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What You Need to Know About the Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment

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John Burger - published on 06/18/15

Experts weight in on Laudato Si', and the reaction is anything but monolithic

Reaction to Pope Francis’s encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (Praised Be), on care for our common home, is anything but “monolithic.”

The encyclical, dated May 24 (Pentecost Sunday) and released June 18, has 246 paragraphs and six chapters, with themes such as “The human roots of the ecological crisis” and “Integral ecology.” It is giving critics much fodder for commentary and environmentalists much to rejoice about.

Aleteia solicited comment from several experts in academia, think tanks and the mission field. We will be adding to the symposium below as more comments come in.

Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International
On a quick perusal it does appear that the encyclical’s theme is consistent with Pope Francis’s strong indictment of today’s “throwaway culture,” where anything and anyone inconvenient is disposed of without regard for its value, the greatest example of which is the objectification and destruction even of human life. This theme has been consistently presented by the Church in different ways at least since Pope Saint Leo XIII in the late 19th century, and is entirely appropriate as a frame to discuss both the abuse of the natural environment and the much graver abuses perpetrated against human persons in the name of protecting the environment.

Laudato Si’ presents a strong condemnation of abortion and the other destructive manifestations of the population control movement, and we hope that this crucial aspect of Pope Francis’ message is understood by the leaders of the United Nations and its leading member states and NGO partners, most of whom promote these evils in the push for what they call “sustainable development,” a term that appears multiple times in the encyclical. In the lead-up to the encyclical’s release, however, several advisors to the Holy See responded with derision and vicious condescension when these issues were respectfully raised by pro-lifers, which has caused a great deal of concern.

We will prayerfully and carefully consider the encyclical and its recommendations, and we join all the Church in praying for Pope Francis and his intentions, especially that we will all help to end the throw away culture and its worst effects as soon as possible.

Joyce Coffee, managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index
The papal encyclical released today focuses on the moral obligation to safeguard the earth and mankind’s common good. In it, Pope Francis defines “the urgent challenge to protect our common home” and reminds us of our shared humanity, our shared risk, and our shared responsibility to save lives and improve livelihoods in the face of climate change.

His opus defines the issue about us as humans and notes that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Although many were expecting an encyclical on the environment, his emphasis on climate change helps us to see that specific issue as a humanitarian crisis, not just an environmental problem.

The biblical proportion of climate change’s shocks and stress are causing disproportionate harm to those already suffering from poverty, illness and other inequities.  Increasingly, droughts, food insecurity, superstorms and civil conflicts impact poverty and injustice.   Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index quantifies the  disproportionate risk the Pope describes when he repeatedly returns to his message about global inequities in a climate changed world. He specifically identifies Africa as a continent impacted by climate change, defining a “debt” that exists between the global south and north.

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