Pope Francis: Mixing Vias Positiva & Negativa in Appeal for Creation

In a recent Public Letter prepared for the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,” Pope Francis addressed all people of good will and provided a succinct summary of his very influential and celebrated encyclical “Laudato Si.”  He weaves together the Via Positiva, Via Negativa and Via Transformativa as we shall see—topics we are currently treating in our Daily Meditations.  

On the Via Positiva, he reminds us to recall Genesis One:

“’And God saw that it was good’ (Gen. 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share out common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved.

He then launches into the Via Negativa:

“Strip mine” Image by Martina Janochová from Pixabay

“Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands. Deterioration has increased in recent decades: constant pollution, the continued use of fossil fuels, intensive agricultural exploitation and deforestation are causing global temperatures to rise above safe levels.” 

The suffering of the planet is our suffering too, and especially the poorest among us.

“The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us. Melting of glaciers, scarcity of water, neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and micro-plastics in the oceans are equally troubling, and testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed. We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.” 

“Jakarta Underwater: More than 5000 urban people live in Jakarta alongside Ciliwung river.” Photo by Bian Harnansa, Kampung Melayu Pulo, Jakarta Timur. Flickr

He is alerting us to the issues: plastics, climate change, and the rest.  Hurricane Dorian, so severe and so unprecedented, is just the beginning of what we can expect for the future as the oceans warm and storms fed by the warm waters become more fierce.

The causes of the suffering of Mother Earth are not just psychological but structural and systemic.  From our souls where “egoism, self-interest, competition and conflict” abide, we birth habits and institutions in our image that are structures of exploitation.  Can we change our ways?

See: Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time.
Banner image: “Litter on Singapore’s ECP” Photo by vaidehi shah, Flickr

For Deeper Contemplation

Dwell deeply on Genesis One’s affirmation of the goodness of creation in its parts and the “very goodness” of creation as a whole.

Then, and only then, consider the role humans are playing in moving from Goodness to Exploitation.  What to do?  What inner work and what outer work is calling you/us at this time?

Download, study, and discuss the Pope’s short letter below with others:


Recommended Reading

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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7 thoughts on “Pope Francis: Mixing Vias Positiva & Negativa in Appeal for Creation”

  1. Avatar

    Gen. 1: 25 reads, “And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

    Why did Pope Francis’ message for the 5th World Day of Prayer for Creation present the statement in Gen. 1: 25 that reads, “And God saw that it was good.” in its fanciful Biblical context? And why did he leave out the Via Negativa of the brutal and violent “survival of the fittest” process of natural selection, which drove the evolutionary creation of the “beasts of the earth” and “everything that creeps on the ground” in his World Day of Prayer for Creation message?

    When “God” said in Gen. 1: 25 “…it was good.” “God” was not referring to the creation of the “beasts” and “everything that creeps on the ground” in its real evolution-of-life context, but in its fanciful Biblical context, which the Roman Catholic Church’s central dogma is based on, as clarified by St. Basil the Great, who wrote: …it is customary for vultures to feed on corpses, but since there were not yet [before Adam’s sin] corpses, nor yet [before Adam’s sin] their stench, so there was not yet [before Adam’s sin] such food for vultures. But all [the beasts and everything that creeps on earth] followed the diet of swans and all grazed the meadows…such was the first creation and such will be the restoration after this.” If this was actually the truth, then the “God” who said “it was good” in Gen.1: 25 would have been telling the truth. And Pope Francis’ message would also have been truthful and not deceptive.

    Paramahansa Yogananda, widely recognized as the Father of Yoga in the West, wrote: Spirit existed before God. God is the Creator of the universe, but Spirit is the Creator of God.” The Hindu name for “God” is Brahma. “This Sanskrit word [Brahma] derives from the verbal root b?h ‘to expand, grow, fructify’, because ‘Brahma expands’ and becomes the Universe woven out of his own substance” – Theosophy Wiki.

    A Hindu sacred text states that after Spirit (the Supreme God) emanated/created the subordinate God (Brahma) He sinned, causing H/him to manifest as the U/universe. Because of Brahma’s original sin H/he now has both a divine manifestation and a less-than-divine manifestation, meaning the U/universe is both, an essentially undifferentiated mass of light permeated with Christ/Krishna/Buddha God Consciousness and the material universe is a corrupted, less-than-divine, illusionary manifestation of the Divine manifestation of the Universe.

    The God that sinned created evolution. A loving God would not create evolution. Spirit allowed God to create the material universe, including evolution, for a good purpose. We need to first become One with the Divine manifestation of the Universe, then go through It, to ultimately become One with Spirit. When Jesus Christ was experiencing Himself as the Divine manifestation of the Universe He said, “The only way to the Father [or Spirit beyond the creation] is through Me.”

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Thomas,
      In your comment, you seem to find fault with Christianity’s and the Pope’s lifting up of all creation being good because of the predatory nature of some animals, and humans, that cause violent deaths along the food chain. You then expand the mystery of violence and death into other religious traditions. I believe your question is, “How can death and destruction be good?” And “How can creation be good, if death and destruction are part of it?” Its an interesting question. How Holy is a system that requires sacrifice of some for others? I look at the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality and the way of evolutionary invention and see, on that level, that destruction is part of every creative act and that all forms of life are in constant transformation, thus disintegrating and reforming at every moment.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team.

    2. Avatar

      In my opinion, the idea of original sin, whether it sidles into Christianity or Hinduism, is a fanciful notion. It relies on the odd notion that a loving God either has a need to punish or that a loving God is trapped in some kind of mandate that the sin of one something or someone involuntarily reverses God’s entire original plan for the Universe.

      A major tenet in Buddhism is that all beings suffer. As I once heard Matthew say, “Think of the suffering of the building of the Hawaiian Islands.” Think of the suffering involved in the birthing of a child. Where is there not good in that? I don’t see suffering as conflicting with the ideas presented in Genesis 1 and 2. We cannot make light of suffering and we cannot understand it. We feel pain for anyone or any thing in its clutches. Even so, it is often through suffering that a person is drawn closer to a loving God. (One side of the Via Negativa.) And that’s not enough. I know. It doesn’t explain suffering. As for me, as I accept my inability to understand suffering, as I approach non-dualistic thinking, it is enough to live in awe of this incredible Universe (the Via Positiva) and to do my best to preserve Creation–at least on this planet.

  2. Avatar

    Today’s post causes me to recall Thomas Berry’s succint counsel, “We must re-invent the human at the species level,” which boils the message down even further, and which some (self included) find hard to grasp when they first hear it. It becomes increasingly (although far too slowly and much too painfully) clear what he meant by that. Now to bravely, consciously, creatively apply it to ourselves and (somehow effectively) require it of others. It is heartening to know we can do that “in concert.”

    1. Avatar

      With last evenings first module of the 7/week course on prophets and mystics and today’s meditation on Laudato Si, let the marinating of our bodyspirits begin.

      1. Gail Ransom

        Dear Annette,
        We are so glad to have you with us for both Matthew’s seminar on Mysticism and Activism, and t his daily meditation series. This is true marination of your bodyspirit! Welcome!
        Gail Sofia Ransom
        For the Daily Meditation Team

    2. Gail Ransom

      Dear Maria,
      Thank you for your comment. Yes, working in concert is the only way to discover the true nature of our species. We have so many cultural overlays that teach us to live in so many unhealthy ways. We need each other to find out what is natural to our species and what is not. I know this much: Love is natural to humans. So is living in community. So is generosity, music, dance, and feasts. I’m wondering if, these few years later, we need to reinvent our cultures so that the human spirit, beloved from birth, can thrive,
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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