Today, we continue our community conversation on Pope Francis's newly released encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si'). For instructions on how to participate, an overview of the chapters, and information on how to download or purchase the encyclical, visit the Laudato Si' landing page here at ! Lisa Hendey

Chapter Three: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Today, Kate Towne and Jane Korvemaker reflect upon Chapter Three.

Jane Korvemaker

The root of it all. Our environment is in crisis, so the question is this: Who is to blame? Someone’s gotta pay for this, right? I’ve gotta be able to throw those batteries out at someone’s expense, don’t I? *cringe* I may not think that way, but I am still culpable for my actions. Maybe I wasn’t analysing and evaluating those new Minion toys from McDonald’s closely, but they do indeed have batteries in them. And when my husband brought them to the hazardous waste disposal, they gave him a look that said, “What on earth are you bringing these things here for?” and were likely tossed in the garbage instead. Sound familiar? A little? Not at all? – Stay with me.

Pope Francis points to several roots that have brought about this environmental crisis, each having good and bad sides. He emphasizes that our recent rapid advancement and progress in technology and sciences (technoscience, as it is termed a few times) has vastly outstripped our capability to take responsibility for it or grow our values and conscience alongside it. And no one is jumping to admit it or take up that responsibility.

It has given rise to the ‘throw away culture’ previously talked about. It has contributed to the floundering of human relationships in favour of technology. It has favoured the market over humans, which seeks only one thing: profit at any and all expense. It has contributed to the rise of relativism which is shaping cultures across the globe.

I recently heard a talk given by Greg Willits from the Denver Archdiocese to the Catholic New Media Conference that asks the same questions posed by Pope Francis: What is the meaning of all this? Why are we doing it? Where are these decisions leading us? Pope Francis analyses further: Are we respecting humans and our (true) needs with all this technoscientific progress? Are we building up the human race or tearing it down? And why aren’t these questions being asked, debated, and analysed before we progress indiscriminately?

I mentioned the Minion toys from McDonald’s. We can tell the question was never asked, “Should we put batteries [AKA noise] in this toy?” Because if you ask nearly any parent, the answer is “NO!” It does not build up my family in any way, shape or form. Most toys that produce noise degrade my family life considerably. Not only that, but it produces much waste – the battery is often thrown in the garbage where it does not belong. The toy itself usually gets broken or all interest is lost within a couple weeks and it becomes waste. Our faith begs us to ask: Was it worth it? Did it build up humanity’s relationships with ourselves, with others, with God? Is it contributing to our true needs as humans? Unfortunately, it fails. Ghastly fails. We need to put technosciences to the test. All this CAN change, but it starts with one person. Then one community. Then another. Lasting change will only happen if it comes from the grassroots.

Read Jane Korvemaker's bio and columns at

Kate Towne:

Reading Chapter 3, I was struck by how it’s meant for everyone, in all walks of life and all vocations, and yet I found it speaking to me personally and directly as a wife and a mom. For example:

“… Saint John Paul II … stressed the benefits of scientific and technological progress as evidence of ‘the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative action’ …” (No. 131)

Those familiar with Natural Family Planning—itself the result of years of scientific and medical study and research—know how very much in line the Church’s teachings on marriage and family and parenthood are with “the human vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative action” by “being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by [nature itself]” (No. 106).

I loved this as well:

“Human creativity cannot be suppressed. If an artist cannot be stopped from using his or her creativity, neither should those who possess particular gifts for the advancement of science and technology be prevented from using their God-given talents for the service of others.” (No. 131)

One of the things I’ve loved the most as a mom of little ones (six boys, ages 1 to 10) is seeing their particular gifts and talents show themselves—what a marvel it is to witness each one’s individual genius, and yet such a responsibility to teach them how to use their gifts for good, how to serve God and others. How many times have I identified a certain boy as the right fit for a certain task because of his particular strengths? Or, on the other hand, how many times have I rearranged and managed things so that one’s particular weaknesses aren’t allowed to thrive and cause hurt and destruction for those around them?

“The fact is that ‘contemporary man has not been trained to use power well’, because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.” (No. 105)

When trying to think, “What can I, here, in my little space in the world, do to further the goal of balancing human creativity with respect for the world God has given us,” I’m heartened to know that my earnest attempts to order my marriage well and to bring my children up with properly formed consciences and a strong sense of values and responsibility might help heal the wounds we have inflicted on nature. As always, parents have an important role to play in moving society toward a better future.

I think too of our Catholic schools, which by their very mission seek to intertwine knowledge with faith, ability with responsibility, and power with service. As one example, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program has morphed into STREAM at my boys’ school (adding in Religion and Arts), reflecting an understanding of Pope Francis’ caution at the end of this chapter that, “a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.” (136)

Read Kate Towne's bio and columns at

Questions to Ponder:

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below

  1. Pope Francis wrote, “Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational” (No. 106). How can you in your state in life and vocation contribute to a more loving and cooperative relationship?
  2. Geothermal heating/cooling systems and solar panels are two ways that human beings can meet their needs through cooperation with nature. What are some other existing examples or possible ideas to develop?
  3. How are you evaluating the impact technology and scientific progress has on your family? How do you allow the framework of indiscriminate progress seep into your household? (What is the make-up of the vaccinations you participate in? Where do you buy your food from – can you keep it closer to support local farmers?
  4. How can you redirect those technosciences in your life to better build up those relationships without tearing down others (Such as, saying “no” to the McDonald’s toy. Or even better - finding ways in which to prepare yourself to say no before you hit the drive through at McDonald’s)?

Next week, we will read and reflect upon Chapter Four of Laudato Si’. For more information on this conversation, visit our Laudato Si' landing page.

Copyright 2015 Claire Dwyer and Cindy Costello

Image credit: Bessi, Pixabay, Public domain