June 29, 2015

The growth of technology has led to an "ironclad logic" that diminishes human freedom and the human capacity for making decisions, Pope Francis wrote in the third chapter of his new encyclical Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home.

New policies, ways of education, lifestyles and even spirituality are needed to resist the "technological paradigm" for societal decision-making that has become so dominant that it has become "inconceivable" to consider alternatives, the pope says.

Chapter three of the encyclical is entitled The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis.

It challenges beliefs in unlimited economic growth and in an infinite supply of the earth's resources that can feed that growth.

In the chapter, the pope says "a bold cultural revolution" is urgently needed.

"We do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur," Pope Francis wrote.

Humanity ought to be grateful for the benefits of technological progress, especially for progress in medicine, engineering and communications, he said.

"It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us."

However, technological progress has become distorted by its assumption of unlimited growth, the fragmentation of knowledge and belief that profits must always be maximized.

New technologies have led to workers losing their jobs, something that undermines the human vocation to work, the pope said. Work is one way that people find meaning for their lives.

Yet, Pope Francis sees hopeful signs, such as the growing awareness that technological progress cannot be equated with human progress.

"An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door."

Hope can be seen, the pope said, when small producer cooperatives adopt less polluting means of production, when people opt for a non-consumerist way of life, when technology is used primarily to solve people's concrete problems or in the triumph of a desire to create and contemplate beauty.

A true ecological perspective requires an adequate anthropology – a true understanding of the human person, he said.

Human beings cannot be seen as just one form of life among others. Nor should humanity be understood as merely the product of chance or physical determinism.


Human relations should be characterized by openness to other people, "each of whom is a 'thou' capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue."

An inadequate understanding of the human person can lead to abortion and to embryo experimentation, the pope noted.

"How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?"

Pope Francis also raised serious questions about the morality of genetically modified foods, while admitting it is difficult to make a general judgment on the issue.

No conclusive proof exists that GM food may be harmful to people, and in some areas their introduction has helped to bring about needed economic growth, he said.

Yet GM crops have also led to the concentration of productive land in the hands of a few owners and forced vulnerable small producers to become temporary labourers, he said.

"The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future."