I have not read the full encyclical yet, but have been following the various commentators and this article from Crisis Magazine is the best I’ve read so far, acknowledging the obvious strengths of the encyclical but also noting its weakness.
The case of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si’ can be seen as tragic. This is not because it is the terrible document that some say it is; it is because so much of it is so good, and because it had the potential to be a truly great encyclical. Like a tragic hero, who is so admirable and so promising but who, through a combination of circumstances and his own flaws, comes to a bad end, Laudato Si’ is unlikely to be the positive force it should have been. Instead, it represents a missed opportunity to be a game-changing reflection and guide for Catholics and for the world, because particular elements have obscured and muffled its often-eloquent expression of Catholic social thought. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to highlight some of what the encyclical has to offer….
Some readers will no doubt take exception to various dimensions of Laudato Si’ that have been presented positively here, though it is hoped that many others will see value in them. But why have the issues and questions presented here been virtually absent from public discussion of the encyclical? The answer is no secret, and hinges on two features of this encyclical that effectively “poison the well.”
First and most obvious is Francis’ forceful and unequivocal embrace of anthropogenic global warming, the most hotly debated scientific question of our time. This was guaranteed to overshadow everything else; the media would have you believe that Laudato Si’ is “the climate change encyclical” even though only small portions of it directly address this topic. Moreover, according to a recent Pew poll, only 47 percent of American Catholics share the Pope’s view on this scientific claim; since it is not treated as a contestable question, the encyclical’s calls for “discussion,” “dialogue,” and “ideas” can only ring hollow among those who disagree, and a hostile reception to the entire document is practically assured
Second, and also widely treated, is the matter of economics and politics. Commentators on left and right appear to have agreed to understand this encyclical (and, in fact, most communications from Pope Francis) as “socialist” and “anti-capitalist” or anti-market. The fact is that for all such talk, very little “smoking gun” language can be found in Laudato Si’. It is more a matter of selective interpretation. Yet, one cannot place all the blame on the interpreters. Although Francis speaks in favor of business, overtones of particularly unsophisticated aspects of leftist ideology can be sensed throughout the encyclical, not so much through what is said, but through how things are said and, especially, through what is left unsaid.
One of these common errors of the ideological left is a tendency to identify some of the worst aspects of modernity, including its materialism, with “capitalism” or markets, even though socialism is an explicitly materialist ideology and hardly has a stellar track record. The Soviet Bloc was infamous for both its environmental degradation and its disempowering statism (to say nothing of its dehumanizing apartment blocks), but one gets no sense of an awareness of this from Francis. Indeed, Roger Scruton has noted many cases in which even milder forms of centralized statism—such as that in the E.U.—have contributed to environmental harm and compromised human safety.
Retrieved June 24, 2015 from http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/the-tragedy-of-laudato-si