The Critical Theory of Pope Francis I: Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home
By Michael Welton
June 3, 2022
Perhaps those on the secular left (if this phrase be permitted) are surprised by the coupling of Pope Francis with Critical Theory. Over the centuries Catholic popes have produced “papal encyclicals” to articulate Catholic social teachings on a wide variety of themes and topics. “Encyclical” means “circulate” – and several of the papal encyclicals (such as Rerum Novarum [On Capital and Labor] by Leo XIII, Pacem in terris [Peace on earth by Pope John XXIII], and Laborem exercens [On human work] by Pope John Paul II) address pressing issues pertaining to how we ought to organize humanity’s collective life (work and governance). Catholics think holistically: offering perspectives on how we ought to order the world to enable human flourishing.
In his copious writings on religion in modernity Jurgen Habermas has argued compellingly that religion (in its various faith-communities and practices) contains “semantic potentials” that can disclose dimensions of reality that may be closed to secular thought. When secular and religious persons converse in public spheres and spaces, the learning process can be complementary, each partner in the dialogue opening out to the way of seeing and acting in the world of the other.