By Filipe Domingues
ROME — Pope Francis is inviting Christians to take a hard look at the world and its current throwaway culture, said Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, at the first conference of The Lay Centre’s Lenten Series.
“Unless you are willing to discover the truth, you will always find ways of not finding the truth,” he told those gathered Feb. 15.
Bishop Tighe said when Pope Francis speaks of a throwaway culture, he is referring to a culture that is in crisis — a “corrupt culture.” He explained that, in this context, politics and economics are mere products of certain deviated “values,” where everything is made to be owned, used, controlled and quickly discarded. No one assumes they have these “values” but they practice them.
A moral theologian, Bishop Tighe analyzed the problem also from the perspective of sin. The first human sin described in the Bible man’s desire to be like God, which Pope Francis points out in his encyclical “Laudato Si’.” To play the role of God by trying control nature and others is a sinful behaviour. The concept of “structures of sin” helps to explain part of the problem, said Bishop Tighe.
“However, we cannot blame it all on structures. Structural change must come with personal acknowledgment,” he said.
A clue to the antidote to a throwaway culture is found in No. 205 of “Laudato Si’,” said Bishop Tighe.
This paragraph reads: “Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.”
Bishop Tighe invited his listeners to live what the Church recommends throughout Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He also suggested to “cultivate gratitude” and to take the Sabbath seriously.
To take the Sabbath is not just a matter of rest, he said. Rather, it is also an acknowledgement that “time matters.” It is an expression of appreciation for the sacramental traditions and for contemplation.
In a response to Bishop Tighe's talk, laywoman Uta Sievers shared a few ideas about how to live more sustainably in Rome. She said reading and reflecting on “Laudato Si’” inspired her to become more radical in adopting a non-consumerist approach to life.
In her 11 years in Rome, Sievers worked in the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Jesuits and at the United States Embassy to the Holy See. Currently, she is a part-time student in the Joint Diploma on Integral Ecology, a collaborative initiative of the pontifical universities in Rome.
A moment of prayer followed. The vespers were led by Bishop Tighe and Methodist Rev. Tim Macquiban. Finally, the art exhibition “When Waste is Not Wasted,” by Riekiehenrica van Velzen, co-founder of The Lay Centre, was inaugurated.
A reception followed while participants enjoyed meeting the artist who explained the exhibits.