ON THE NATURE OF THINGS
Last month, Pope Francis issued a lengthy encyclical on the environment, called “Laudato Si’“, “you be praised”. I still haven’t read the whole thing, but I want to begin this series of columns with one of my favorite ideas from the encyclical so far. Pope Francis describes something he calls “Integral ecology” (LS 137). By this notion of integral ecology, the Holy Father considers many different aspects of Catholic teaching under a similar understanding. Integral ecology doesn’t just include our relationship with the environment . . . it includes our relationship with each other as members of our environment as well as our relationship with God who has given us charge of our environment. Pope Francis refers to Benedict XVI’s New Year’s greetings to the diplomatic core of the Holy See in January 2007. Integral ecology describes how the "book of nature is one and indivisible” (Benedict XVI). Pope Francis describes how integral ecology incorporates our thinking on the environment, on life, on sexuality, on the family, on social relations, and on economics.
Much of the consistency of Catholic teaching is shown by this notion of integral ecology. It all fits together. If you change one thing, you end up changing a lot of other things, too. Certain examples come immediately to mind. What we say about Christ is reflected in what we say about Mary, and vice versa. Calling Mary the Mother of God draws attention to Christ’s divine nature. What we say about the Trinity is reflected in what we say about the family, and vice versa. The perfection of love is a fruitful communion of persons. Marriage between a man and woman reflects how the perfection of self-gift can be productive of another person. In the Trinity, the perfect communion of Father and Son breathes forth a person – the Holy Spirit.
Suffice it to say that the Church’s theology reflects the Wisdom of Christ. It’s consistency bears keeping in mind when there are aspects of Church teaching that we find difficult or hard to understand. Next week, I will try to illustrate just one aspect of this consistency with a reference to Disney Pixar’s Wall-E as a continuation of this account of the nature of things.