Today, Catholics celebrate the feast of one of the church’s most beloved saints, Francis of Assisi. Francis had both a special concern for the poor and a deep appreciation for God’s presence in all creation, and in recognition of this unique charism Blessed Pope John Paul II declared Francis patron saint of “those who promote ecology” in 1979. That declaration has caused Francis to be associated in the minds of many Catholics with the church’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
We face a seductive fantasy of independence from a wider, dynamic order of things, with the result that our response to challenges in international relations or ecological crisis have been rather consistently out of touch. But of course this is far from simply an American problem. I suggest that it stems from a disease of the modern subject, a way of looking at the world that treats “its” objects as inert and easily manipulated. In other words, this is a deeply-rooted metaphysical problem, a constitutional failure to account for the capacity of objects in the world to push back…..