Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jamie Manson on Laudato Si': "How Has the Church's Paternalistic Need for Power Over the Sexualities of Its Flock Exacerbated the Conditions of the Poor?"

Jamie Manson notes that Laudato Si' does not acknowledge that having access to contraception has alleviated both poverty and ecological stress for poor women in some developing nations. Instead, Pope Francis suggests that the greed of the developed nations manifests itself in policies designed to curb population growth in the global South by pushing "reproductive health." This in a world in which, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 220 million women in developing countries do not have access to contraception and family planning  services . . . . 

And then she states, 

Throughout the encyclical, the pope calls on those with financial and political influence to take responsibility for protecting the environment. "What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?" Francis asks. 
It is a question that also needs to be asked of the church's hierarchy, whose financial and political power rivals most global institutions: How has the Vatican's rigid refusal to change its teaching on contraception kept it from taking urgent action to spare both the poor and our beleaguered planet?  
Francis wants the whole human community to be accountable for the state of our environment. But that call must include the Vatican, too. How has the Roman Catholic church's ban on contraception deepened environmental degradation? How has the church's paternalistic need for power over the sexualities of its flock exacerbated the conditions of the poor?

As I noted several days ago, Laudato Si' insists that the global ecological problem involves everyone, and any effective solution to this problem must therefore draw everyone into the circle of conversation that crafts such a solution. The encylical places a strong and radical stress on the notion of relationality. It calls on human beings to begin to understand the rest of the cosmos as family, as Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

It asks us to stop treating the created world (and one another) in an objectifying way that diminishes the sacred worth of the created world and of other individuals. And yet it refuses to invite into its own circle of conversation the voices of those most strongly affected by poverty and ecological imbalance throughout the world — women, and poor women in particular.

How are we to pretend, I must keep asking — I have no choice, do I? — that this encyclical makes a stunning breakthrough in addressing the ecological crisis of the world right now when it will not yield an inch of the dysfunctional stance the Catholic hierarchy insists on taking vis-a-vis the rights of women, vis-a-vis contraception, etc.?  How are we to pretend that something is not critically awry in the notion of relationality as employed by the Catholic hierarchy at present when it refuses to entertain in that notion the full humanity of women and of LGBT human beings?

Much of the rest of the world is willing to talk about these issues, for God's sake. Why will the leaders of the Catholic church not do so? And why do the powerful, privileged men who function as their primary interpreters for the media give them a free pass as they play this ugly game that in so many ways harms the church they claim to love, and is now resulting in the mass exodus of an entire generation of young people?

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