state—if not in the whole perhaps in the little plot of land in Standish, Maine, where Saint Joseph’s College calls home.

Patricia Sodano Ireland is Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Program Director of Online Theology Programs at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.