The Papal Encyclical: Justice between the Generations

Martin Royackers S.J. was a Canadian serving as a parish priest in Jamaica.  He worked for the poor and fought for recognition of their rights.  He was murdered 15 years ago.  No criminal charges have been brought, as his killers have never been satisfactorily identified.

In recognition of his life and sacrifice, a series of memorial lectures has been established through Regis College in Toronto.  Stephen Scharper, speaking with his usual clarity and conviction, delivered the 2016 lecture on the Papal Encyclical “Laudato Si”, the Church’s reflections on climate change.   A very appropriate topic for an Royackers lecture, given the Encyclical’s emphasis on defending the cause of the poor.

4RG has spoken out on many occasions inviting grandparents to act to limit the effects of climate change. Likewise we have urged the Canadian public to show compassion to the poor of the world, who will be most severely impacted by its effects.

Four of the paragraphs in the Encyclical have deep meaning for 4RG.  These paragraphs, prefaced by the caption “Justice between the Generations”, examine at length why our generation of Grandparents must work to stop global warming brought on by climate change.  In this commentary we present the most emphatic statements from these Encyclical paragraphs, and associate these statements with positions we have taken.

Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.”  (Paragraph 159)

Comment: To quote the Bishops of Portugal: “[the environment] is on loan to each generation, which must hand it on to the next.” Or – has 4RG has said: “Our Legacy: their future”.

“Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us.” (Paragraph 160)

Comment: We cannot dispute this forceful statement – unless we argue that we are on this earth to enjoy life and pursue our pleasures without regard to future costs.

“” Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.” (Paragraph 161)

Comment: Certain sceptics ridicule the projections of global warming.  These sceptics suggest that scientists who make these projections believe their academic career will be assisted or they will be more likely to receive government grants. This criticism was more common in the first decade of this millennium, but is now rejected –  except among certain politicians.

“Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment. Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification.” (Paragraph 162)

Comment: The Encyclical refers frequently to “the common good”.  This virtue is not inconsistent with individual liberty, but it is fundamentally opposed to rampant individualism.  Read our blog “Thoughts on Our Place in the Cosmos”




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