Why I Welcome Laudato Si’ | Dr. Leroy Huizenga | CWR
Francis' encyclical may have problems here and there, but it’s our job as Catholics first to listen, to read the encyclical, to pray through it, to interpret it faithfully
I'm a Benedict XVI man. I came into the Catholic Church thanks largely to his witness—his way of doing theology, his confrontation with modernity, and above all his teaching on the centrality of liturgy. Many of my convert friends and younger priests would say the same. Francis has been an adjustment, and while we read Benedict and Francis in continuity with real integrity, they are different men and different popes, certainly regarding matters formal. Ignoring that fact is dishonest.
You’d never know it by perusing the Internet, unless you’re extremely discriminating and selective, but many who were initially skeptical or confused find themselves warming to Francis. Because if you’re careful—if you read reliable sources, do some thinking, and interpret the Holy Father with that highest of theological virtues, charity—you find that most complaints about Francis are ill-informed and off-base, the fruit of suspicion, not faith; of ideology, not fidelity.
Take, for instance, the matter of episcopal appointments. It may sometimes seem that Francis is so big on collegiality he chooses bishops and cardinals from all sorts of philosophical wings of the Church (including some who really need to give the Catechism a good, solid read and think long and hard about what they really believe) as if the Church’s Tradition were simply the aggregate sum of the opinion of the world’s episcopate as currently constituted. But some of the most controversial appointments appear to be working out rather well, much better, at least, than the reactionary right feared. Conversely, some of the bishops appointed by John Paul II and then Benedict have had serious issues with fidelity, with governance, and with rhetoric (“hirsute flabmeisters” comes to mind).
Binary thinking is problematic. It’s not Catholic. Black and white thinking is indeed a problem, but good people default to it because (for good reason) they fear the opposite is the raw relativism of limitless shades of grey. That opposition is itself a binary. But the Truth shines in vivid living color, radiant as the light of God himself, neither black or white nor grey; textured, not flat; analog, not digital. Pitting Benedict against Francis runs that binary risk, and rejecting an encyclical out of hand (as many have indicated they would do) before it’s even released is binary ideological insanity.
Encyclicals are not Holy Writ; they are not divine revelation as such. But they are authoritative interpretations for the present moment, drawing on the past and leaving a legacy for the future.