Comments on the Pope’s Pantheistic Earth Day Statement

On September 1, 2020, Pope Francis saw fit to deliver a message to the “Christian Family” in honor of two events: First, the Annual Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and second, the fiftieth anniversary year of the establishment of Earth Day. In this article, he exhorts his audience to do five things: To remember “…creation’s original vocation to exist and flourish as a community of love,” to return “to God our loving Creator” by means of heeding “…the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order,” to rest “from [our] usual labour and to let the land heal and the earth repair itself,” to restore by means of protective legislature such as (he cites explicitly) the Paris Climate Agreement, and lastly to rejoice that certain demographics and “faith communities” are “coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

Remember: The Pope tells us to remember creation’s vocation, which he identifies as “to exist and flourish as a community of love.” He then quotes his encyclical Laudato Si, claiming that we are united “in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.” Let me be clear: we are not to be united in fond affection to each other only, but also to these nonliving entities. ‘United,’ according to Merriam-Webster, can mean “1. made one,” or “2. relating to or produced by joint action.” In good faith, I cannot believe that the Pope intends the first definition. If the perfect experience of God’s love actually made me one with “sister moon,” then I would cease to exist in the beatific vision. The man-moon hybrid existing in the beatific vision would be… not me. Thus, I believe that the Pope must intend the second meaning of “united,” that is, “relating to or produced by joint action.” I can feel affection for the moon. The moon is not alive. The moon cannot feel affection for me. We cannot be united by mutual affection.

Pope Francis has done two things here in order to accomplish one end. One is obvious, the other is not. Not obviously, he implies that the moon has a living thing’s ability to feel affection. Second and more obviously, he calls the moon our “sister.” With these two sly moves, he begins to hint at a premise he does not dare vocalize: the moon has a relationship with us that transcends the bounds of material reality, and that reality is separate from Catholic understanding of the divine and sacred nature of creation. When we contemplate nature, we are ultimately contemplating God’s attributes made visible in His creation. Thus, we are to be united in affection with Him, not with his inanimate creation.

Return: Pope Francis’ second point is that we need to “turn back in repentance.” I don’t know what he means by ‘turning back,’ but I believe he intends something like Senior’s “turn back the clock” statement. Francis is talking about the ecological changes we observed when large parts of the world were under quarantine, such as the smog over L.A. lifting or the dolphins returning to the Venetian canals. I’m not sure what one would repent of other than sin, so Francis seems to be positing that if you contribute to L.A. smog, you are sinning by “breaking the bonds” between you and “the rest of creation.” Francis, of course, conveniently ignores the fact that quarantine, while beneficial for dolphins, is actually very bad for humans. Elevated levels of adverse mental health conditions, substance use, and suicidal ideation were reported by adults in the United States in June 2020. An article published on the Center for Disease Control website states that “the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%).”1 While it’s true that we ought to minimize our impact on our ecological environment, and while it’s a good thing that air and water pollution decreased, it’s not worth the self-destruction of the human race.

Rest: Francis claims that “God set aside the Sabbath so that the land and its inhabitants could rest and be renewed.” I disagree with this statement only insofar as, to my knowledge, renewal was unnecessary at the time that God instituted the Sabbath. The earth would never need renewal, because Adam had not sinned yet. The pope continues: “During the Jubilee, God’s people were invited to rest from their usual labour and to let the land heal and the earth repair itself, as individuals consumed less than usual.” I’m not sure what he means by the Jubilee, but he doesn’t mention the true reason for the Sabbath: to contemplate God and worship Him. The sabbath is not for dolphins.

Restore: The pope calls for restoration of the land and human relationships by means such as debt cancellation, lowering the global temperature, and adopting legislature to “stem biodiversity loss.”

Rejoice: The pope then gives us reasons to be happy and joyful, citing reasons such as “faith communities coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.” Well, that’s not bad, but I’m deeply suspicious of such movements. It runs the danger of saying, “see, religions of all kinds are man’s means to living well on earth. That’s why we have religion,” which is of course not true. Catholicism exists so that man can worship God and achieve eternal life, living beyond the promised destruction of this world. I hope Francis remembers that.

I’m not trying to hide my main point. I believe that Pope Francis is at best an accidental pantheist, lured in because pantheism is an attractive and alluring religion, and one of man’s most natural tendencies. (I’ll say more on that later; C.S. Lewis talks about it in his Miracles). At worst, I don’t need to say what he is, because I guarantee a quick sweep of certain websites will make all those accusations for me. Intentionally or not, Pope Francis is advancing his pantheistic beliefs under the guise of Catholicism, and we need to be able to distinguish and articulate his Catholic views from his pantheistic ones, because he has a tendency to mash them together. I’ll write more on pantheism later, because I do believe that it’s the primary evil we’re going to have to defend against in the future. If the Church of Satan mobilized against the Church, it would be easy to fight for truth. Pantheism is hard. It’s sneaky and softly alluring. Let’s all be on guard.

Sources:

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20200901_messaggio-giornata-cura-creato.html

Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. 

2 thoughts on “Comments on the Pope’s Pantheistic Earth Day Statement

  1. I had just a couple of questions that I was hoping to get some clarification on.

    1) Is it not possible that we are united to natural creation in so far as we are also part of that creation? It seems like under the 2nd definition of creation you cited, “relating to or produced by joint action,” you could make an argument that man and the moon are related by the action of God. In so far as we both held in existence, then we are in joint action, or am I misunderstanding the idea of joint action?

    2) What is the distinction between the action required for unity, and the affection you mentioned? It seems right that the moon cannot have affection for us, but how does that disqualify unity between us?

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    • Yeah, I think the whole quote will help. This is from Laudato Si: Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth” (LS, 92).

      I think he might be saying that we are united to the moon by God’s love, which is fine, but there’s a problem: he says we are united WITH the moon, not to. I don’t know. That might not be an important distinction but it seems like it to me. I might be wrong about that being so bad. Also, I’m trying to examine statements that were never meant to be examined and dissected. I think they were written to be read emotionally and at face value.

      2. I have a problem if we are united by joint action, and that joint action is affection. I think the problem is that he is hinting that the moon can return our affection- a nice sentiment, but wrong. Once again, I could be reading it wrongly.

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