The Via Negativa in Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si” Encyclical

In discussing the Via Positiva, we considered Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” which dealt with it in considerable depth and breadth.  (See the meditations on August 7, 8, and 9). 

Pope Francis’ encyclical may be read or downloaded here

In the same encyclical the Via Negativa is prominent too, as the Pope reports the demise of the planet as we know it.  His list is familiar to those who are paying attention.  He deplores the “pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive.”  He decries a “throwaway culture” where “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”  (21, 22)  He invokes “a very solid scientific consensus” around the issue of climate warming and a “constant rise in the sea level, an increase of extreme weather events,” a concentration of greenhouse gases and more. (23)  Deforestation, the extinction of the planet’s biodiversity, shortage of drinking water, the loss of tropical forests–animals, plants and humans migrating as a result. Human migration on the rise due to “migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.”  (23-25)  The extinction of mammals, birds, fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles, contributes to the destruction of entire ecosystems.  (34) 

“Tiananmen Square, Amazon” Photo by A.K. Rockefeller, Flickr

Had he embraced the Cosmic Christ theology, he might have invoked the archetype I offered twenty-eight years ago, that the Christ is being crucified all over again as we despoil the Earth and her good creatures.

He writes that we undergo debasement as we feel the debasement of the Earth and “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.”  (89)  Yes, the Cosmic Christ is being crucified all over again.

“Paradise Lost” by Street Artist Jim Vision, Hanbury Street, depicting man’s destruction of the rainforests and what is being lost to the wildlife and people. Photo by Loco Steve, Flickr

Science and Spirituality can awaken us both to the glory of nature and creation that we dare not take for granted—but also to the disturbing news and facts of the destruction of the planet that humans are bringing about by our forgetfulness, small-mindedness and greed.  The Via Positiva and the Via Negativa both speaking to us loudly from Mother Earth who invites us to embrace both with passion.  Included in our Meditation offerings today is the wisdom of women—an intergenerational wisdom for all of us, men and women, young and not so young, to heed.

Adapted from: Matthew Fox, “Laudato Si’: The Pope’s Encyclical and the Coming of Age of Creation Spirituality
Banner Image: “Forest Fire” Photo by Cata on Unsplash

For Deeper Contemplation

To enter the pain of Mother Earth at the burning of the Amazon and the rainforests of the world, read and view this testimony from a tribal elder from the Amazon forest: 
Indigenous Women of the Amazon Send a Call: The Fight for Mother Earth Is the Mother of All Fights

To enlarge your spirit to care and action, consider this story from a bona fide prophet of our time, though only a teenager, the moving story of how Greta Thunberg recently landed on American shores to attend a UN conference on climate change by sailing a boat across the ocean in order to awaken awareness—which is what prophets do—to alternative energy sources.
Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Arrives In New York After Sailing The Atlantic


Recommended Reading

 In this extended commentary, Matthew Fox examines Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, noting its  creation spirituality perspective and calling on readers to abandon doctrinal squabbles and unite in protecting “our common home” through the vias positiva, negativa, creativa and transformativa.

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4 thoughts on “The Via Negativa in Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si” Encyclical”

  1. Avatar

    How long must Indigenous People cry, trying to tell us how to care for our Home? I despair for all of us if we don’t start to LISTEN and WORK to save our Earth.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Elaine, We share your impatience and appreciation of the indigenous peoples of Earth. We do need to listen to them know and support their concerns because we will most definitely need their wisdom as our plasti-coated system break down. They are the people who know how to live in tune with nature. IF we ask for their wisdom, I hope they say yes.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

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