M. Anthony Mills at The New Atlantis:
One of the controversies attending the publication of Laudato Si’ is about the claim that the encyclical is “anti-modern,” a description that has been alternatively a point of cautious praise and a barbed criticism. Matthew Schmitz and R.R. Reno of First Things magazine provide good examples of the two interpretations. Both argue in different ways that, for better or for worse — for Schmitz better, for Reno worse — the encyclical attacks the heart of modern social, political, and economic life, namely, the techno-economic nexus that draws science, technology, and capitalism together in a system of efficient economic production and material consumption. In so doing, the pontiff is said to break with his more conciliatory predecessors, allying himself with an older strain of Catholic orthodoxy that never came to terms with modernity.
This strain, exemplified by Pope Pius IX’s 1864 Syllabus of Errors, holds that the economic self-interest and scientific rationalism characteristic of modernity are incompatible with the truths of the Gospel, which are rooted in spiritual poverty and caritas. Pope Francis allegedly casts his lot with the anti-moderns, while adding, in a nod to his namesake — and to the ecologists who look up to Saint Francis — that environmental degradation is among the important sins of the modern era. A return to Christian virtue, then, entails a return to pre-modern forms of economic production and social organization, whereby nature is tilled for the common good, not exploited for the few.
Descriptions of Laudato Si’ as “anti-science” or “anti-progress” are particularly striking, since so many self-described progressives, representatives of the scientific community, and environmentalists have warmly welcomed the recent encyclical in the hope that it would motivate action on climate change.