This short posting interrupts my series of discussions about the Pope’s new encyclical. It provides a pause to ask what may be the reader’s basic question: Will this encyclical make any difference in the real world? For what it’s worth, here is my response to that question.
My Presbyterian wife asked a good question: “What’s an encyclical from the Pope supposed to do?”
Well, I answered, it’s supposed to be read and discussed by all kinds of folks, writers and pastors and teachers, reading groups and political analysts, and so on…. Hopefully they will help spread its word about social love – even if only by short references and quotations or by discussion of this or that particular topic.
Hopefully, then, the spread interest in what the pope is calling us to will join with many other spiritual voices and cultural movements seeking greater human solidarity at all levels of our lives. Hopefully, too, such movements, empowered by the breath of the Holy Spirit, will continue to “transform the face of the earth.”
In ways akin to the way Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, has made a major contribution to work for environmental restoration.
Of course it will encounter resistance from many directions. Mainly it will be ignored or just assigned to the category of “pious idealism” and thereby dismissed from serious concern. It will be resisted by many Catholics who already oppose Francis, especially (as I see it) many wealthy Catholics (as so many others) who are deeply invested in “our economic system.” They will once again confine papal teaching to the nearest trash-bin.
So will it do any good? Yes, but it depends where you look. I hear Francis asking us first to look at the little and ordinary as a place to begin to transform social relations. Look to the poor and the lame, those struggling for justice and working for peace. Look to all the good of solidarity already at work nearby. Look at the little steps you may take.
Francis also calls us regularly to focus on trends rather than the present distribution of power. Slavery exists today, and in some ways is growing still, but it can no longer claim legitimacy and is being fought on many fronts. Anti-slavery remains a major social trend or force for justice So too with the equality and empowerment of women. It’s a trend, suffering fits and starts, but another example of the slow and so often checked work of the Spirit for the liberation .of our species. So too, as already noted, with the gradual development of active concern about our environment.
Perhaps Fratelli Tutti comes to our earth at the right time as another source of leaven raising the bread of life for all during a period of such hunger.
Or perhaps I’m just another dreamy idealist.