Parish hosts encyclical talk

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A panel discussion on a papal encyclical would not ordinarily coax people to leave the air-conditioned comfort of their homes for a two-hour presentation in a parish hall on a muggy late-summer evening, but "Laudato Si'" or "Care of Our Common Home," is no ordinary encyclical.

More than 60 people came to Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria Aug. 19 to hear Father Leopoldo M. Vives, pastor, Robert Matava, Christendom theology professor, and Joseph Arias, Christendom Graduate School theology lecturer, discuss encyclicals in general, and "Laudato Si" in particular.

Father Vives, who wrote a seven-part series on "Laudato Si'" that was published in the church bulletin, introduced the panelists and set the tone for the evening. He said that "Laudato Si'" speaks on caring for our common home and that the encyclical does not answer scientific questions.

The presentation had two parts. Arias began with the history of encyclicals and the kinds of teaching and authority of the magisterium. He said there were three types of teaching authority: the word of God, teaching that is written or handed down and believed to be divinely revealed; doctrines proposed by the church as definitively regarding faith and morals; and teaching where either the pope or the college of bishops exercise their magisterium authority.

"Laudato Si'," said Arias, probably crosses all three types of authority. He added that the pope was not speaking ex cathedra when he released "Laudato Si'," but it is still authentic church teaching.

Matava discussed the encyclical itself. He said it was long, about 200 pages, but easy to read.

He touched on all six chapters beginning with the pope's detail on what is happening to our common home, to ecological education and spirituality. The encyclical also covers topics like caring for the poor, the decline of the quality of human life, global inequality and the effects of technological advancement.

Matava said the document is evangelical.

"It's about ecology from a doctrinal point of view," he said. "It's not science, not a public policy document, it's a teaching document.

"The pope wants to protect the earth from doom," said Matava, "he's challenging us."

Father Vives opened the floor for questions. Some were off-topic like "Why is the church against contraception."

Another was a political statement challenging any idea of climate change caused by human action. But there were technical questions on encyclical usage and general sustainability responsibilities.

Queen of Apostles Church has a sustainability committee, and its co-director is Katherine Caballero. She said her committee is more concerned with the practical application of ecology like recycling, but she enjoyed the more spiritual and evangelical talk of the evening.

"It was a wonderful explanation of (the encyclical)," she said. ""It was a pleasure to hear from experts on these issues."

Father Vives ended the evening with a "Prayer for our Earth" from "Laudato Si' " that included the verse, "Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015