The Pope’s recent visit to Spain has been filled with much content pertinent to environmental questions and issues. In the beginning of the trip a theme emerged that seemed quite clear: freedom, and it’s relationship to truth. In his inaugural address (1), then at the tomb of St. James (2) and finally the homily in Compostela before public officials (3), the theme of truth and freedom emerged clearly:
- I too wish to encourage Spain and Europe to build their present and to project their future on the basis of the authentic truth about man, on the basis of the freedom which respects this truth and never harms it, and on the basis of justice for all, beginning with the poorest and the most defenceless. A Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs,
- …divine image and likeness which constitutes the deepest truth of their existence, and which is the origin of genuine freedom. Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related. Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other. The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom.
- Tragically, above all in nineteenth century Europe, the conviction grew that God is somehow man’s antagonist and an enemy of his freedom… God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent.
How is this relevant to the environment? As I developed in a paper currently under peer review, much of the American view of wilderness is influenced by a misconstrued view of freedom, an autarchic individualist thrust rebelling against authority and disenchanted with the ‘freedom’ promised by the Enlightenment. A clear example can be seen in the case of Chris McCandless, so tragic, representative and curiously inspiring for our times. In fact, a much better explanation is given in the lecture Truth and Freedom by Cardinal Ratzinger, perhaps the best paper I have read in my life. Below a relevant section, though the whole thing should be read, a must!
The radical current of the Enlightenment has not lost its appeal; indeed, it is becoming even more powerful. It is precisely in the face of the limits of democracy that the cry for total freedom gets louder. Today as yesterday, indeed, increasingly so, “Law and Order” is considered the antithesis of freedom. Today as yesterday institution, tradition and authority as such appear to be polar opposites of freedom. The anarchist trend in the long[r1] ing for freedom is growing in strength because the ordered forms of communal freedom are unsatisfactory. The grand promises made at the inception of modernity have not been kept, yet their fascination is unabated.