On October 4, Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Laudate Deum, a follow-up to Laudato si’, his 2015 encyclical on the environment. Below are excerpts from a reflection on the new papal document written by Ken Butigan, a longtime peace and nonviolence organizer and member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative executive committee. Read the entire reflection here on the Pace e Bene website.
Our friends at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns have written “Five takeaways from Laudate Deum“: Climate change is real and caused by human activity; climate change damage is often irreversible and unequally distributed; technocracy is not the answer; world cooperation is necessary, but our responses so far have been inadequate; and humanity is intimately connected with the rest of God’s creation.
… To explore this new exhortation, it is helpful to see it against the backdrop of the spirituality, way of life, method for change, and universal ethic of nonviolence, a principle and practice that has been a defining hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy and that connects directly with the importance of humanity taking responsibility for fully engaging the threat to the Earth.
This has been expressed by the pope in many places, but perhaps most clearly in his 2023 book, I am Asking in the Name of God: Ten Prayers for a Future of Hope (the English version of which was published this week), where Pope Francis writes: “The Reverend Martin Luther King, a source of inspiration for his calls for peace, expressed it clearly in the last speech he gave before his assassination: ‘It is no longer a question of choosing between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and non-existence.’ The choice is up to us.”[iii]
Echoing Dr. King, Pope Francis declares that nonviolence is essential to the survival of the earth and its inhabitants. Why? Because the essence of nonviolence—the refusal to do harm, the commitment to resist violence, the determination to put love and truth into action for the well-being of all, even when that means loving our enemies and opponents—is the basis of creating collaborative solutions to the climate crisis and to fostering the global public will for implementing them. Nonviolence is the foundation for an integral ecology and for a more viable future.
This is the choice to which His Holiness is calling us.[iv]
In Laudate Deum, Pope Francis sharpens the reality of this choice for us. He does this by highlighting the concrete realities of systemic violence which are worsening the destruction of the planet and the growing climate crisis. He roots this violence in a “technocratic paradigm” and a widespread attitude of indifference, denial, and blame, including blaming this crisis on the world’s poor. He holds that this paradigm is furthered by a destructive economic order that creates a throwaway culture, which includes throwing away other human beings.
In the face of this violence, he points us toward a nonviolent way, underscored by two powerful convictions he enunciates in this document: “This allows me to reiterate two convictions that I repeat over and over again: “Everything is connected” and “No one is saved alone.”[v] Because everything is connected, violence hurts everyone, just as nonviolence can mend the web of life in which we are all embedded. This very image makes clear his second point, that we are all in this together, and will not be saved singly.
Laudate Deum embodies this spirit of the nonviolent way forward by standing against the power of the systemic violence destroying the planet; by proposing nonviolent approaches and strategies; and by calling for nonviolent action. In reflecting on this follow-up to Laudato si’, it is possible to see this document itself as a form of nonviolent action Pope Francis is taking at this critical moment in history. …