Pope Francis recently tweeted “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.” Thursday (6/18/2015) Pope Francis is anticipated to release his encyclical to all bishops in the Catholic Church calling for action to address climate change. “Laudato Sii” (Praised Be), the encyclical is expected to speak in detail about the need to better care for God’s creation. Francis, who chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals and the environment) has already had significant impact on beginning to transform the Catholic Church on numerous other topics and his pending efforts intended to accelerate global action on climate change, has those who protect the interests of the fossil fuels companies nervous.
The Popes’ outward position and pending ask of Catholics puts many of the politicians who deny climate change and are Catholic in an interesting place. Rick Santorum, John Boehner, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie are among them. Santorum was one of the first to comment and stated “I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality. When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is not as forceful and credible.” Assuming he were genuine in wanting to leave the science to the scientists, he would likely defer to the overwhelming 97% of scientists who agree we are cooking the planet by burning fossil fuels. Sticking with the old rhetoric that the science is not settled is just sad; the only place that the science is not settled in in the U.S. Congress. In terms of the church sticking to issues like morality, there is likely no greater moral issue than us not leaving the planet a better place for future generations. Surely he and others will be pressed on the subject during interviews and debates should they move forward with their desire to be POTUS.
Pope Francis encyclical comes in advance of his visit to the U.S. in September, when he will address Congress where about 30% of the members are Catholic. His encyclical will also be accompanied by a 12 week campaign that will bring environmental issues to the forefront in sermons, homilies, and media outlets. The follow up actions are timed to encourage nations to agree on a global climate change consensus in Paris at the end of the year. Aside from the recently estimated 1.2B Catholics, the Pope also has global reach and Jesus on his side as you can see from this entertaining video about the encyclical. I am excited to see this important issue brought forward to such a broad base of the human family by someone who sincerely cares about issues that matter.