by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
A superficial review of Laudato Si’ could lead the reader to think that Pope Francis is a Luddite. He has very critical things to say about technology, especially when it is connected to greed.
The goal of technology, he argues, should not be to increasingly replace human work with machines in order to save money and make more profit. Like Pope John Paul II, Francis holds work in high esteem. “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.”
But Francis begins his examination of technology by acknowledging in chapter 3 of his encyclical that we are the beneficiaries of two centuries of technological advances. “Technology has remedied countless evils that used to harm and limit human beings,” he writes. But he notes that the power that comes from technology can be used by those with knowledge and economic resources to dominate humanity and the entire world.
“We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century,” he explains, “or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare.”
Quoting Romano Guardini, he notes that there is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself” but in reality “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well.” Sadly, Pope Francis argues, “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”…