OF THE BERGOGLIO
TO BISHOPS, PRIESTS, DEACONS, &
ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL TO ME
- The joy of carbonation is also the joy of the Church. It is good news indeed.
The Fathers Have Spoken
- A few, very few, of all the world’s bishops, each of them personally selected by us, have now met and, after invoking the light of the Holy Spirit, a majority of these chosen ones have declared their own thoughts and conclusions on the matters we discuss herein. Enlightened by the same Spirit, we now express our agreement with what they have previously and independently come to believe and to fearlessly assert.
The Dividers We Have Always With Us
- Some of those not so chosen have disagreed with this light of the Spirit. Fettered by an excluding and divisive carbonoxy, they have shouted, some in shrill voice, that those who commit sin against Mother Earth are to be condemned. They seek a declaration from our throne that any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem should be regarded as “ecocidal,” the abortion of creation.
- They entreat me, relying on my power to renew the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to improve it to reflect their rigid beliefs that there is now a “sin against ecology, the ‘ecological sin’ against our common home.”
- They wish me to declare earth abuse as a sin against God’s creation, against nature and a sin against future generations, including acts and habits of pollution and destruction of environmental harmony. They beg me to declare as sinful transgressions the sins, worldwide, against the principles of interdependence and against the solidarity networks between creatures. They implore me to demand that all those who have strayed repent sincerely, including public penitence for the harm done to the earth, the sea, the air, and the animals. Some seek the demotion of these earth sinners and their exile, particularly if they do not voluntarily submit to therapeutic care.
Ours Is The Way Of Consistency & Truth
- Although I have the power to do this, and more, principles of my magisterium already declared come to mind in this situation, principles with which no small number of the world’s bishops in the past have agreed. If I make the exception – to create the sin against the earth – my principles would be shown to everyone not to be principles, but simply idiosyncratic points of a self-defeating agenda. In the past, we have effectively used apparent paradox to instruct and to declare new doctrine. Still, in this case, it would be a clear and evident sign of contradiction and consummately hypocritical for us to ignore what has already been proclaimed as my universal principles. Again and again we have said what the faithful “must” do and “must” believe as cornerstones of my magisterium. Thus, we cannot ignore our previous declarations that:
- There is a need to avoid judgements.
- Responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.
- It is possible that in an objective situation of sin one may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such, and such a person can be acting in accord with God’s will for them, living in God’s grace, and can also grow in the life of grace and charity.
- Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.
- What is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule.
- Earth abusers, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, and they should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications.
- It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.
The Best One Can Do Is Always Virtuous
- Although any affront to Mother Earth is against the will of God, we are also conscious of the frailty of many who abuse her. Enlightened with my merciful gaze, we turn with love to those who participate in life with Mother Earth in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives. We must never let the straying and strayed sheep forget that we are like doctors in a combat ward. We do not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet, or no longer, correspond to my teachings on the creation of God our Father and my doctrines of Mother Earth in their fullness, in their total new reality.
They Cannot Be Condemned Forever, No One Can
- The choice to live what is, in effect, a life of earth abuse, is often not motivated by prejudice, orthodoxy, or resistance to a belief in the earth as sacrament, but by cultural or contingent situations. My way is not to condemn anyone forever, but it is to pour out the balm of my wisdom to heal all wounds. Summary condemnation does not take into account the complexity of various situations. Material poverty and, yes, spiritual poverty, drive many into earth abuse, but all such situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to living my new gospel, my law, a boon to those in irregular situations of weakness or imperfection. Earth abusers and their ilk need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly. That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan human. The way of both my church and of my doctrines is not to condemn anyone forever.
Earth Abusers Must Be Ecclesially & Joyfully Welcomed
- We must and we will help even earth abusers find my way of participating in the ecclesial community and experiencing my unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not my logic. Since this is of the Holy Spirit, it is not circular reasoning. Being of the Spirit, this is not a contradiction of Our Lord in Holy Scripture, but a development of His teaching. I am here not speaking only of those who intentionally abuse the earth, but of everyone, in whatever situation in which they abuse anyone or anything.
We Must Shepherd All On Their Earth Journeys
- In considering a pastoral approach towards earth abusers, my church has the responsibility of helping them understand my pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them, something which is always possible. Earth abusers, even those publicly and flagrantly engaging in such actions without repentance, need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of judgment so they can have a joyful and fruitful ecclesial experience. All forms of exclusion currently practiced against them are to be abolished.
- They are living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as Mother Earth who welcomes them always, who cares for them with affection, and nourishes them along the path of life and my gospel.
No Mortal Sin No More
- Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situations of earth abuse are committing a mortal sin. As we have already declared, ongoing public adulterers and those freely choosing to engage in homosexual actions with the full knowledge of the community, without repenting, are to be ushered into my church with ecclesial joy, including those ordained to Holy Orders, and their consciences celebrated. Earth abusers too need to be better incorporated into my church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of care and concern for Mother Earth.
Their Consciences Must Be Respected, Absolutely
- Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of my teachings and my gospel. It can with sincerity and honesty provide an unquestionable moral security that what violates the objective rule is what I and God are asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits. The degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases and thus the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.
- My church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all in earth abusing “irregular” situations are in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. Some earth abusers may be in situations that do not allow them to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. It is my professed conviction that under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases.
Living An Ideal, Even Partially, Is Virtue
- In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of care for Mother Earth according to God’s plan in all its grandeur. I understand those who prefer a more rigorous, rigid, ironclad pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion, those who I mentioned above who wish me to create new climate sins and an ecological hell. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants my church attentive to goodness. Nothing in this goodness can be lacking in mercy.
Healing, Merciful Silence For Those Who Question The Spirit
- Some, darkened by the doubts of now empty doctrine and ineffective tradition, will certainly question, even publicly, what we here proclaim. A direct response to these skeptics would only serve to dignify useless and outmoded opinions which they resurrect from times gone by. As in the past, the best way to shepherd them is in our pastoral silence. Our caring in this way will be the sign of our pastoral concern for them and will, if they will only listen in their darkness and then seek the brilliance of the same Holy Spirit that has enlightened us, help them to come to our light.
- So let it be written, so let it be done.