SPECIAL: Blase Bonpane on Pope Francis 2nd Encyclical Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You)

BLASE BONPANE, Director Office of the Americas (OOA)

LizardBlase Bonpane Comments on The 2nd Encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You) On the Care of Our Common Homepale blue horiz

Pope Francis receives a typical sombrero from Bolivian President Evo Morales during a World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015. The word "Tahuichi" is from the Tupi-Guarani and means "Big Bird". REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi - RTX1JSSB
Pope Francis receives a typical sombrero from Bolivian President Evo Morales during a World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015. The word “Tahuichi” is from the Tupi-Guarani and means “Big Bird”. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi – RTX1JSSB


[box type=”bio”] Although the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, what he has to say resonates across all religions, all national boundaries and goes to the planet-wide human condition. It is for this reason that Blase Bonpane has dedicated his life to advance, through secular and religious struggle, the principles of this encyclical.—- Haskell Wexler [/box]



COMMENTARY/ PART 1 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2 COMMENTARY/ PART 2 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 17 COMMENTARY/ PART 3 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 34
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 49

Note: This commentary by Blase Bonpane is a text copy of three radio broadcasts during the months of June and July of 2015. (Broadcasts are included in this transcripted version). His program, WORLD FOCUS, is broadcast on the Pacifica Network by way of KPFK, Los Angeles and airs every Sunday at 10:00am.


Commentary on the Pope’s Encyclical – Our Common Home/ Part 1

June 21, 2015

The Pope has a letter for us about the environment, and it certainly shows some of the implications of Liberation Theology and the preferential option for the poor. And it’s very clear in the statement made ahead of time and in the encyclical itself that what he’s looking at is how we liberate the poor from the oppression in which they are living. And he blames part of it on a consumerist model, which he said is depleting resources to the detriment of the poor, and living simpler lives is called for. This is about our common home, this planet we live on.

The environment and the poor have been eagerly awaiting this. Scientists and environmentalists consider this a major event. We should read it carefully and see what we might accept or not accept. This is an important moment to say that the Pope is a liberation theologian. Some of the New York Times headlines have implied that. He has certainly taken some of the issues from liberation theology, but like everything, there is an evolution, and things moved rapidly ahead and we cannot presume that the Pope, even Francis, would approve of everything in the direction that liberation theology is going. Every idea that is new in church and state, it seems, has been condemned. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas wrote a definitive book on theology using Aristotle as a model for logic, and it became a forbidden book because Aristotle was an “infidel.”

So we’ve seen those condemnations over the years. Father Gutierrez, who wrote the book Theology of Liberation, was marginalized until Francis called him in to talk about what all this meant. So, theology does evolve. For example, if I had asked a question while in seminary at a dogmatic theology class about limbo – if I said, “Professor, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, that unbaptized children go to a place of natural happiness but would be deprived of the beatific vision, I can’t imagine dumber” – well, do you think I would have been retained by my congregation? At the same time, I could ask the question today and it would be said that, well, we don’t talk about limbo anymore. We talked about it for centuries, and made many parents of unbaptized babies very unhappy, and had special places in cemeteries for the unbaptized, but let’s forget that.

The point is that theology has evolved. And although, I would make no claim that the theology of liberation has been totally accepted by Pope Francis, the important thing is that he has accepted the idea of a preferential option for the poor. That’s a great move forward because if government would follow, first on their agenda would be, “what do we do about the homeless?” So in order to get a handle on this, I would like to give a view of liberation theology and where I think it is going, what it looks like today – without claiming that this is the theology of our pope. And I’d like to share with you something that developed in war zones, where there can be many delays.

During the Contra War one evening our delegation had such repose on the outskirts of Managua. It was in response to numerous questions about liberation theology, and this is my observation made at that time. This is why I’m saying that I’m not claiming that Pope Francis would agree with this. But this is where the theology is going at this time, in my belief.

Liberation theology is a response to many things associated with organized religion. Liberation theology is an attempt to discover an authentic theology removed from the trappings of empire. The Roman Empire that crucified Jesus became the model for the church established in His name. More of us learned about religion as an imperial matter. From the top down. Our religious views have been impacted by capitalism, salvation is a present enterprise. God and myself. My personal savior. My personal prophet. Churches have focused on personal sin. Guilt is wholesaled, salvation is retailed. Liberation theology was developed in places like Guatemala, where we worked as priests, and understood religion as something more than church and sacrament. Having tens of thousands of parishioners, we could have spent day and night administering the rituals of the church.


I had my awakening in the community of Aguacatan in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Suppose five hundred indigenous people want to go to confession. Let’s not do this individually; let’s celebrate forgiveness and reconciliation for everyone attending this ceremony. I didn’t want to continue baptizing malnourished children. Was God going to throw these suffering innocents into hell? I’d prefer to vaccinate the children and let them walk in and ask for baptism as adults if they chose to do so. You’ll notice in this component of the campesino mass that you will attend this evening, we can celebrate what we are about to do or what we have done. We cannot expect the celebration to do the work. Consider a social event. A party is to celebrate what we are doing or what we have done. A graduation, the beginning of a new position, a marriage – everyone knows, however, that the party or the celebration won’t do the work.

Why do I mention this? Because there’s a theme in imperial theology that implies that the sacraments will do the work. It seems to me that the basis for this is a desire for the faithful to remain in a posture of non-action, and that is what empire wants. The sacraments will not feed the poor. Only political organization will do that. Then we have something to celebrate, and we should. The themes of liberation theology are democratic. The church was never meant to be a top down society. The Pope is not a line officer in the military who gives irrevocable orders. The key element is the base community, people. People like us gather together to consider a problem, to meditate over it and make an observation, a judgement, and a praxis – that’s a reflective act we have arrived at by consensus.

Many people became part of this Central American revolution because of their faith. They accepted the call of doing God’s work on Earth as it is in heaven – but we don’t have to put heaven in order; we do have to put the earth in order to make it into a beautiful garden like the beauty that surrounds us here. The spotlight in liberation theology is away from the dogmas which have divided the world for centuries. Liberation theology does not care to argue about the virginity of Mary, the divinity of Christ, the nature of the trinity – these sectarian issues have led to separations, hatreds and inquisitions. At the same time, the same thing is true of political sectarianism. We are actually very much in sync with people like St. Thomas Aquinas, who reminded us that theological thinking is analogous thinking. If we refer to God as Father, that is an analogy. Liberation theology would have us focus on the use of our time here and now. What is fitting conduct for us, and why.


Some social scientists say there is no such thing as the common good. But liberation theology is common good oriented. And you’ll see the Pope make reference to it in the new encyclical. Today people can create collective genius. They can pursue an authentic spirituality without being sectarian. We’re not interested in getting another member for our church. We do not want to imply that the Roman Catholic Church is the church. Does anyone think that Jesus would define His Way as Roman Catholicism? Do we not wish to say that we have the truth and all others are in error? This is the theology of inquisition, the theology of fundamentalism.

Theology of liberation is the antithesis of fundamentalism. We do not claim to have all truth. We do not claim that those in dogmatic error must be punished. It’s important to understand that the culture we have just left in the United States is a culture of nationalistic fundamentalism. The Iran Contra scandal is based on the same paradigm as the inquisition of old. Please recall that the inquisition was extremely active in this Western Hemisphere. You are a Jew? You are not free to be a Jew because error has no rights, and you are in error. You must be punished. You may repent, or be killed. The same applies if you are a protestant or an atheist.

Now what happens when you go back to the US? The argument for killing Nicaraguans will be based on the accusation that they are communist. Communist means okay to kill, just as Jew or Protestant or Atheist was in the days of the inquisition. Remember how we justified killing three million “communists” in Vietnam? Yes, that includes the babies, the mothers, and the invalids – all of them. We can only break the fundamentalist inquisitional pattern by searching for what is human and humane.


Now do you see why I call our home culture nationalistic fundamentalism? Atheistic humanists and theistic humanists can get along very well. I certainly found this to be true in Guatemala. At first, the position of our movement was classically anti-communist. By 1966, we put our anticommunist, okay to kill aside. The dope trade, the mafia, every dictatorship and the United States had used anticommunism to promote their might makes right politics. We let go of our anticommunism and began to work with people who were humanists, both theistic and atheistic.

Some were Marxist, some were not. It was clear, however, that anticommunism was not the road to democracy. We wanted to know how to get democracy across where it had never been practiced. The right to be; the right to study; the right to see what freedom should be taken away – the freedom to be illiterate, the freedom to die of hunger, the freedom to be a prostitute, the freedom to get polio. Once we agree on the common good, these things can be done.

In seeking common good consensus, we don’t go for a 51% majority. On basic common good issues, we can go for the will of the vast majority. For example, we might ask how many people approve of smog in Los Angeles. Well, a few hands would go up among the nine million people living in the area. Once the will of the people is established, we can then get rid of the smog. How many want effective rapid transit? All hands would go up. How many want low cost housing? This effort is being made here in Nicaragua. People want to build an economy based on need. Yes, that is socialistic. The profit motive is not accepted as the ultimate motive force in society. This theme is part of liberation theology.

Biblical literature of the Old and New Testament target the rich in society as the problem. It’s interesting that generally they are not targeted because they are the bad rich, they’re targeted because they are rich. It’s a societal problem. Because of their riches, others are poor. Distributive justice, the matter of the distribution of good and services, is a fundamental moral problem. Liberation theology would have us look at the collective devils of hunger and disease.


The attack on these evils can be done with joy, enthusiasm and a sense of making history. It includes getting our mind off our navel.

We can be victimized by traditional religion. Is not the message of many sermons, first I must become perfect, then I can do something for someone else. Because I’m imperfect, I can’t do anything yet. When I stop smoking, I’ll start doing something for someone. What does this mean? It means I will never do anything.

Perfectionism is not a formula for action. It’s a formula for inaction. Non action on the part of the people – that’s the peasants – is the mode of imperial theology. You don’t know enough yet. You’re not good enough yet. You’re not an authority on that subject. Everything is waiting. Everything is tomorrow. There are homeless, yes, but they have no one to blame but themselves. Liberation theology, on the contrary, requires engagement and risk. It requires an intolerance of social injustice. It does not ignore personal failings; it simply believes that personal failings are best cured by an engagement in life. The world is changed by people who join together and do what they judge should be done. If there is any road to perfection, it’s that of doing what needs to be done. Careful parenting, for example. I cannot imagine a higher level of asceticism as we become conscious of a collective effort. We do not lose our identity; we find it.

Liberation theology requires an intolerance of social injustice.

The Pope came to this country, and in this case, you know, I’m referring to Pope John Paul II, and he created one of the great moments of church history in this century. In the early church, there was a history of speaking up to the Pope. St Paul is addressing St Peter the Pope when he said, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he was manifestly wrong.” That’s Paul speaking about Peter being wrong. Such democratic dialogue was evident at the time of the Emperor Constantine, when the empire that killed Jesus became the model for the church. The early church was an illegal, clandestine organization. As such, it was very clean and very revolutionary. It was in hiding. It was communal. They had nothing of their own, says Acts. They shared everything in common. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Acts of the Apostles.


Religious orders retain this form of micro-communism, and they’ve done well by it. What was once a system for all members of the community, the church, became an exclusive system of the clergy and full time religious personnel. The pursuit of profit is not a good model, for the economic system of the future. We’re not speaking of the systems of the former Soviet Union or Cuba. No one is interested in static imitation. The thinking must be dynamic with new concepts and new ideas. Dogmatic politics are very similar to dogmatic religion. This requires an atmosphere of experimentation and listening, especially listening to the poor.

We can identify with the wisdom of the poor. The rich and powerful are wrong most of the time. They are holding onto something very tightly, and that makes them paranoid and full of falsehoods. The rich and powerful are not in a position to make decisions for prisoners, the homeless, for hungry people – they’re out of it. And so Pope John Paul II arrives here in Nicaragua.

The people were terribly upset. Fifteen teenagers had just been slaughtered by contra terrorists, paid for by the United States. And their mothers insisted that the chief shepherd make reference to this. They were asking for a blessing, an acknowledgement. And the Pope interrupted them by saying, silencio – silence. They knew of no reason why they should shut up for the Pope. They don’t shut up for the Pope. They didn’t shut up for Ronald Reagan. They don’t shut up for anyone.

04 Mar 1983, Managua, Nicaragua --- Pope arrived for a one-day visit. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
4 Mar 1983, Managua, Nicaragua — Pope John Paul II arrived for a one-day visit. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS)

The president knows nothing about Nicaragua except to authorize its destruction. The Pope knew little or nothing about Nicaragua except for what he had received from Cardinal Casariego of Guatemala, a man of comic opera stature. The women of Nicaragua reacted to the Pope as a 40 year old daughter might react to a 60 year old father. They showed love, honor and respect. But they do not accept his jurisdiction about how to run their country. Whether to be socialist or not, Sandinista or not, these issues are not in his realm of competence. The objective is to practice democracy and to incorporate democracy into spirituality.


A central theme of liberation theology is that you cannot be an imperialist and have an authentic spiritual life. It’s out of the question to practice might makes right, which is apparently our foreign policy in the US, and also to have spiritual vitality. There is but one race, the human race; there is one very small globe on which we live. It is in grave danger of being totally unpopulated.

Together we can save the planet by working for international law and order.

Nation states cannot make decisions which require global consensus. US laws cannot stop the pollution of the ocean and air. We don’t have jurisdiction. All nations must work in harmony, giving up a portion of their so-called sovereignty to make global decisions possible. Liberation Theology is an integration of religious and political thinking. It brings to an end those old categories which segregate the spiritual from the political, the natural from the supernatural. It reminds me again of my respected mentor, Eric Fromm, who, when I asked (we were talking in Cuernavaca, where he lived), “Why, after writing books like The Art of Loving, do people refer to you as an atheist?” He replied, “Because they don’t understand the reverence in ancient rabbinical teachings.” When he learned about not taking the name of the lord in vain, he was not learning about what we call “swearing.” He was learning about not trying to conceptualize about God. About not saying the name of God. What we hear from fundamentalists, on the contrary, is simply irreverence: “God will do this, he won’t do that.” These people are playing around with God to make God into their image and likeness. Reverence will not do that. Liberation theology is so reverent that it is not even sectarian.

What would Jesus say about atheists? I think he would say that some people believe in moral behavior even though they don’t believe in God. They don’t believe in rewards and punishments. Such people are to be admired and respected.


There seems to be more rapport between liberation theology and socialist thought than there is between liberation theology and capitalist thought. Some Latin American prelates have made statements about not being able to coexist with atheistic capitalism. There is not one ounce of theism in the capitalist system. It is just grab the money and run. We have experienced years of equating socialism falsely with godlessness, and capitalism with God. Liberation theology has nothing to do with the union of church and state. It is the integration of political and spiritual values. I’m the same person spiritually as I am politically. There are ugly political concepts, and beautiful political concepts. Ideas, such as “stay out of politics,” are only fitting for a monarchy. No one should stay out of politics. Everyone has to be in politics all the time, but must never promote an organized religion as part of the state. When a state becomes a theocracy, it becomes a disaster. It becomes the formula for perpetual war.

There will always be those categorized as “unsaved,” ethnic and religious outcasts are categorized as second class citizens, useful only for cheap labor. Well, there must be no cheap labor, just people who have a need for a living wage. Also, liberation theology is not simply a manipulation of Christian thought by Marxists. The spiritual message came first; Marx came later. It is most unfortunate that our culture is so protected from Marxist thought. Certainly no one in the United States is permitted to study Marx from kindergarten through 12th grade. Only demonization is acceptable. The same vacuum generally applies to the first four years of college as well. A rare graduate student may study some of the wisdom of Marx. Michael Harrington, one of the greatest US socialists, dedicates his book, ‘The Twilight of Capitalism’, to the future of an almost forgotten genius. The foe of every dogma, champion of human freedom and democratic socialist, Karl Marx. Does that sound like the devil?

“It’s important to understand that the [predominant] culture in the United States is a culture of nationalistic fundamentalism…”

I think Michael Harrington knew a great deal about this. And his books are very much written within the culture of the United States. This new deal is really a very old theology. It’s what Moses was trying to get across when he told them it was not right to be in slavery. The true God liberates idols and slaves. Our true idols today are nuclear missiles and an imperial foreign policy. Such things are perceived as the will of God. But we are among people today in Nicaragua who are sisters and brothers to us. What they suffer is what our family suffers. We don’t intend to tolerate this. In the US, our development of this theology is more secular because it’s the nature of our culture. Thousands of solidarity communities have sprung up, which are base communities in fact. Spirituality does not have to stand out like an appendage. It has to be part of the fabric of our character.

Last month we joined and initiated the Days of Decision at the Van Nuys military airbase. 34 of us got arrested that day. We were held inside of a hangar. Within that hangar was military equipment for use against the people of Central America. We knew we were in the right place.

Our message is simple, it’s the same message we generated during the war in Indo China. Three million people were destroyed because they were so-called “communists.” It was a holocaust. Our message then was, stop the war or we’ll stop the country. Nixon was ready to use nuclear bombs against the people of Southeast Asia. He had made his decision. It was the only way. We were losing the war. But he knew he could not get away with it. Nixon witnessed the largest mutiny in history, US. Soldiers were killing their officers. He could see from the window of the White House one million patriots saying, Stop the War. Indeed, the great movements in our country have come from the streets. Mass mobilizations gave way to the 8 hour day, the 40 hour week, the right to organize. There’s great wisdom in the people of the base, and there’s great ignorance at the top. Wealth is going into fewer and fewer hands, giving our country the worst distribution of wealth in the world. Our leaders are incompetent to make decisions pertaining to health, poverty and housing.

They simply think in terms of military production, and it’s literally killing us. Our cause is to turn it around. We only want government servants in government, people who look like servants, act like servants, perform like servants – or get out of government. We don’t care what they want. We must demand that they do what the great people of our country want them to do. Our freedom to do and to make history. To do and create the future. To bring justice to the planet. Tomorrow, we will visit the war.


Those, my friends, were thoughts shared with a delegation of foreigners in Nicaragua, US citizens, on a beautiful star-filled tropical evening, just outside of Managua.

And so that’s where I consider liberation theology is going, and I wouldn’t say that Pope Francis is accepting all of this. I don’t know that he would accept all of this. Maybe in his inner heart, but in terms of his current position, I don’t think that he accepts this. However, he certainly accepts one of the basic themes, which is the preferential option for the poor – and he demonstrates that so clearly in this new encyclical. So we congratulate him on that. Unfortunately many journalists don’t quite understand what’s going on.

We see here journalists saying “This is the first time the Pope has written an encyclical with the intention of influencing the political process.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I think journalists have to do their homework. I think every pope has had a political purpose. My goodness, Dante was arguing whether the pope should be the last word, or the emperor. And he thought the emperor should be, because the pope thought he should be. So the popes have been interested in political issues for years, even in modern times.

Take the 19th century. Pope Leo XIII gave us the wonderful document Rerum Novarum about industrialization, and he was standing directly on the shoulders of Karl Marx. He agreed with one Marxist conclusion after another. He agreed with the situation described by Marx, and you’ll find out if you ever study Marx, he asked the right questions. He didn’t give all the answers to everything. He was a Socrates who asked the right question: why should people who create the profit not receive any of it? Or receive an unacceptably miserly part of it? So he was standing on the shoulders of the Communist Manifesto.

Forty years later Pope Pius XI gave us the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. What did he insist on? A living wage. This was in the 1930s. A living wage, what is that? To have enough money to have a house, to save something, take vacation, to live as a human being. So it’s gone on. John the 23rd, a great revolutionary who called the second Vatican Council, and had such a deep impact on all of us in the wake of that council, because we were hearing things from Rome that we’d never heard before.

Giovanni Battista Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, the “People’s Pope”-—an indelible example.

The second Vatican Council went from 1962 to 1965, and it was in the wake of that council that so much of liberation theology developed. And finally Father Gutierrez wrote about it later; it had already begun in a peripatetic way, walking around analyzing what was coming from the Vatican. Then the bishops met in Medellin, Colombia to talk about the fact that many in the church were part and parcel of the revolution. They were dealing with Pope Paul VI, and he had written another encyclical which terrorized the upper classes. Popes have always dealt with the political. Don’t think for a minute that this is the first time. What did he say in Populorum Progressio? It is in Chapter 31:

“Everyone knows, however, that revolutionary uprisings—except where there is manifest, longstanding tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country—engender new injustices, introduce new inequities and bring new disasters.”

My goodness, the rebels in Latin America took that as a manifest saying that they have the right to revolt. So please don’t ever say that the popes have not engaged in political implications until this encyclical of Pope Francis, which contains marvelous ideas. And we’re very happy about it.

So we see that council as a very important time. That was an elderly man, John XXIII, who thought the church had grown so stuffy that they had to open the windows to let some air in. And that led to a reevaluation of dogmatic thinking, a reevaluation of fundamentalism, and you might say a reevaluation of Roman Catholic fundamentalism. A reevaluation of manmade ecclesiastical laws, a reevaluation of sectarianism. And this is a tremendous amount of progress.

So if we’re thinking about the environment, what is the foremost threat to the environment? There’s absolutely no question about it. The military at peace is the greatest threat to the ecology of the world. The military at war and this planet are not sustainable. We’re going to use these weapons that Reagan was ready to use, that so many presidents were ready to use, that John Kennedy was ready to use. People talk about overpopulation – friends, I don’t worry about over population, I worry about no population. Nada.


People are willing to save capitalism by way of biocide. When you kill and maim, blow the heads off of people for 24 years – that’s right – we started killing Iraqis in 1991. Of course we’re shocked when we see the blowback of ISIS. Of course we’re shocked as we see people about to have their heads cut off. Horror, terror, absolutely unacceptable. But who gave Iraq and Afghanistan the cluster bombs? These bombs take the heads off children by the thousands. So what is the difference between that and the beheading of some by a sword? These cluster bombs are absolutely unacceptable. The dear Saudi Arabians are using them in Yemen, we’ve used them for 24 years in Iraq, and they have these lovely little bomblets that look like toys and attract children who hold them up until their heads are blown off.

[box type=”bio”] Read the Pope’s encyclical for yourself.

Download here. LAUDATO SI[/box]


So let’s talk about the ecology. You can’t have it and have cluster bombs. You can’t have it and have intercontinental nuclear missiles. It’s out of the question. So the first step toward saving the planet is to end war, and we can do it. We celebrated the Magna Carta this week, and we had some very silly editorials come out. Maybe they thought they were part of the new “post humanist period,” but it seemed like the silliness of academia. “Stop revering the Magna Carta,” Tom Ginsburg of the New York Times wrote. Well, well well. Stop revering it. Okay, I’ll stop right away! There’s no reason to stop revering it. “It wasn’t perfect!” Oh, I see, the Magna Carta wasn’t perfect. But of course the US Constitution was perfect. Is he trying to get around the fact that we’ve lost ground in 800 years since the Magna Carta? Does he realize that we’ve lost ground since 1215? We have. We don’t have trials, just suspects. And as we attack the suspects may be present or not. And with these virtual suspects thousands of innocents have been massacred by drones and F-15’s.


Well, maybe we got him, maybe we didn’t, but we thought he might have been on the list, we thought it was him, we might have got him, we possibly did, multiple bombs were dropped on the target. It will take us a while to determine whether we got him, unless terrorist websites confirm that we got him. Well. So we had somebody we thought might have done something or who might do something in the future. I don’t know of anyone in organized crime who would do such a thing. There is honor among thieves. I don’t think organized crime internationally would take such a step. Send in the F15 E’s and blow up as many people as are there, and you might possibly perhaps maybe get someone who we suspect might have been Muktar al Muktar.

This cannot continue. But it continues. So, where did he come from? The man we thought we might have killed allegedly had one eye. He was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, where he learned his combat skills. Why was he fighting the Soviets? Because we organized many of the fanatics in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, and he was one of them. He was also a major cigarette trafficker; he was known as an honorable man, according to the New York Times. So we’re seeing the blowback from ISIS. It is unifying as groups do. At first they compete, they argue, they differ, they argue politics and religion, but they do unify and they have become unified because of the terrorism that they have lived in since 1991. The extreme terrorism in the 21st century: that terrorism has been part and parcel of our policy, basically destroying the soul of the United States of America.

So as we look at the Pope’s encyclical, let’s think about that. In order to be in sync with it, we have to end the war system. What about extremists in the United States? Well you can also read in the New York Times that the terrorist threat in this country is primarily from the extreme right. Terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny portion of the violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4300 homicides by other threats. Police agencies are trying to become aware of this, because this month the headline was about a Muslim man in Boston who was accused of threatening police officers with a knife. Last month two Muslim extremists attacked an anti-Muslim conference in Garland, Texas, etc.


But the headlines can mislead, says the New York Times. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right wing extremists. Just ask the police. The survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year, which included 342 police agencies, showed that 74 percent reported anti-government extremism is one of the top three terrorist threats. So, when we look at extremism, let’s look at our own. And those who are demonizing Islam are the same thinkers as those who demonized Judaism. They are dead wrong. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know who the enemy is. They better look to themselves and say: The enemy is us.

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Commentary on the Pope’s Encyclical – Our Common Home/ Part 2

July 5, 2015

I‘d like to wish all of you a happy 4th of July. Independence Day. May we all be independent of imperialism, independent of the evil of war, the evil of torture, the evil of lethal lies that kill millions? Happy Independence Day. Independence from Evil.

Well, we have here a letter from the Pope, and I have it with me. And I’d like to comment on it today. I think it’s a very important letter for the world. And what it amounts to is a marriage of the peace movement and the environmental movement. That’s a very important marriage. We’ve been waiting for this to happen, and I think the Pope helped very much to make it happen.

It’s called Laudato si. That sounds like Latin, but I think you’ll find that it’s 13th century Italian. “Praise to you my Lord.” In the word of a beautiful canticle, St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life, and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace. “Praise to you my Lord, through our sister mother earth, who sustains and governs us and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”

There’s a very interesting focus on St. Francis. And, in a way, it’s a little unfortunate that the Pope stressed simply the love of Francis for nature. That, of course, is key. But what we have to do is look at the life of this amazing man to understand some things that might be missing here. St. Francis was born in 1181. He died in 1226. He had abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God, who commanded him to rebuild the church and live in poverty. He had been renowned for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned for ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison, awaiting his father’s payment, and, according to legend, began receiving visions from God.


Here is the part that we forget about Francis. He abhorred the Crusades as miserable slaughter in the name of God. He stood against them in a way that the best of our peace people are standing against them today. The New York Times wrote of this, I think it was Thomas Cahill, back in 2006. He actually wrote of this on Christmas day, that amid all the useless bloodshed of the Crusades, Francis of Assisi, joined the 5th Crusade, not as a warrior, but as a peacemaker. Francis was not good at organization or strategy, and he knew it. He accepted the people who offered themselves as followers, befriended them, shared the Gospel with them, but gave them no wealth. He expected them to live like him, and he said, “Preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words.” Nothing could be stronger. We don’t need the words as much as we need the action.

Francis was not impressed by the crusaders, whose sacrilegious brutality horrified him. They were fond of taunting and abusing their prisoners of war, who were returned to their families minus a nose, lips, ears or eyes – or never returned at all. And the endless slaughters of Jews and Islamic people. Francis thought the judgement was the exclusive province of the all- merciful God – just as Pope Francis said recently, “Who am I to judge?” It was none of the Christians concern to judge. True Christians were to befriend all. Condemn no one. Give to the other, and it shall be given to you. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. This was part of Francis’ constant preaching. May the Lord give you peace was the best greeting one could give to all one met. It compromised no one’s dignity, and embraced every good with a blessing bestowed on all. Francis bestowed it on people. Such an approach in an age when most visible signs of the Christian religion were the wars and atrocities of the Red Cross Crusaders.

This is critically important, friends. His great work was as a peace maker and as a peace activist. Symbolic gesture, Francis’ natural language, was a profound source he called on throughout his life. In one of his most poignant expressions, Francis sailed across the Mediterranean to the Egyptian court of Al-Malik Al-Kamil, nephew of the great Saladin, who defeated the forces of the hapless Third Crusade. Francis was admitted to the august presence of the sultan himself, and spoke to him of Christ, who was, after all, Francis’ only subject.

Well, friends. You know what this was? Trying to proselytize a Muslim was cause for on-the- spot decapitation. But Kamil was a wise and moderate man, deeply impressed by Francis’ courage and sincerity, and invited him for a week of serious conversation. Francis was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of the Muslims, especially by their five daily calls to prayer. It’s possible that the thrice daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after his visit, was precipitated by the impression Muslims made on St Francis.

So he went back to the crusader camp on the Egyptian shore and desperately tried to convince Cardinal Pelagius Galvani, who Pope Honorius III has put in charge of the crusade, saying that he should make peace with the Sultan who, despite a preponderance of force on his side, was all too ready to do so. But the Cardinal had dreams of military glory and would not listen. His failure amid terrible loss of life brought the age of the crusades to an inglorious end.

Here it is. Cardinal Galvani, who was a warmonger – and if we don’t deal with these realities in the history of the church, we’re playing Mickey Mouse, and if we play Mickey Mouse, we’ll never know anything. Donald Spoto, one of Francis of Assisi’s most recent biographers, rightly calls Francis “the first person from the West to travel to another continent with the revolutionary idea of peacemaking.” As a result of his inability to convince Cardinal Pelagius, however, Francis saw himself as a failure. Like his model, Jesus of Nazareth, Francis was an extremist. But his failure is still capable of bearing new fruit.

Islamic society and Christian society have been generally bad neighbors now for nearly 14 centuries, eager to misunderstand each other, often borrowing culturally and intellectually from each other without ever bestowing proper credit. But as Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, has written, almost as if he was thinking of Al-Kamil and Francis, “Those who are confident of their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faiths of others. There are, surely, many ways of arriving at this generosity of spirit and each faith may need to find its own.” We stand in desperate need of contemporary figures like Kamil and Francis of Assisi to create an innovative dialogue. To build a future better than our past, we need, as Rabbi Sacks has put it, “the confidence to recognize the irreducible, glorious dignity of difference.”

Friends, it’s so important to remember that St Francis was a peace activist. Just like our people today – Medea Benjamin, Kathy Kelly, a host of others who have gone and risked their lives speaking to the so-called enemy, talking about dialogue, talking about diplomacy – a lost science.

So I wanted to give this as a preliminary because the focus of attention here is on St Francis in beginning this letter, Our Common Home. Pope Francis didn’t care to deal with this particular aspect of it publicly – I think he might have hoped that everybody who knows something about peacemaking of St Francis would draw their own conclusions.

The church, as it developed, began to give easy condemnations of birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. Why? Because all of these throw the burden of sin to the individual. It’s a way of wholesaling sin, and does not deal with the societal sins – the greatest sins – war, hunger, disease. This would anger governments that support the church, and the churches have become subservient to the government. So the focus of attentions is diverted from the world’s greatest sins – aggressive war, torture, oppression, militarism. The church follows the state; it does not lead, and it tries not to offend power and money. And here’s an exception.

There have been many exceptions. The papal encyclicals of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Also, these letters are often not heard in our churches and our parishes because it would be “offensive” to power and money. But somehow I think Our Common Home will have an impact above and beyond all organized religion.


So here are some thoughts about our common home. It’s about 180 pages, and I have it in front of me. Now, the New York Times said the US bishops will be wary of the document. Of course they will. They have interests and investments that would not be approved by Pope Francis. They love to make the comment, “Our people are not ready for that yet.” I think of the Cardinal of Washington DC who said “Well, it might take 75 years.” Well, why not more, why not forever, as the planet disintegrates.

It is truly sad that the Rerum Novarum was never translated into Spanish from the original Latin because the oligarchs of Latin America together with the bishops were afraid of it.

Well, we take a look now at the text, which is so very important and meaningful. He recalls previous popes who have also spoken on the environment. He recalls Pope Paul VI in 1971 referring to the ecological catastrophe under effective explosion of industrial civilization. My comment would be, there’s nothing more explosive than military industrial production. And as a reference, I would suggest the works of Seymour Melman, who wrote Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War.

Our oligarchy knows that the very best way to make a profit is creating new wars. They are now out of control. More wars – and look at the plethora of candidates for the presidency. It’s really priceless. Now moaning that we’ve not been warlike enough, we need to get tougher! More profit. More destruction of the planet. Make it into a garbage dump.

Sadly, many of our people will listen to this inflammatory nonsense because the culture has descended into fear, which is the favorite theme of corrupt politicians. Yes. So other religions have expressed a deep concern and offered valuable reflections on this letter. And we’ll look to the text of the letter. I’ll mention paragraphs.


Paragraph 6: “We must repent for the ways we have harmed the planet. Solutions must not only be based on technology, but on a change in humanity.” An important comment.

He mentions St Francis of Assisi time and time again, speaking about the inseparable bond between concern for nature and concern for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace. You see that in Paragraph 10: “It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” We’re absolutely saddled by fear, and it stops us from doing anything. So he’s on the right track, and I think this is an amazing document.

Now, speaking of St. Francis of Assisi, because he was not interested in institutions, I think we can understand why he would be thrown out of his own religious order, the Franciscans. That’s completely understandable in dealing with any bureaucracy. You might say it wasn’t unexpected that he was thrown out of the Franciscans. I think it would be literally anticipated.


Francis is recognized as the patron saint of animals and the environment, and in his life he demonstrated his love for nature and all creatures numerous times. (Pauline Baynes)
Francis is justly recognized as the patron saint of animals and the environment. He demonstrated his profound love and compassion for nature and all creatures on numerous occasions. (Pauline Baynes)

So we look and find in the 13th paragraph: “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”

Friends, about the suffering of the excluded. If you make 25,000 dollars a year, you are in the top 1% of the people of the planet. I’m not talking about the US. Billions of people live on a dollar a day, or two dollars a day or less. So this is what he’s trying to deal with, that these are the “excluded.” And this is extremely harmful to our future, to have such people excluded. Paragraph 14: “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”


He’s so right on, because you can hear people in the churches say, “we’re here to worship God, we’re not here to talk about the bees and the birds, we’re not here to talk about the necessary patriotism of killing everyone else in the world, we’re just here to worship God.” Well, I’m sorry, friends, I don’t know what religion you belong to, but that’s not the message of someone who said we’re here to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, assist people who are sick or in prison, and what we do to them is our relationship to the Almighty.”

So this is paragraph 14. We move on here and find a lot of important statements. Paragraph 16:

“I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle. These questions will not be dealt with once and for all, but reframed and enriched again and again.”

And that’s what he’s certainly trying to do. He creates an interesting word in paragraph 18:

“The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”.”

We see that everywhere. Hype. Speed. Remember Gandhi saying, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.” Think of the car on the freeway going 95 miles an hour, endangering everyone. If you ask the driver where he or she is going, you’d probably here “nowhere” or “to the next bar.” So – “rapidification is not good.” He goes on:

“Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.”

Well, that’s paragraph 18, and an important part of the encyclical. The press was quite impressed with paragraph 21:

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected.”

That’s the famous paragraph 21. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. And the greatest contributor to that is the military of the world at peace. They are the greatest polluters of all. And, of course, what flows from that is the fact that this little planet and the military are incompatible. The military at war and this planet are unsustainable. We unleash these diabolical nuclear weapons, we’ll have no worry about “over population,” which has been brought to the level of hysteria many times. No worries. No people. No flora. No fauna.

Paragraph 23. “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

Friends, as climate is a common good and meant for all, we should look at the air. The water, the soil, the subsoil – and people might be paid for working on it. But never for owning it. And that, strangely enough, is part of the Mexican constitution of 1917. It has not been well applied in Mexico, but it is a very first class statement. Air, water, soil, subsoil, oil – all belong to the people. And of course you can be paid for working it, but not for owning it.

I guess the severest criticism of the encyclical came from David Brooks of the New York Times. He was very offended that the pope attacked cap and trade. I’m amazed that the pope pointed out that it’s a shell game – a useless effort to stop the disaster that’s taking place. The letters to the editor after Brooks’ article were extremely strong condemnations of Brooks’ approach.

Paragraph 24: Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.


And paragraph 25: Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, and political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever.

This is a tragedy, there’s no question about it. War and environmental degradation, and so many refugees created by the unnecessary, illegal, genocidal wars – and we’ve been in the lead in creating them. Happy 4th.

The pope continues: “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” And then he gets into the problem of public relations in paragraph 26:

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next

few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced.”

I think it’s very important that he’s on top of the problem of public relations, which is a way of trying to lie our way out of reality. Paragraphs 27 and 28 address water:

“We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

“Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply.”

Well, friends, we could add that war production is destroying the planet. You know, when the pope went to Turin last week, he spoke at the university. And he said, “Those who are involved in building arms and the arms trade should not call yourselves Christians.” I think he’s on a roll, and a very important roll. Understanding the problem we’re in. He goes on for a couple of paragraphs about water, and he says:

“Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.” Yes, thank you Bechtel, for going to Bolivia and trying to privatize the water of Bolivia, and having the people of Bolivia throw you OUT of the country. “Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor.” This is from paragraph 30.

The pope is not sparing the corporate world. In paragraph 31:

“Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.”

Well, it’s already obvious. Talk to the Bolivians. They said get out of here. That’s what the Salvadorans are trying to do. Get out of here. Don’t mess with our water or our air. Do you want to sell air too? Do you want to sell it by the puff? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

That’s paragraph 31. He goes on to talk about the loss of biodiversity:

“Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.” And in paragraph 34:

“It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agro toxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.”

Consumerism. This letter is so important at this time. I think it will probably be read more widely than any other papal letters. The popularity of Pope Francis, and the subject matter. He speaks of specific areas in chapter 38:

“Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. In fact, there are “proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations”.


All these trade bills being dealt with now have this as the objective – the corporate takeover of the planet. That is to say, the corporate destruction of the planet where people who have a patent on a death seed can sue someone else who has a natural seed because they didn’t use the death seed which can be used only once – and then you have to go back and buy more. I think we’re really onto something here.

In paragraph 40, pope states:

“Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures, many of them still unknown to us and threatened for various reasons. What is more, marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.”

So he’s talking about the death of the oceans. “Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?” This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself.”

We should realize that much of this is done for military purposes – for military bases. The people of the world are protesting, and the destruction goes on. Because all creatures are connected, he says in paragraph 42, “each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family.”

So he talks about the decline of human life and the breakdown of society. We go to paragraph 43:

“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.”

And paragraph 44: “Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighborhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.”

And then he goes on to address the evil of privatization in paragraph 45: “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty.”

Yes, let’s gate it off, let’s have people pay to see something beautiful.

“In others, “ecological” neighborhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquility. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.”


Friends, where can you get this encyclical? Just Google it and you can print out the whole thing for free. That is quite a fascinating thing as well. You can print “Our Common Home” by Googling and printing it.

He speaks of the danger of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people and their loss of identity in these horrible urban situations. So he’s dealing with wasting and discarding; with the fact that one third of the food produced is thrown away – which is a horrible thing to think about in a world of hunger. He speaks about a very interesting issue in paragraph 47. He speaks about mental pollution:

“True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

Just look at the toys that people have – a new one comes out every week, and everybody is supposed to have them. I’m sure that there’s a lot of good that can be done by that kind of communication, but it separates us from our fellow human beings, and it’s a problem. He continues:

“Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.”


Look at that – very interesting psychological statement: “For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.”

Friends, how many times have we seen young people isolated, depressed, becoming loners and sometimes becoming dangerous.

So we haven’t gotten halfway through the encyclical, but we’re getting there. We’ll continue. The majority of the world’s population is poor. Capitalism sets up a system in which the majority of the population becomes “collateral damage.” How is that done? It’s done by way of no distributive justice. We have a horrible distribution of wealth. So he also goes on to something that will be very controversial with many people. And that is population. We’ll talk about it in the next segment of our examination of the pope’s encyclical.


pale blue horiz

Commentary on the Pope’s Encyclical – Our Common Home/ Part 3

Hello friends. Based on many requests, we are continuing our examination of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Our Common Home. I may not give the best analysis of this important document, with all my failings, but I will do my best to interpret what he said. I have read all 180 pages of the encyclical, thought about it, and it is quite an unusual piece of work. It is, you know, pretty well dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, so I’ve got to recommend a new book by Paul Moses. It’s called The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and St Francis’s Mission of Peace. This is important because we can say that St Francis was a peace activist, and was also an environmentalist. And now that we are talking about the marriage between the environmental movement and the peace movement, we look to the fact that he also was engaged heavily in the environment.

We look back at 1280. In the midst of the disastrous Fifth Crusade, St Francis crossed enemy’s lines to gain an audience with Kamil, the sultan of Egypt. Francis hated the Crusades. They were hateful, violent, evil things, and we shouldn’t brag about them. He opposed the crusades and hoped to bring about peace by converting the Sultan to Christianity. He didn’t succeed, but he came away from that peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims. The Saint and the Sultan brings to life the battles of the Fifth Crusade as well as the parallel stories of Francis and Sultan al-Kamil.

This is so tremendously important because of Francis’ attitude toward war and peace, which were actually shaped by his own traumatic experience as a soldier. Al-Kamil was regarded as the most tolerant of Egypt’s Sultans. So we see that even the Sultan realized that war is the least practical way to solve any problem. In the end, he impressed the crusaders with his goodness. He was simply a good Sunni-Muslim whose actions and gentle reverence toward Francis was rooted in his own faith. So here we have the greatest Christian saint since the time of the apostles, and he opposed the crusades and peacefully approached Muslims at a time when they were supposed to be mortal enemies. That action can inspire and instruct us today. The fact that Al Kamil, a great Sultan of Egypt and nephew of Saladin, was so tolerant of Christians that he allowed one of them to preach to him in the midst of the crusade.


What were Muslims supposed to do in this case? They were supposed to cut the head off of the person who tried to convert them. This story of St Francis and the Sultan says there’s a better way than resentment, suspicion, and warfare. It opens to door to respect, trust and peace. So I recommend Paul Moses’ new book, which will help you see the great peace activism of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s well worth reading. The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and St Francis’s Mission of Peace.

This is background for the commentary of today. Now, it probably starts with the most controversial of all. The encyclical is available for free; just do a Google search, and print it out. All you have to pay for is the paper. So I urge you to read this 180-page document, and see if you are in accord with my analysis of it or not. The most controversial part, probably, is the matter of population. He realizes that population is a problem, and he is in touch with many analysts today who make it clear that where people have rights and are taken care of – for example, medical care and education – they have fewer children. One proof of this is Europe, where the population is falling everywhere. Italy is not reproducing itself. Neither is Spain. In fact, I don’t know of any country in Europe that is. In Russia, it’s worse. You get a full year off if you have a baby. So we have a population implosion in one part of the world and a population explosion other parts of the world.

It’s extremely important to look at some of the reasoning that doesn’t appear in popular literature. In rural areas, children are an asset. They work. They help take care of the farm. And people in countries especially that have no infrastructure or medical care – what is your security? Children. You may say, well maybe, if I have eight, three might be living by the time I get to be in my old age. So children are looked upon as an asset. People automatically have fewer children when they have rights for their care and services that provide it.

Now we see the fall in population in Europe and the influx of huge numbers of immigrants arriving from Africa. Basically our population is falling with the exception of immigration. We have to consider that reality – people will have fewer children once they have some rights. So that’s at least a thought on paragraph 50. He makes it clear that the multinationals are simply trashing poor countries. They are taking advantage of them in every way. Of course, we can’t help but think of Greece and Latin America. You see if you read this week’s news, it’s in solidarity with the Greek position. They know exactly what they’re doing. They don’t need these multinational banks to decide their future and to dictate austerity to them.

The pope talks about a lack of political leadership. And that is true. Looking at this “greatest nation on earth.” We’ve shown none. We just keep repeating the past. To repeat the past is to show no respect for the past, because the past is made up of violence, ignorance, stupidity, suspicion. To reverence the past, demands change. Political leadership that is imaginative. We’ve shown none. We keep repeating the past, and we continue to lose, day after day, week after week.

Well, fortunately we’ll have someone next week who in the spirit of St Francis has been spending her time in the war zones of the world, Kathy Kelly. She should be back from Afghanistan, and will tell us of her experiences. She wasn’t talking to the Sultan, but she is in total sync with the people and the peace movement that she has helped to create in Afghanistan.

We certainly have leadership among our intellectuals. I don’t see it among the political people, but among our intellectuals – people like Naomi Klein and others – are really showing leadership. Now, the new trade agreements he refers to require international law. It’s clear that it’s a fight between international law and the corporate takeover of the world. To show the deadliness of this, he refers to the “deified market.” The market has become an idol. This is something that he feels is extremely deadly. We’re more concerned about the image than the reality, and friends, the image just doesn’t do it. We have to deal with realities.

He talks about a false ecology. That is, where people might be saying “oh, I didn’t know about that” or “oh, I just don’t want to hear it” or “oh, I wash out my paper towels.” He feels we have to get very serious about it to have a change in our culture. And of course that includes our spirituality, which is a spirituality of the love of nature and peace. Look at paragraph 66. He’s talking about war. This document is not simply talking about an environmental movement. It’s talking about the grave sin of war. The greatest sin in the world. In order to understand this, he says that no one “owns” the earth. The scriptures – this is just my view now – to consider the doctrinal and biblical examples he gives without any literalism. I think they make more sense if we study them figuratively, rather than literally. Because literally we’re often hearing stories handed down by the tribal chiefs. Some of the stories are utterly ridiculous, and we’d be terribly foolish to take them literally.

But we do find beautiful stories. And, yes, it’s a smorgasbord – we might as well say that. You don’t accept everything in there. You can’t, because it flies in the face of reality.

There’s a repetitive theme in the document about distributive justice. No billionaires. You can’t have distributive justice and billionaires. Not when so many people are making a dollar or two a day. I’m sorry, it’s just not okay for them to steal from the poor in order to fund their own excesses. We can see, as he quotes biblical literature, a very important conflict between priest and prophet. Now we’re looking at the Jewish bible. The priest is telling us how to conduct a ceremony. The prophet is saying, “God doesn’t care about your ceremonies. He cares that justice reign down.”

This conflict runs through the Jewish bible, continues in the New Testament, up to the present. Most of our prophets are downgraded by the institution. I might say that the pope is far more popular than the church is at this time. He’s popular as a person. The church has many, many sins that are becoming obvious to many people.

“God doesn’t care about your ceremonies. He cares that justice rain down.”



We look at our prophets. Father Roy Bourgeois and so many others. They’ve been basically thrown out, as St Francis was thrown out of his order, the Franciscans. That’s a logical thing for an institution to do, because it starts to focus on itself, its own doctrinal issues, and I really have a severe problem with those. They go back to what I call the Nicene heresy where human beings made up what they called a “creed” and then began killing people who didn’t agree with everything in the creed. It was totally political and totally unacceptable. Political in the sense of uniting or attempting to unite a failing empire, the Roman Empire, where the bishops became subservient to the emperor. It’s tragic that people were executed because they didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus as they were supposed to believe in the divinity of the emperor. They didn’t ask the victim whether that victim had compassion, whether that victim had love, joy, peace, and justice – they asked them about a manmade doctrine.

So I am not excited about the doctrinal references in the encyclical. I am very impressed by paragraph 85 about the importance of a sense of awe at the universe. Our greatest scientists have seen that. Einstein loved mystery, loved awe, creativity, imagination – not just knowledge. With this comes the interdependence of the people in the face of desertification – areas of the world turning into deserts. The importance of the preeminence of the human person. There’s a false dichotomy where we look at the lack of hierarchy as a hierarchy in nature – we have to look at this. I’ve heard scientists joke about this. I heard one say, “Well, the AIDS virus has just as much a right to live as we do.” It’s similarly done with competence sometimes, where the presumption is that everybody has the same competence, and therefore can do the same things. This is a false issue. I would give the example of two people on an aircraft saying, “Well, look, who those pilots think they are? We have just as much right to fly the plane as they do, and we demand our right to fly the plane.” Well, the lack of competence, which we see in places like the congress and elsewhere in the government and military, I’m sorry, you don’t have a right to fly the plane because apparently you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re in subservience to some other entity, like Wall Street.

Carl Sagan sought to inspire reverence and awe of nature and the universe.
Carl Sagan sought to inspire reverence and awe of nature and the universe.

He talks again and again about distributive justice. Let’s look at paragraph 90, which talks about the need to place the economic system within the context of the common good. And the common good, he feels, is the reason to have a state – a commonwealth. We are together in this. You’re not together with the common good if you have five hundred billionaires with more money than the poor legions of the earth combined. He’s talking about the lack of concern for human beings. In a way, maybe there is a hierarchical thing here – I’m a little surprised that some people will show an interest in animals but not be concerned about human trafficking. And of course, in paragraph 92 he insists that there be no cruelty to any animal. So he’s not advising cruelty to animals. But he’s saying it’s curious that some people are very concerned about animals but couldn’t care less about the human race. That’s a question he has.

In paragraph 93 we see the subordination of property to people. Actually, our constitution is a property document. After it was written, there was a decision to tack on a bill of rights. And that was a good thing to do, but the Bill of Rights is very deficient. It gave no right to an education. It gave no right to health care. We’re waiting for those things to be added. Because he sees in the subordination of property to people – that that’s the direction we should go, some of our framers and founders made that point but didn’t win – and he talks about what this has done for labor.

If you look at paragraph 94, farm labor in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, these people are not earning enough to buy what they pick. To buy the food they need on the table. He talks about the right of every campesino. We cannot live without farm labor, and they’re treated like slaves. We can live without stock brokers, and they seem to do very well. This is just an example of the sickness in our economy. Farm workers should be very well paid. First of all, it’s skilled labor. You’re not talking about unskilled labor here. We’ve seen time and again where people went out and attempted to do work that they couldn’t do because they didn’t know how. They couldn’t do it because they weren’t physically up to working in 110 degree heat. They couldn’t do it because they know if they did they’d only last ten years at most. The usable life of a farm worker is about ten years, about the same as a professional athlete. The focus in paragraph 94 is farm labor.


He deals with the problem of theological fads. These frequently make me laugh. They are funny. People come along with a “new idea” and make it into a theological fad. Often these fads are total abstractions. I think it’s the French – I don’t have any French, so I can’t give you the original – but what I recall is the statement that the greatest sin is to take that which is concrete and make it abstract. Their leader talked about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, dealing with prisoners, the sick, those without clothes – these were concrete issues. To make abstractions out of them for a phony theology is really a waste of time. And we’ve had one fad after another.

He talks again and again – look at paragraph 102 – about technology going way beyond our humanity. If our humanity was in sync with our technology, nobody would be allowed to build a bomber or make a cluster bomb, napalm, white phosphorus, nuclear insanity, nuclear suicide – but the problem is that the technology has run wild without a moral compass. They are used every day by us as a threat to other nations. And, of course, the former Soviet Union is back again because they are very much afraid we are going to attack. So these two great powers, one called Russia, are building more and more of these suicide weapons designed to kill us all. The weapons of modern warfare are aptly called evil. They are evil. We have to make a moral judgement. He makes it clear that power and progress are not the same. Very important point. We always talk about the great power of one country, power here, power there. Power has nothing to do with moving ahead. Power is just for self-interest. Look at the cardinal who told St Francis that he wasn’t going to stop the Crusade because we were “going to win.” Friend, the church did not win at all. So he talks about the need to make that distinction between power and progress, and that our interpersonal relationships are so important because he feels that we look at another person in a confrontational way rather than with a sense of brotherhood. This is caused, he feels (paragraph 109) because finance has overwhelmed the real economy and interfered with our interpersonal relationships, and that the new trade agreements are just absolutely disastrous. I can’t help but think of the book, When Corporations Rule the
World. Nothing could be worse.


He says, “The market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” The market cannot do that. In fact, the gauges of the market are like the gauges on an old airplane. The gauges are not helpful. Gross National Product. Does that tell us anything? It doesn’t tell us anything unless we look at the gross social product, the GSP, not the GNP. How is the air this year as compared with last year? What is the quality of the water this year as compared to last year? How about literacy this year? How about the distribution of wealth this year? All of these are part of the social product, and that’s what really matters. GNP doesn’t tell us much. People can be starving with a great GNP.

The fragmentation of knowledge is something he refers to in paragraph 110. People in a state of obfuscation of their knowledge and atomizing themselves in their particular discipline. “Oh, I’m an economic paleontologist, I’m not a political paleontologist,” leads to academic garble and the atomization of life. Techno talk masking the problem.

We recommend a new book from Paul Moses called The Saint and the Sultan: the Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, which examines a little known encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt during the Crusades. St Francis was a peace activist.

If we look at paragraph 111, we see the pope’s interest in co-ops. Many people talk about socialism, and for many it was a view of top down control by the government. A command economy. Decisions made at the top. Socialism over the years, of course, has evolved. The idea today is more that the people have economic democracy, deciding what is going to make them happy. For example, have we ever made a choice that the Greeks just made? Have we ever had an opportunity to make such a choice? I don’t think we ever have. It’s time that we had economic democracy. This is the kind of democracy he’s talking about. The socialism of the coop. And you can certainly read between the lines a reference to Mondragon, in the Basque area of Spain – a very effective, very large worker co-op. They don’t have bosses in the old sense. So we have a worker entity, and bringing this out in paragraph 114, he calls for a bold cultural revolution. Of course, you can hear the voice of Martin Luther King in that.

The Pope rightly sees cap and trade as a shell game. “I’ll buy your right to pollute, and I’ll pollute more.”


This is done with what I call reverence and critique, because we’re showing a reverence for the common good, a reverence for distributive justice. We can’t help but have a critique of the church itself and its theology over the past years, which have included some horrors which were found in the Council of Nicea, leading to crusades which were a bloody disaster. Leading to inquisition – telling people they didn’t have a right to be Jewish, telling them that error had no rights: because you are in error, you can convert or die. Well, friends, a critique of history must go on. The church must learn to say its mea culpas, not just have its members say their mea culpas for their pecadillos. Little sins of whatever kind. But the church itself – institutions – should say “through my fault.” The church has to do that, because repeating the past is the worst possible view of life. You don’t repeat the past; you move on.

He goes on again with a controversial reference about abortion in paragraph 120. Certainly we should have a reverence for the human embryo and everything else in the world, for that matter – but I think it is at least significant that he certainly doesn’t call for bringing criminal justice into this matter. There are so many things that individuals of one kind or another may find detestable, but are legal – and I think there’s a reason for that, because we’re always going to have disputed areas. There may be people who believe that divorce is evil, and it has been illegal in various parts of the world. But it is not criminal in much of the world today. Things of that nature, it’s important. There are things I don’t like that are legal, so I have to say that legality is not necessarily morality. We had things that were legal – slavery was legal, segregation was legal – that didn’t make it moral. It had to be fought. So he is not referring here to legal action. He’s speaking about the reverence to everything.

On the economy, he goes back to what he calls the invisible forces of the market. And that is really very interesting because naturally we think right away of Adam Smith, 1776, speaking of the “invisible hand” that was going to regulate the market. Many commentaries think that Adam Smith really thought the “invisible hand” was the hand of God. He thought God would regulate the market. Well, the pope doesn’t agree with Adam Smith. And I don’t know that anybody else does, either. That is not the way to “balance things out.” It doesn’t, and it can’t.

He talks about the extreme dangers of human trafficking that’s going on. Slavery is illegal in much of the world, but it’s still going on in a terrible way. He didn’t mention the economist Ricardo, who had the iron law of wages – basically, pay the workers as small an amount as possible. Well, tough luck, Ricardo. We don’t agree with you, and neither does the pope.

We’ve had so many laws that were made for small farmers (and now we’re looking at paragraph 128). They were made for small farmers, the Reclamation Act of 1902. And sure enough, agribiz took advantage of it by getting its water for almost free and devastating us with monocultures. And he is not bragging about this type of agriculture. It is not efficient. A more efficient agriculture is the smaller farm. Agribiz will destroy thousands of acres if they don’t think there’s a profit. That’s their God. Now, it’s not effective, it’s too big, it’s too much of one crop, and we have to get beyond that.

Again and again he talks about the homeless. We can’t help but think of the LA city council instructing the police to steal the property of the homeless and throw them out. Where are they supposed to go? Well, they can go to hell, as far as the city council is concerned. I’m sorry, that’s not acceptable, and so once again we say that the government is here for the common good. It is not here for the one percent.

He talks about the problem of genetic mutation, and in a surprising way. In paragraph 134, he talks about how there have been mutation of animals and products for centuries, making different breeds of dogs, different kinds of fruit, etc., and he ties that in with the current genetic mutations saying this can be again like all technology for good or for evil. He even refers to this horrible thing in paragraph 134, the death seed. You have to buy these seeds every year because they’re not fertile and you can’t plant them next season. What a horrible concept that is – which if I remember correctly, Monsanto gave birth to.

He’s talking about what he calls integral ecology. That includes the whole social ecology of all this being interrelated, and he brings in the indigenous people. Of course, he’s with them this week, he’s been with them in Ecuador, and I recall a visit there to Riobama where the Quechua people were in the cathedral. The archbishop got up to apparently give a long talk, and the leader of the indigenous people said, “Thank you very much, you can sit down now.” It was a clear effort on the part of the indigenous people to say thank you very much, we respect you and the church, but you don’t run Riobama, and you don’t run Ecuador, and you don’t run

our Quechua culture. The dangers of the mining industry moving into these places, and the fact that in small countries (not small in size, but small in power) the corporations have taken advantage of them and trashed their lands – as in Ecuador, as in Peru, as in Nigeria – trashed the area, polluted the area, and moved out. There have been some successful lawsuits, but not nearly enough. So he’s very much in touch with these problems, and about the fact that people can and do and will migrate. As Europe empties out, Africa would like to come in. As our own country is not reproducing itself, we have more people coming in from the Americas, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They’ve been good for our society.

Most of the comments made about our refugees are false comments, and that’s something that should not continue. We don’t need false comments about them. If we want to correct FOX News or others, we don’t have illegal aliens, we have quite a few refugees. These people are a huge source of income for the state of California, social security is taken from their checks, they never get it back, and they have not cost the state one cent. They have increased our economy. They do most of the hard work in California. They are frequently victimized by rotten and illegal pay for their work. If the border were open, it would be better for everyone. It would be easier for people to come and go. In earlier years, one third of those who came here went home. Now they are illegally criminalized going both ways. The Border Patrol is one of the most corrupt and bloody entities in the United States.

Yes, we are an insane asylum, as someone said. We have more billionaires than any other area, and we are insane for letting them have money they did not earn and which belongs to the workers they stole it from. So, migration is the only thing that has kept our population from falling dramatically, as it has fallen in all of Europe and Russia. Welcome to the strangers. Maybe they can help our sickness. Much of the data we get about this planet is false information, and that is extremely damaging to everyone.


The pope in paragraph 155 refers to natural law that is the belief that in one’s heart, you can know a great deal about what is right and wrong. Little children seem to know that very early. “That’s not fair,” they’ll say, and they know it’s not fair. Because, in his view, natural law, moral law, is written in our hearts.

He speaks of the principle of subsidiarity in paragraph 157. It’s to show the respect for the smallest entity in society, the family, and not to allow larger entities to interfere in any way except when it’s necessary for the common good. So you have the family with its autonomy, and you have to have someone collect the garbage, so you have the village to collect the garbage, and you have other entities created. But they should not be allowed to interfere with the integrity of the family unless there is good cause. For example, people who believe they can cure their children with deadly snakes, or something like that.

Brooks: A prominent and well compensated apologist for capitalism, was among the first to complain about the Pope's denunciation of cap'n'trade, and supposed attempt to cure capitalism using its own playbook.
Brooks: A prominent and well compensated apologist for capitalism, was among the first to complain about the Pope’s denunciation of cap’n’trade, a cynical attempt to cure capitalism using its own playbook.

So, the pope speaks against rampant individualism. Everyone for himself. I don’t think he would like Ayn Rand. He speaks again for diversified agriculture; there’s too much monoculture right now. The thing that bothered David Brooks of the New York Times is the fact that the pope attacks cap and trade. Paragraph 171. This is a shell game. I’ll buy your right to pollute, and I’ll pollute more. Well, what a silly idea. Apparently the pope sees that. Cap and trade has no place in helping the environment.

He shows that trade agreements are basically unacceptable. Paragraph 173. We don’t want corporations to run everything. We want a global commons. By doing that, we will eliminate poverty. And we can do that many times over by ending war. There’s no need for any poverty or misery anywhere.

Paragraph 176 I think applies to the Greek media, which has been just as bad or worse than ours, telling the Greek people that they’ve got to comply with the banks. They have to have “austerity.” No, they don’t have to have austerity. The Greek people are very much awake. The Latin American people are totally in solidarity with the Greeks, and that is a very exciting thing.


In paragraph 178, the pope talks about electoral interests that frankly don’t care about anything except getting elected. Why do I run? Because I want to get rich, and someday be a lobbyist. This is horrendous. People thinking we ought to get tough, we’re not tough enough, we’ve got perpetual war but that’s not tough enough, we’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to get so tough we kill everybody, including ourselves. This is nuts. Electoral opportunism.

Once again he speaks of co-ops. In paragraph 179, the efficiency of small farming and the profound humanism involved in production. Those are key points. These are the areas we have to really accept.

He doesn’t think there’s a future for the financial system, paragraph 189. I don’t either. In 1929 you have people buying on margins. They lost everything. Today we have these lovely hedge funds, credit default swaps, gambling, and financial bubbles. He goes on in paragraph 190 to say that the environment is in no way assured by financial calculations or power. It’s not going to be done by the financial system.

For the nth time, he attacks war in paragraph 200, reflecting on the words of Jesus: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Our treasure and our treasury is in war making, perpetually. General Dempsey has told us that we have to get ready for a long, long war…a very, very long war, because that makes a long, long profit for the one percent. And that’s all he cares about, is the one percent, or perhaps the one tenth of one percent. We have a long, long war coming up, I want to make a lot of profit. Well, that’s pretty sick.

We see today the treasure of the church was in the crusades, in creating what was called Christendom, and that is the powerful, political entity that the church became. It was not successful, and is not successful today. So the politicians try to divert our attention to consumerism, which is the very thing that the pope opposes. President Bush told us to go shopping on 9/11. In a very interesting way, the pope calls for consumer boycotts. Paragraph 206: “A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.” Purchasing is a moral act. He’s supporting consumer boycotts of immoral entities. He’s calling for justice, peace and a joyful celebration of life.


A new life style not based on consumerism, not based on a culture of death (paragraph 213). The culture of death was brought out by Pablo Freire in his book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It is of some importance for us to be able to distinguish oppressed and oppressor. The rape of Gaza that took place just a year ago. Who was the oppressor? Thousands killed by the Israelis. Hundreds of children. Anyone who is trying to be fair knows who the oppressor is. It’s very clear. Israel is the oppressor, there’s no question about it. The Palestinians have been the oppressed. Max Blumenthal’s new book, The Fifty-One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, published just now, 2015. You can look at his previous book, Live and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013).

It’s very clear to any rational individual that oppressor and oppressed can be defined. The United States has been the oppressor in the wars since World War II. Millions of people have died because of our lies, because of our weapons, because of our love of dictatorships. We like dictators who obey; when they don’t, we kill them. Certainly Iraq is in worse shape today than it was when I saw it under Saddam Hussein. There’s no question about it. We have destroyed Iraq. We have destroyed Afghanistan. We’re involved in the destruction of Yemen, helping our dear brothers in Saudi Arabia, the richest of the rich against the poorest of the poor, this is called necrophilia, love of death, the war system.

Pablo Freire in his book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed said it had to be replaced with biophilia. And you do that with a good aesthetic education. In paragraph 219, he calls for organizing community networks, basically repeating the words of Joe Hill before he was shot in Utah by a firing squad, “Don’t mourn. Organize!” Develop a prophetic, contemplative lifestyle of moderation, not a flood of consumer goods. A full life. Music. Art. Contact with nature. Prayer. No hype. Not too much noise. No constant hurry for the sake of hurrying.

Paragraph 225 talks about the capacity for wonder. And welcoming the strangers, they are not illegal, they are refugees. In paragraph 244, let us sing as we go, may our struggles and concern for this planet never take away from the joy of our hope.


In conclusion, in paragraph 246, Pope Francis says the conclusion of this lengthy reflection, and it is lengthy, 180 pages, had been both joyful and troubling. I think it was joyful for him, but I think that the place of the church in history is troubling for him and for anyone who studies history. I think he knows that. And that’s what he has to deal with, and that’s part of the troubling thing, especially the troubling caused by war.

He ends the encyclical with two prayers. One for Christians, one for theists and also for non- theists, atheists, for agnostics. What do the statisticians say? 30 percent of atheists pray. I think that’s fair. There are a lot of great people who cannot affirm the existence of God, and we understand that. And I think he understands that also. And I think he’s coming to an understanding of the contradictions within the institution of the church itself, and how sectarianism divides us, how dogmatism divides us, how claiming we know so much about God divides us. If we’re truly reverent, we’ll admit we know little or nothing about God. But we know we should be reverent in the face of the reality of living on this small planet. And a sense of awe for that.

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About the Author


 [box type=”download”] Blase Bonpane, and his wife Theresa, are Founding Directors of the Office of the Americas, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to furthering the cause of international justice and peace through broad based educational programs. Blase served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala during the revolutionary conflict of the 1960’s. He has also served on the faculties of UCLA and California State University Northridge. He is host of the weekly radio program World Focus on Pacifica Radio (KPFK, Los Angeles), and previously hosted the program World Focus on Time/Warner TV Educational and Public Access Channels. He was named “the most underrated humanist of the decade” by the Los Angeles Weekly. In 2006, he was awarded the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The Blase Bonpane Collection has been established by the Department of Special Collections of the UCLA Research Library (collection 1590). This is a compilation of his published and unpublished writings, lectures and recordings of his programs on Pacifica Radio.

Blase is the author of six books and numerous articles and commentaries which have been published internationally and syndicated by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. His most recent book is his autobiography, Imagine No Religion. Contact Blase Bonpane at ooa@igc.org. To order books, schedule a presentation, or find transcripts of Blase’s latest broadcasts, visit the OOA website at www.officeoftheamericas.org.[/box]


Photo: Blase Bonpane in Condega, Nicaragua during the International March for Peace in Central America, 1985.


The Office of the Americas is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the cause of international justice and peace through broad based educational programs.


Founded in 1983 in Los Angeles, the Office of the Americas is a recognized source of documentation and analysis of current international events with a focus on the foreign policy of the United States. Through its public education campaign, the Office of the Americas works to reach constituencies of students, religious and human rights organizations and all others concerned about issues of international justice and peace.

Our goal is to end the long-standing international culture of militarism.


Office of the Americas

www.officeoftheamericas.org · ooa@igc.org · 310-450-1185

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