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.

The Ordinariness of Sainthood

Don’t call me a saint – I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.

Dorothy Day

A painting by Nicholas Brian Tsai.

A painting by Nicholas Brian Tsai.

One of Dorothy Day’s better known quotes, some interpret it to mean that she didn’t think much of the saints and of sainthood in general. Indeed, there are those in the Catholic Worker Movement that she co-founded with Peter Maurin who do not support her cause for canonization, claiming she would not want it, and that the money spent on the process should be given to the poor.

Yet, her attitude toward sainthood is exactly what makes her so relevant for us today in the post-Vatican II church. Her remark is directed at those who see sainthood as something extraordinary that can then be dismissed by the average person as something out of reach. They are happy to call her a saint for serving the poor, because then they don’t have to, since they would never presume themselves to be that holy.

But Dorothy didn’t want her work with the poor to be dismissed as something extraordinary. She understood it as simply her duty as a Christian to care for the needs of her brothers and sisters. And she wondered why all Christians didn’t feel the same way, why they all didn’t love their neighbor as themselves, and why they did not act on those feelings. Wasn’t that the message of the Gospel?

“You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

To be perfect, then, is to be like God. It is to love perfectly, as God loves. Only God is holy. All holiness comes from God, and it is given to humanity as a gift. A saint is one who is made holy, or sanctified. Saints are not holy by their own efforts. They are made holy by God as a gift, and their efforts are their acceptance of, appreciation of, and cooperation in this gift.

Holiness depends on one’s relationship with God. People are holy to the degree that they are united to God. By perfectly holy, then, we mean intimately united to the Trinitarian God (the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit) so much so that there is a oneness of heart, mind and will. In this intimate union, we are able to love perfectly as God loves. Pope Francis tells us of the need for a relationship with God on this road to holiness.

Being holy is not a privilege for the few, as if someone had a large inheritance; in Baptism we all have an inheritance to be able to become saints. Holiness is a vocation for everyone. Thus we are all called to walk on the path of holiness, and this path has a name and a face: the face of Jesus Christ. He teaches us to become saints.

Pope Francis, Angelus,  November 1, 2013

One who is sanctified possesses a yearning for God, an intimacy with God, perseverance in prayer, humility of heart, and a love for others. All of us are called to this holiness. Each of us is called to this intimate relationship with God. This is the beauty of relationship – each one is unique. God communicates with us uniquely. His message is the same – God will not contradict himself. He only speaks the truth. But his communication with us is so personal, so “meant just for us”.

We must strive to unite our heart, mind, and will to that of Christ – to love as Christ loves, to think as Christ thinks, and to desire as Christ desires. This seems rather extraordinary (as those who dismissed Dorothy Day as such), but it is, in fact, what is expected of every baptized person. The grace of our baptism empowers us to be like Christ. We need only to cooperate in it.

We are all called to be great saints, don’t miss the opportunity.

Mother Angelica

Carmina Chapp is Associate Director of Online Theology Programs at Saint Joseph’s College.

The Joy of Love: A Joy to Read?

“I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text” (Amoris Laetitia 7). Pope Francis gives this great advice in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, which is certainly the most important to follow for interpreting the document as a whole. The pope encourages families to read the document “patiently and carefully” (Ibid). And it seems clear that Pope Francis desires all people to read it since, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight” (Ibid., emphasis added).

It contains an authentic vision for marriage. Pope Francis constantly challenges culturally accepted norms which have hurt family life. This document is strange in that you could find yourself saying “yes, yes yes,” in many instances. But then after reading the document in its entirety, several ambiguous points leave you feeling uneasy for their lack of clarity. Let’s start with the clarity.

The pope warns against “an extreme individualism which weakens family bonds…” (AL 33). Pope Francis thanks families who remain faithful to the Gospel. He encourages and speaks warmly about parents who raise children with special needs (cf. AL 47). The pope is clear that same-sex relationships cannot be equated to marriage because, “No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society” (AL 52). Later Pope Francis affirms, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (AL 251). The pope speaks out against “various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences…’” (AL 56). He then says, “Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator” (AL 56).

Pope Francis constantly refers to his predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, in citing Humanae Vitae. Spouses must respect the procreative meaning of sex and, “no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning…” (AL 80). Artificial contraception is not a possibility. Similarly, the pope condemns abortion (cf. AL 83). In rather strong words he explains to parents that, “it matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations” (AL 170). The couple must respect life in all circumstances.

Chapter Four serves as an exegesis of St. Paul’s great explanation of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. The pope gives practical advice, “never to let the day end without making peace in the family” (AL 104), which calls to mind Scripture (cf. Ephesians 4:26). In this chapter he challenges how the word “love” is “commonly misused” (AL 89). This is clear in the fact that a husband could say “I love my wife and I love that song” in the same sentence. It does not require sacrifice to “love” a song, but it does require self-gift and personal sacrifice to love one’s spouse.

Joy of loveAt various points Pope Francis clearly and unambiguously reaffirms that a marriage bond is indissoluble and he also explained that this should be seen as a gift, not a burden (cf. AL 62). The pope actually quotes the Old Testament book of Malachi, “For I hate divorce, says the Lord” (Malachi 2:14-16; AL 123), and later goes on to proclaim that, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling” (AL 246). He minces no words when he describes the reality of divorce and also the affect it can have on children.

But there are some statements in this document that are ambiguous. Please call to mind that the pope has encouraged everyone to read Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia. And I propose that that is the problem, not everyone has the ability to interpret what the pope is suggesting. At times it seems you need a degree in Moral Theology or Canon Law to get at the heart of what he’s saying. There’s ambiguity around the issue of what constitutes a mortal sin. “Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than ignorance of the rule” (AL 301). In other words, some people who commit grave sins are not guilty of mortal sin, beyond cases of invincible ignorance. Pope Francis does cite the Catechism for this proposal: “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735). One problem with what the pope proposes is that he doesn’t seem to address the fact that any sin, whether venial or mortal, will affect the soul and the individual’s relationship with God, albeit in different ways. The Catechism also teaches, that venial sin, “impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good” (CCC 1863).

Many people were turning to the pope for clarity on whether or not civilly divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Holy Communion, even though this has been addressed by St. John Paul II (cf. Familiaris Consortio 84). The pope encourages help in the Sacraments. He reminds priests that the confessional is not a “torture chamber” and that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the week” (AL 305 [footnote 351]). However, we don’t get a clear explanation of whether or not civilly divorced and remarried persons can receive Holy Communion. And again, keep in mind that the pope encouraged all people to read this section of the document.

Amoris Laetitia is a document which provides great encouragement to families. Certain passages merit extremely close reading, such as the passages about civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. But you can’t judge the entire document based on a couple of paragraphs and footnotes. Overall it was a joy to read it and I encourage you to do so “patiently and carefully.” Let’s continue to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read and unfold what Pope Francis has taught us in The Joy of Love.

Edward Trendowski is Director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Providence and teaches pastoral theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Goal & Path Simultaneously

Today is the feast of St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660). Another post-Reformation era exemplar of holiness, St. Vincent most memorably served the poor.  His Congregation of St Vincent de Paulthe Mission, the Vincentians (or “Lazarists”, named after their founding at the St. Lazarus prior in 1633), and a women’s order he co-founded with St. Louise de Marillac, the Daughters of Charity, sought to serve the poor’s spiritual and physical needs.  Interestingly, together these two orders covered the needs of the French poor in both city and countryside.  They did so based on St. Vincent’s personal example.  Throughout his life, whether he tutored a wealthy family’s children, advised seminary training, or directed spiritual retreats, St. Vincent treated all equally.  Having been sold into slavery for two years during his twenties, St. Vincent’s missionary zeal knew few boundaries.  He addressed the spiritual needs of those whom he encountered, wherever he met them.  One online biographer concludes: “It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of this servant of God. Charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age.” The parish society bearing his name, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which has accomplished so much for America’s poor (as well as in other nations!), was founded in Paris in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam.  This group, too, takes its inspiration from St. Vincent’s charity.

Charity should be everybody’s predominant virtue, and not just because St. Vincent de Paul embodied it so well.  The Catechism teaches that charity is “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (#1822).  Christ enjoined us to “love as He does, even our enemies,to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself” (#1825).  Clearly St. Vincent de Paul sought this last command throughout his life.  Charity is, the Catechism continues, “the form of the virtues…it is the source and goal of their Christian practice” (#1827).  Elsewhere the Catechism proclaims: “Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights.  It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it.  Charity inspires a life of self-giving” (#1889).  So much for thinking of charity merely as dropping a few coins in the Salvation Army Christmas bucket!  Charity is a virtue before it is an action, but the two are obviously related.

How fitting, therefore, that today concludes Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States.  In the days leading up to this momentous occasion, more than one media or Pope Francispolitical figure took issue with Pope Francis’ stark call to serve people, and most immediately the poor, not ideologies.  This is what one blogger has aptly called “Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome,” the inability of some—Catholic or not—to accept Francis’ criticism of capitalist economies.  Despite evidence that many of Francis’ remarks follow similar ones made by Pope Benedict XVI, these critics reserve for themselves alone the right to select Pope Francis’ legitimate message.  In other words, they are not charitable, nor, apparently do they much appreciate charity.

Bearing all that in mind, today’s readings might come into better focus.  As Christ reminded the disciples in St. Mark’s gospel, the one who is not against us is for us.  Pope Francis, who took his name after another saint who joyfully served the poor, is surely “for us”…us all, actually.  He extols charity to both poor and rich.  The latter, though, require the charity of being reminded that their material possessions are not, ultimately, their own.  That resonates with St. James’ stark cry against the abuses committed by the wealthy.  The Catechism does insist that charity requires, among other things, fraternal correction (#1829).  So charity might help us hear more clearly the Holy Father’s message.  Meanwhile, charity will also move us to make our love of neighbor and the poor and our enemies all the more real.  Pope Francis merely extols a path which is also our goal. St. Vincent de Paul’s saintly example of charity reminds us of this.

Guest blogger Jeffrey Marlett blogs at Spiritual Diabetes.

Love and Education

Worth Revisiting WednesdayThis post originally appeared on August 31, 2014. With a new school year beginning, it is worth a revisit!

On Father’s Day, I posted a piece on God’s paternal love for us, drawing from both the Hebrew Scriptures (Ex 34:6-8) and the New Testament (Lk 15:11-32). Recently, I read a presentation delivered by Pope Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, entitled “The Educational Process” which describes the relationship between teacher and student in similar terms. In this paper, Pope Francis describes the difficulties which teachers, especially college and university professors, can encounter that derive from the contemporary culture which we inhabit. These difficulties include facing special interests within the educational system which “are alien to education itself,” and the ever-increasing phenomenon of the participants in the educational process (i.e., students, teachers, and parents) becoming disengaged with their own formation and the formation of those in their charge. “We have become spectators,” Pope Francis writes, “and ceased to be protagonists of our personal history and our life.”

Supper at EmmausTo bridge these divisions, Pope Francis proposes a pedagogy of “encounter.” By this he means that the educational process ought to be characterized by a type of love. Drawing from the New Testament, and the Greek learning inherited by the early Church, Pope Francis distinguishes between three types of love. Eros is a type of love which seeks its own satisfaction. Naturally, it has come to be associated with romantic love but is certainly not limited to that sphere. Whenever we have a deep desire which seeks consummation – and many of the mystics speak of the transformation and sanctification of this desire for God – it is, so to speak, erotic. Agape, on the other hand, is a type of love which is self-sacrificing. It expects nothing in return, but wills the good of the other. Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross is the example par excellence of agapic love; so much so that, in the early Church, the commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist was referred to as the ‘love (agape) feast.’

School of AthensBut education is not built upon either of these senses of love. A third type of love, which is the foundation of a pedagogy of “encounter,” is philia. Derived from the Greek word for ‘friend,’ philia is a love which is neither totally self-seeking nor totally self-sacrificing. Rather, philial love is given with the expectation of reciprocity; thereby forming a communion of persons. “It is a love of relationship,” Pope Francis writes, “participation, communication, and friendship.” Pope Francis is not advocating, however, that professors become “BFF’s” with their students. Philial love in this context is characterized by a concern for the good of the student and a recognition of the good in the teacher. It is much closer to the relationship between a parent and a child than the relationship of peers to each other. It is, one might say, covenantal.

Pope Francis sees this love as the foundation of a pedagogy of “encounter” because it is only within this type of friendship that both teacher and student can “encounter” each other as persons. Within this friendship, the student is not simply ‘student x,’ but Joseph. The teacher is not simply ‘my professor for subject y,’ but Dr. Mary. Again, as Pope Francis writes: “For this educational encounter to happen, we teachers […] need affection. Trust in your affection. Love what you do and love your students.”

Christs Charge to PeterIn closing, the type of love which Pope Francis speaks of as the foundation of education is most uniquely illustrated at the end of St. John’s Gospel (21:15-19). After his glorious resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Naturally, and as one reads in every scriptural commentary on this passage, Jesus asks this question of Peter three times as a way of redeeming Peter’s three denials of him on Holy Thursday. But what is lost to the English reader is that Jesus asks Peter if he ‘loves’ (agapas) him twice. The final question to Peter is: “Do you love (phileis) me?” In other words, Jesus twice asks Peter if he would sacrifice himself for him, but on the third occasion he asks Peter: “But are we friends?” It is not enough for Peter to repent of his denials by offering himself for Jesus. No. In order to “tend Jesus’ sheep,” the two must have an active, living relationship: a friendship. In order to form others in Christ, one cannot simply view one’s ministry as a sacrifice. There must be present a friendship with Christ that one wishes to share with others. Similarly, a true education cannot be founded solely upon the idea of serving the other – let alone the simple communication of data – but upon a living and relational encounter: a friendship.

Anthony Coleman teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.