The spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics around the world issued an encyclical letter about climate change earlier today from Rome.
We quote below a few excerpts from the encyclical, which is entitled “Laudato Si.” The title refers to a Canticle by St Francis of Assisi and has been translated into English as “Praise Be to You [On Care for Our Common Home]”:
- “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”
- “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.”
- “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”
- “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that ‘less is more.'”
- Christians, presumably those who deny climate change, “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. … Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”
- Access to drinkable water is “a basic and universal human right.”
- “In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life. … Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”
- The “Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good. … [T]here is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.”
- “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
The gist of the letter is that caring for God’s creatures, including animals and poor people, and caring for the planet in its natural beauty, untouched by greed or gluttony, are both integral to life. Pope Francis, in more than 200 sweeping pages, tells us to glorify life, not death.
Pay particular attention to #7. It has always been illogical to oppose abortion, calling it killing of the unborn, while polluting the earth and killing people who are already born. Neither abortion nor pollution is consistent with the sanctity of life, so from a purely logical standpoint, those two positions are mutually incompatible.
But whether it’s morally acceptable to kill unborn people—and Francis clearly stands with his predecessors in saying that it’s not—it’s no more acceptable, on moral grounds, to kill people who have already been born or to deprive them of clean water. To me, this killing of the already-born and the “to be born in future generations” has always been just as bad as abortion; Francis is just the first spiritual leader to notice this inconsistency publicly.
Of course, climate change deniers are already out in full force. Steve Milloy (@JunkScience) called the encyclical “adolescent, insipid, primitive, embarrassing” and “a stumbling, bumbling PR disaster for Red Pope.”
We stand with Pope Francis. Just because the causes of global warming are complex doesn’t excuse us as human beings from trying to do something about it. Politicians and scientists have been trying for years to bring about change, to decrease our use of fossil fuels that pollute the earth, but they have failed to spur people to action. We still don’t use renewable energy resources, public transit, and so on, as much as we need to if we want to preserve the earth.
Now that the Bishop of Rome has spoken about it, turning it into a moral issue on par with abortion, we may get some action from Christians. After all, when John Paul II spoke out against abortion, people took up guns and started shooting abortion doctors. Now, I don’t want corporate owners who pollute our air and water supply to be shot or anything even close to that. But I do want them to stop polluting the air, especially if they work in wealthy countries that have other choices for energy readily available.
The pope is known by Catholics as the Vicar of Christ, implying that Jesus—or his eternal soul—lives vicariously through Pope Francis, just as parents often live vicariously through their sons and daughters. It now seems Jesus would save the planet. For all you atheists out there, the ascendance of this pope to the Chair of Peter may be the best evidence yet for the existence of God. I do not believe he’s there by some random chance arrangement of molecules.