Bioethics Blogs

Desires: Capitalism, The Pope and Chinese Medicine by Volker Scheid

Prologue: Pope Francis and Zhang Taiyan 章太炎

On 16 June 2015, Pope Francis published Laudato Si’ (Be Praised), an encyclical letter on climate change tellingly subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home.” The encyclical links the destruction of the environment with the exploitation of the poor, and it unambiguously roots both in capitalism’s pernicious gluttony [10]. In the Pope’s analysis, neither technoscience nor the market are capable of averting an impending ecological catastrophe. Avoiding disaster will require a full-scale reassessment of contemporary human values, a turning away from consumerism to sobriety and self-constraint.

In a single stroke that stays true to his carefully chosen regnal name, Pope Francis thereby turned himself into one of the most preeminent critics of the contemporary world order [8]. An editorial in the Guardian referred to Laudato Si’ as “the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years.” The conservative backlash, particularly in the US, was ferocious.[a] Jeb Bush, a spokesperson for the unconstrained exploitation of the environment within neoliberal economies of desire, chose the first day of his presidential campaign to point out that his being Catholic does not mean he will take his economic politics from the Pope. Rush Limbaugh referred to Pope Francis as a Marxist. Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld not only repeated this description but called Pope Francis one of the most dangerous men on the planet for wanting to be a “modern pope” – which, come to think of it, is a rather insightful analysis, though beyond the modern would perhaps be a more apt description.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.