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October 8, 2015

Dialogue #2 on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si

Participants in this dialogue were sent in advance the questions that would be addressed in the meeting along with a request to read a portion of the encyclical.

Question 1.

What is Francis' attitude toward technology? (Read 104-114).

Question 2:

In paragraph 111, Francis argues, "To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask, the true and deepest problems of the global system." (par 111)

a) What do you think that he means by focusing only on technical remedies?

b) How do you see only technical solutions to environmental problems today?

Following are summaries of some comments in response to the two questions:

--Pope Francis is appreciative of technology. Advances can be helpful but he warns we can get lost in it. An example would be the way that direct communication among people is lost in favor of phone technology -- email, texting, etc.

--The Pope warned that it is risky for a small number of people to have so much technological power and make decisions for the rest of us. Without controls to curb it, it can become a monster, like nuclear weapons. The power can make people lose compassion and think only of their own interests. Meanwhile the poor are left behind.

--Technological development is so fast we can't keep up or comprehend it all. The idea has taken hold that it is limitless and good, no matter what it is.

--In my job, there is some new technology for record-keeping. We don't know how to use it and we feel we are being run by that machine.

--We can see the value of a lot of it, such as in treating diseases, and we have developed the belief that machines can solve everything. But just because something can be done doesn't mean we have to do it. The encyclical says: "…our immense technological development has not been accompanied by development in human responsibility, values and conscience." There needs to be training in human values.

--Everybody should be talking about things like nuclear power and gun control and climate change. But people are in the dark. Don't get needed information from the media. We don't know what we are responsible for. I read that in Peru people are blaming the U.S. for acid rain that is causing their seeds to be smaller than they used to be. We don't think about the fact that what we put into the air goes everywhere.

--The people who have power over others through technology don't think they need to do anything differently. They think they are just fine. They can be tempted to play god. What would make them change? Our prayers and sympathy for those most hurt by climate change and the excesses of technology are not enough.

--One thing might – financial costs of rebuilding after these extreme weather events – like the floods in South Carolina, the wild fires in the West, the drought in California. Insurance companies have been aware of this for a long time and are raising their rates accordingly.

--People change when things personally affect them. New York City may be able to build levees to hold back rising seas rise but Bangladesh is too poor to do that. Are we able to live life in such a selfish way?

--Do people have to have landscaped lawns? Waste water in all kinds of ways? Have air-conditioning and TV sets on all day even when not needed?

There may be a tipping point – Shell just decided not to drill for oil in the Arctic because it was not cost effective. Public protests against the drilling may have had a part in that decision, too.

--We need new ways of looking at everything, change the conversation and develop an attitude that looks at the whole, at ourselves, other forms of life and the earth all together. We all evolved from the same place in the universe. For us there is a challenge to rethink who Jesus is and find out what that means.

--The only commandment that Jesus left us was to wash each other's feet.

Question 3: (Read paragraphs 124 – 129). How does Francis view work and employment?

Summary of responses to this question:

--Education is important so we don't just learn one thing. Core standards are important but not everyone is meant to go to college. I never use algebra, geometry or calculus. Basic business math would have been more useful.

--What is work? It can be creative and satisfying, doesn't have to be onerous. It should contribute to society.

-- Pope Francis does say that there needs to be a complete change globally of both production and consumption. In order to have dignified work for everyone the whole system would have to be re-designed.

--We are seeing the erosion of the eight-hour day. Many people work much longer hours and because of cell phones are expected to be on call at every one, even in the middle of the night.

--I used to work in a law firm. I see now that many women don't want to be partners because the job does not leave any time for families. I think there is an undercurrent of refusal to go along with the demands of the economic system.

To close the meeting, some participants offered thoughts they wanted to take home with them.

--Consider the common good when issues come up.

--The inter-relatedness of all things in creation.

--Underlying hope. The encyclical inspired a lot of people. It's down to earth common sense.

--People are reaching a point of asking how many pairs of shoes do I need? They are looking for something more substantial.

--Obstinate people won't see the light until it affects them personally. What will open their eyes?

--I will be more cheerful and not let the machines make me feel angry all the time.

--I want to urge more people to read the encyclical and I plan to re-read it.

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