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December 3, 2015

Dialogue #4 on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si

As in the previous three dialogues of reflection on Laudato Si, Pope Francis's encyclical addressing the ecological crisis facing humanity and Earth, those invited to read part of the document and reflect on some questions related to it. For this session, the questions were:

Question 1.

Francis argues, "The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty" (paragraph 175). What is this mindset?

Question 2:

2. Francis is critical of many business practices, has no faith in the marketplace to safeguard the environment, and sees a robust role for government in the regulation of the economy and protecting the environment. How will Americans respond to this? How do you?

Question 3:

3. The word "dialogue" is repeated throughout this chapter. What does it mean and why does Francis think it is important?

In go-round addressing the first question, one participant acknowledged at the outset that based on information she hears on the radio, she does not believe that human activity is responsible for climate change and that it is unfair to blame industrialization. However, she did think conservation is important because of the amount of waste being generated by people's consumption of goods they do not really need.

- "Ownership" "It's mine. I worked for it and it's my right to have it."

- Corporate culture focus on the bottom line without regard for the needs of people

- Focus on negativity and blaming other people for what you don't have instead of being grateful and focusing on the abundance of nature

- Inability to accept others who are different from us in some way and to acknowledge our common humanity

- "Rugged individualism" we are all on our own and whatever we achieve is the result of our own efforts.

Failure to recognize who each of us depends on a whole fabric of relationships and social conditions

- The idea that each of us is a separate being and not recognizing that we are connected to the whole world

Following this go-round the facilitator asked if people could think of other cultures where values were different. One thought was about cultures where nurturing and protecting members of the family was the primary value. Another was that there are cultures where the whole community feels responsible for caring for children "it takes a village to raise a child." Another mentioned the Sikh culture where there is a custom of preparing food and feeding for free everyone who comes to the temple on a given day for example hundreds were fed one day at the last Parliament of World Religions.

One member warned that valuing the family or community over the individual can lead to abuses of people who can't or won't conform to the community's demands. She gave the example of "honor killings" of women in Bangladesh.

One person commented on people whose culture seems to value "getting over" on what they regard as an unfair system of discrimination. Sometimes this can result in their own unfairness towards people like small business owners, small landlords, etc. Relations between black people and white people who appear to have authority or means can be prickly.

On the second question about government regulation of the economy, one person made the point that for change to take place the structural dimensions have to be addressed. There was little agreement in the group about how this could take place. They described some aspects of the problem disappearance of the middle class in this country, profits at any cost, exploitation abroad, CEOs with astronomical salaries, failure of the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, buying elections, etc. "If you have enough money, you can buy whatever you want." Some thought government intervention was necessary, local and individual actions made more sense to others.

Finally, on the Pope's mention of the importance of dialogue, how can it help address the mindsets listed:

- It provides a safe place for confrontation of differences

- Requires developing listening skills and also skills of expressing oneself

- Allows us to express ourselves on a deeper level than we usually can

- Can explore new ideas - Teaches respect for the feelings and opinions of others

- Keeps a focus on the common good

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