Arquivo da tag: Encíclica papal

New articles related to Pope Francis, climate change, and the environment (The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale)

June 21, 2015

Catholic Moral Traditions and Energy Ethics of the Twenty-First Century
By Erin Lothes Biviano, David Cloutier, Elaine Padilla, Christiana Z. Peppard, and Jame Schaefer
Journal of Moral Theology, Vol. 5, No. 2 (pp. 1-36)
June 2016

The pope’s effect on politics
By Barrie Dunsmore
Rutland Herald
June 21, 2015

Tell Us How Your Church Addressed the Pope’s Encyclical
New York Times
June 21, 2015

For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment
By Justin Gillis
New York Times
June 20, 2015

Francis’ Momentous Encyclical: On Care for Our Common Home
By Dave Pruett
Huffington Post
June 19, 2015

Francis’ Momentous Encyclical: On Care for Our Common Home
By Dave Pruett
Huffington Post
June 19, 2015

Pope Francis sounds the alarm on the environment and he wants everyone to listen
By Matthew Bell
PRI’s The World
June 18, 2015

World View of Global Warming: The Photographic Documentation of Climate Change
By Gary Braasch
World View of Global Warming
June 2015

Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth
By Bill McKibben
The New York Review of Books
June 18, 2015

Top Ten Takeaways from ‘Laudato Si”
By James Martin, S.J.
America Magazine
June 18, 2015

Anglican environmental network chair welcomes Papal climate encyclical
Anglican Communion News Service
June 18, 2015

Church of England Welcomes Climate Encyclical
Church of England
June 18, 2015

Operation Noah welcomes ‘timely’ climate encyclical
Independent Catholic News
June 18, 2015

How to Read Pope Francis on the Environment
Interviewee: Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Interviewer: Robert McMahon
Council on Foreign Relations
June 18, 2015

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change
By Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
June 18, 2015

Pope Calls for Moral Campaign on Climate Crisis
By Kieran Cooke
Climate News Network
June 17, 2015

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit
By George Handley
Home Waters
June 2015

Will Pope’s Much-Anticipated Encyclical Be A Clarion Call On Climate Change?
By Sylvia Poggioli
June 16, 2015

Pope Francis warns of destruction of world’s ecosystem in leaked encyclical
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner and John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian
June 15, 2015

“Protecting the Whole of Creation”
A service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out
La Civiltà Cattolica 2015 II 537-551 | 3960

Pope Francis’ encyclical: PIK-scientists to speak in the Vatican and in Berlin
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
June 12, 2015

Torah, Pope Francis, & Crisis Inspire 300+ Rabbis to Call for Climate Action
Religion News Service
June 10, 2015

Climate encyclical expected to send strong moral message to the world
By Barbara Fraser
National Catholic Reporter
June 8, 2015

5 Reasons Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment Matters
By Reynard Loki
June 7, 2015

About Pope Francis’ Encyclical, “Laudato sii”
By Terri MacKenzie
Ecospirituality Resources
June 5, 2015

All children deserve a healthy climate
By Mitchell C. Hescox
National Catholic Reporter
June 3, 2015

“Cultivating and Caring for Creation,” 12 new on-line videos and study guides in anticipation of Pope Francis’ coming encyclical, “Praised Be,” on the environment
Green Spirit Television
June 2, 2015

Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical expected to make global impact
By Ed Stannard
New Haven Register
May 30, 2015

Pope Francis’ Integral Ecology
By Dave Pruett
Huffington Post
May 28, 2015

Awaiting ecology encyclical, Catholic groups prepare for pope’s message
By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service
May 27, 2015

Encyclical on environment sparks hope among academics, activists
By Thomas Reese
National Catholic Reporter
May 26, 2015

Catholics organize to promote pope’s climate change message
USA Today
May 25, 2015

Catholics prepare for pope’s climate stance
By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press
The Columbian
May 23, 2015

The Catholic Case for Tackling Climate Change
By Stephen Seufert
The Huffington Post
May 21, 2015

Nuclear weapons: the greatest threat to the environment
By Thomas C. Fox
National Catholic Reporter
May 20, 2015

Pope Francis endorses climate action petition
By Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
May 15, 2015

How will the world react to Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change?
By Neil Thorns
The Guardian
May 14, 2015

Key advisor blasts US criticism to pope’s environmental stance
By Inés San Martín, Vatican correspondent
May 12, 2015

Pope says environmental sinners will face God’s judgment for world hunger
AFP in Vatican City
The Guardian
May 12, 2015

A papal statement on climate change could lead to greener Britain
By Soli Salgado
National Catholic Reporter
May 8, 2015

Pope Francis: ‘If We Destroy Creation, Creation Will Destroy Us’
By Kieran Cooke
May 6, 2015

Blessed Are the Climate Advocates
By Michael Shank
May 1, 2015

Pope Francis Unlikely to Sway Catholic Republicans on Climate Change
By Katherine Bagley
InsideClimate News
May 1, 2015

Pope Francis has given the climate movement just what it needed — faith
By Chris Mooney
Washington Post
April 30, 2015

Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Global Warming
By Henry Auer
Global Warming Blog
April 30, 2015

Climate Change and the Common Good: A Statement of the Problem and the Demand for Transformative Solutions
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
April 29, 2015

Declaration of Religious Leaders, Political Leaders, Business Leaders, Scientists and Development Practitioners
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
April 28, 2015

Vatican presses politicians on climate change
By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst
April 28, 2015

Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm
By Coral Davenport and Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
April 27, 2015

Pope Francis poised to weigh in on climate change with major document
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post
April 27, 2015

Panel contemplates why the papal encyclical on the environment will matter
By Jamie Manson
April 15, 2015
National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis throws the weight of his office behind tackling climate change
By David Gibson
Religion News Service
April 15, 2015

Catholics prep for Pope Francis to tackle climate in upcoming encyclical
By Marianne Lavelle
The Daily Climate
April 2, 2015

The Greening of Pope Francis
By Charles J. Reid, Jr.
The Huffington Post
March 31, 2015

Papal ecology: Protecting all God’s creatures, respecting God’s plan
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
March 26, 2015

Pope: Future of humanity depends on protecting, sharing water
By Carol Glatz
National Catholic Reporter
March 23, 2015

Pope puts climate heat on GOP
By Tom Krattenmaker
USA Today
March 23, 2015

Cardinal hints at main themes in Pope’s climate change encyclical
By Ed King
March 12, 2015

Pope Francis and the Environment: Yale Examines Historic Climate Encyclical
By Kevin Dennehy
Yale School Forestry & Environmental Studies
March 11, 2015

Hispanics Lead U.S. Catholics on Climate Change
By Katie Rose Quandt
March 11, 2015

Turkson talks papal encyclical, ‘integral ecology’ at Irish lecture
By Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
March 10, 2015

The Environment’s Pope
By John L. Allen Jr.
March 7, 2015

Papal envoy to UN: Climate change ‘an issue of justice for everyone’
By Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
March 6, 2015

Cardinal Turkson sheds light on Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical
By Bob Gronski
Catholic Rural Life
March 6, 2015

The Sacrament of Creation: What Can We Expect from Pope Francis’s Ecological Encyclical?
By Clive Hamilton
ABC Religion and Ethics
March 3, 2015

Religious leaders urge action to combat climate change
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
February 23, 2015

Catholics Fast for Lent in Support of Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action
By Cole Mellino
February 18, 2015

Will the Vatican Become a New Leader Against Climate Change?
By Kevin Mathews
February 17, 2015

Tonga’s King talks climate change with Pope Francis
By Sophie Yeo
Responding to Climate Change
February 17, 2015

Catholic group launches global climate-focused Lenten fast
By Brian Roewe
Eco Catholic
National Catholic Reporter
February 17, 2015

Historic Catholic Climate Lenten Fast To Be Held in 45 Countries
Global Catholic Climate Movement
February 16, 2015

Anticipation building for papal encyclical on environment
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
February 12, 2015

Rediscovering the moral dimension of climate change
By Jonathon Porritt
The Ecologist
February 9, 2015

Pope Francis: It’s Christian to protect the environment
By David Gibson, Religion News Service
USA Today
February 9, 2015

Pope Mass: Protecting Creation a Christian responsibility
Vatican Radio
February 9, 2015

Pope Francis: cultivate and preserve Mother Earth
Vatican Radio
February 2, 2015

Pope Francis and Climate Change: A Catholic Tradition
By Carolyn Woo
Huffington Post
February 2, 2015

EPA chief at Vatican: Obama ‘aligned’ with Francis on climate change
By Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
January 30, 2015

A New Paradigm for Catholic Energy Ethics
By Erin Lothes Biviano
Catholic Moral Theology
January 28, 2015

US to Enlist Pope Francis’ Help on Climate Change
January 28, 2015

Pope Francis will visit New York City, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia during September visit to U.S.
By Sasha Goldstein
New York Daily News
January 19, 2015

Details of the proposal for Pope Francis’ US visit revealed
By Alan Holdren and Elise Harris
Catholic News Agency
January 18, 2015

Church Authority and Assent: Clarifications Ahead of Pope Francis’s Encyclical
By Daniel DiLeo
Political Theology Today
January 16, 2015

Storm Warnings for Pope’s Climate Stop in the Philippines
By Andrew C. Revkin
Dot Earth
New York Times
January 16, 2015

Pope Francis Hopes World Leaders Will Make the Environment a Priority
By Ashley Curtin
Nation of Change – Bullhorn
January 16, 2015

Pope to make moral case for action on climate change
By Andy Coghlan
New Scientist
January 14, 2015

Pope Francis, the climate activist
By Pia Ranada
Passig City Rappler
January 8, 2015

‘Rock-star pope’ intends to amplify his climate message
By Scott Detrow
January 7, 2015

Pope Francis plants a flag in the ground on climate change
By John Abraham
The Guardian
January 6, 2015

Pope Francis climate change call to action makes waves in faith communities
January 5, 2015

Why Pope Francis is going green in 2015
By Stephen Scharper
The Star
January 5, 2015

2015 could be the year we save the earth
By NCR Editorial Staff
National Catholic Reporter
January 2, 2015

Tracing the Roots of Pope Francis’s Climate Plans for 2015
By Andrew C. Revkin
Dot Earth
New York Times
December 31, 2014

Pope Francis Calls for Action on Climate Change & Capitalism on a Planet “Exploited by Human Greed”
Democracy Now
December 31, 2014

What Can a Popular Pope Do About Climate Change?
By Nicholas St. Fleur
The Atlantic
December 30, 2014

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches
By John Vidal
The Guardian
December 27, 2014

Pope Francis: climate evangelist?
By Virginia Gewin
December 19, 2014

Preparing for the Storm: Anticipating and Countering the Likely Attacks on Pope Francis and His Environmental Encyclical
By Dan DiLeo
Millennial Journal
December 16, 2014

Pope Francis’s Ecology Encyclical – What Can We Expect?
By Henry Longbottom, SJ
The Jesuit Post
December 10, 2014

Pope Francis renews attack on mafia in Italian region scarred by toxic waste
July 27, 2014

The Pope and the Sin of Environmental Degradation
Living on Earth
July 18, 2014

Pope Francis’s Radical Environmentalism
Exploiting the earth “is our sin,” the pontiff says.
By Tara Isabella Burton
The Atlantic
July 11, 2014

Pope Francis: ‘We Are Custodians of Creation’
By Andrew C. Revkin
New York Times
May 22, 2014

Pope Francis wants to save the planet
By Michael Trimmer
Christian Today
May 9, 2014

UN to back Pope Francis statement on ‘human ecology’
By Sophie Yeo
Responding to Climate Change (RTCC)
May 8, 2014

Can a Pope Help Sustain Humanity and Ecology?
By Andrew C. Revkin
Dot Earth
May 6, 2014

Pope Francis urged to back fossil fuel divestment campaign
By Graham Readfearn
The Guardian
April 16, 2014

‘The fragile world’: Church teaching on ecology before and by Pope Francis
By Donal Dorr
Thinking Faith
February 26, 2014

Pope Francis preps tome on the environment
By Jonathan Easley
The Hill
January 25, 2014

Pope Francis Opens Ministry: “Let Us Be Protectors”
By Nicole Winfield
NBC Bay Area
March 26, 2013

Pope Francis Raises Hopes for an Ecological Church
By Marcela Valente
Inter Press Service
March 22, 2013

Pope Francis Installation Mass Homily Text
NBC Bay Area
March 19, 2013

The Magna Carta of integral ecology: cry of the Earth-cry of the poor (Leonardo Boff)


Before making any comment it is worth highlighting some peculiarities of the Laudato si encyclical of Pope Francis.

It is the first time a pope addresses the issue of ecology in the sense of an integral ecology (as it goes beyond the environment) in such a complete way. Big surprise: he elaborates the subject on the new ecological paradigm, which no official document of the UN has done so far. He bases his speech with the safest data of life sciences and Earth. He reads the data affectionately (with a sensitive or cordial intelligence), as he discerns that behind them hides human tragedy and suffering and also for Mother Earth. The current situation is serious, but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and trust that human beings can find viable solutions. He links to the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently. And something absolutely new: the text is part of collegiality, as it values ​​the contributions of dozens of bishops’ conferences around the world, from the US to Germany, that of Brazil, Patagonia-Comahue, and Paraguay. He gathers the contributions of other thinkers, such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri, the Argentinian maestro Juan Carlos Scannone, Protestant Paul Ricoeur and the Sufi Muslim Ali Al-Khawwas. The recipients are all of us human beings, we are all inhabitants of the same common house (commonly used term by the Pope) and suffer the same threats.

Pope Francis does not write as a Master or Doctor of faith, but as a zealous pastor who cares for the common home of all beings, not just humans, that inhabit it.

One element deserves to be highlighted, as it reveals the “forma mentis” (the way he organizes hi thinking) of Pope Francis. This is a contribution of the pastoral and theological experience of Latin American churches in the light of the documents of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), that were an option for the poor against poverty and in favor of liberation.

The wording and tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis, and the ecological culture that he has accumulated, but I also realize that many expressions and ways of speaking refer to what is being thought and written mainly in Latin America. The themes of the “common home”, of “Mother Earth”, the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”, the “care” of the “interdependence of all beings”, of the “poor and vulnerable “, the” paradigm shift, “the” human being as Earth “that feels, thinks, loves and reveres, the” integral ecology “among others, are recurrent among us.

The structure of the encyclical obeys to the methodological ritual used by our churches and theological reflection linked to the practice of liberation, now taken over and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act and celebrate.

First, he begins revealing his main source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls “the quintessential example of comprehensive care and ecology, who showed special concern for the poor and the abandoned” (n.10, n.66).

Then he moves on to see “What is happening in our home” (nn.17-61). The Pope says, “just by looking at the reality with sincerity we can see that there is a deterioration of our common home” (n.61). This part incorporates the most consistent data on climate change (nn.20-22), the issue of water (n.27-31), erosion of biodiversity (nn.32-42), the deterioration of the quality of human life and the degradation of social life (nn.43-47), he denounces the high rate of planetary inequality, which affects all areas of life (nn.48-52), with the poor as its main victims (n. 48).

In this part there is a phrase which refers to the reflection made in Latin America: “Today we cannot ignore that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach and should integrate justice in discussions on the environment to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor “(n.49). Then he adds: “the cries of the Earth join the cries of the abandoned of this world” (n.53). This is quite consistent since the beginning he has said that “we are Earth” (No. 2; cf. Gen 2.7.), Very in line with the great singer and poet Argentine indigenous Atahualpa Yupanqui: “humans beings are the Earth walking, feeling, thinking and loving.”

He condemns the proposed internationalization of the Amazon that “only serves the interests of multinationals” (n.38). There is a great statement of ethical force, “it is severely grave to obtain significant benefits making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay for the high costs of environmental degradation” (n.36).

He acknowledges with sadness: “We had never mistreated and offended our common home as much as in the last two centuries” (n.53). Faced with this human offensive against Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the beginning of a new geological era -the antropocene- he regrets the weakness of the powers of this world, that deceived, “believed that everything can continue as it is, as an alibi to “maintain its self-destructive habits” (n.59) with “a behavior that seems suicidal” (n.55).

Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nn.60-61) and that “there is no single way to solve the problem” (n.60). However, “it is true that the global system is unsustainable from many points of view because we have stopped thinking about the purpose of human action” (n.61) and we get lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of populations). Mankind simply disappointed the divine hope “(n.61).

The urgent challenge, then, is “to protect our common home” (n.13); and for that we need, quoting Pope John Paul II, “a global ecological conversion” (n.5); “A culture of caring that permeates all of society” (n.231).
Once the seeing dimension is realized, the dimension of judgment prevails. This judging is done in two aspects, the scientific and the theological.

Let´s see the scientific. The encyclical devoted the entire third chapter to the analysis “of the human root of the ecological crisis” (nn.101-136). Here the Pope proposes to analyze techno-science, without prejudice, recognizing what it has brought such as “precious things to improve the quality of human life” (n. 103). But this is not the problem, but the independence, submitted to the economy, politics and nature in view of the accumulation of material goods (cf.n.109). Technoscience nourishes on a mistaken assumption that there is an “infinite availability of goods in the world” (n.106), when we know that we have surpassed the physical limits of the Earth and that much of the goods and services are not renewable. Technoscience has turned into technocracy, which has become a real dictatorship with a firm logic of domination over everything and everyone (n.108).

The great illusion, dominant today, lies in believing that technoscience can solve all environmental problems. This is a misleading idea because it “involves isolating the things that are always connected” (n.111). In fact, “everything is connected” (n.117) “everything is related” (n.120), a claim that appears throughout the encyclical text of the as a refrain, as it is a new contemporary paradigm key concept. The great limitation of technocracy is the fact of ‘knowledge fragmentation and losing the sense of wholeness “(n.110). The worst thing is “not to recognize the intrinsic value of every being and even denying a peculiar value to the human being” (n.118).

The intrinsic value of each being, even if it is minuscule, it is permanently highlighted in the encyclical (N.69), as does the Earth Charter. By denying the intrinsic value we are preventing “each being to communicate its message and to give glory to God” (n.33).

The largest deviation of technocracy is anthropocentrism. This means an illusion that things have value only insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that its existence is valuable by itself (n.33). If it is true that everything is related, then “we humans are united as brothers and sisters and join with tender affection to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother river and Mother Earth” (n.92). How can we expect to dominate them and view them within the narrow perspective of domination by humans?

All these “ecological virtues” (n.88) are lost by the will of power and domination of others to nature. We live a distressing “loss of meaning of life and the desire to live together” (n.110). He sometimes quotes the Italian-German Romano Guardini (1885-1968) theologist, one of the most read in the middle of the last century, who wrote a critical book against the claims of the modernity (n.105 note 83: Das Ende der Neuzeit, The decline of the Modern Age, 1958).

The other side of judgment is the theological. The encyclical reserves an important space for the “Gospel of Creation” (nos. 62-100). It begins justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity, as it is global crisis, each instance must, with its religious capital contribute to the care of the Earth (n.62). He does not insists in doctrines but on this wisdom in the various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because “creation is related to a project of love of God” (n.76). Quote, more than once, a beautiful text of the Book of Wisdom (21.24) where it is clear that “the creation of the order of love” (n.77) and God emerges as “the Lord lover of life “(Wis 11:26).

The text opens for an evolutionary view of the universe without using the word, but doing a circumlocution referring to the universe “consisting of open systems that come into communion with each other” (n.79). It uses the main texts that link Christ incarnated and risen with the world and with the whole universe, making all matters of the Earth sacred (n.83). In this context he quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, n.83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision.
The fact that Trinity-God is divine and it related with people means that all things are related resonances of the divine Trinity (n.240).

Quoting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church “recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God” (n.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to repair the lost harmony.

The encyclical concludes well with this part “The analysis showed the need for a change of course … we must escape the spiral of self-destruction in which we are sinking” (n.163). It is not a reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, but to seek “a new beginning” (n.207). The interdependence of all with all leads us to believe “in one world with a common project” (n.164).

Since reality has many aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an “integral ecology” that goes beyond the environmental ecology to which we are accustomed (n.137). It covers all areas, the environmental, economic, social, cultural and everyday life (n.147-148). Never forget the poor who also testify human and social ecology living ties of belonging and solidarity with each other (n.149).

The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the Encyclical observes the major issues of the international, national and local politics (nn.164-181). It stresses the interdependence of the social and educational aspect with ecological and sadly states the difficulties that bring the prevalence of technocracy, creating difficulty for the changes that restrain the greed of accumulation and consumption, that can be opened again (n.141) . He mentions again the theme of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create conditions for a possible human fulfillment (n.189-198). He re-emphasizes on the dialogue between science and religion, as it is being suggested by the great biologist Edward O.Wilson (cf. the book Creation: how to save life on Earth, 2008). All religions “should seek the care of nature and the defense of the poor” (n.201).

Still in the aspect of acting, he challenges education in the sense of creating “ecological citizenship” (n.211) and a new lifestyle, seated on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, since both are umbilically linked, and the co-responsibility for everything that exists and lives and our common destiny (nn.203-208).

Finally, the time to celebrate. The celebration takes place in a context of “ecological conversion” (n.216), it involves an “ecological spirituality” (n.216). This stems not so much from theological doctrines but the motivations that faith arises to take care of the common house and “nurture a passion for caring for the world” (216). Such a mystical experience is what mobilizes people to live the ecological balance, “to those who are solidary inside themselves, with others, with nature and with all living and spiritual beings and God” (n.210). That appears to be the truth that “less is more” and that we can be happy with little.

In the sense of celebrating “the world is more than something to be solved, it is a joyous mystery to be contemplated in joy and with love” (n.12).

The tender and fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi is present through the entire text of the encyclical Laudato. The current situation does not mean an announced tragedy, but a challenge for us to care for the common house and for each other. The text highlights poetry and joy in the Spirit and indestructible hope that if the threat is big, greater is the opportunity for solving our environmental problems.

The text poetically ends with the words “Beyond the Sun”, saying: “let’s walk singing. That our struggles and our concerns about this planet do not take away our joy of hope “(n.244).
I would like to end with the final words of the Earth Charter which the Pope quotes himself (n.207): ” Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.¨

 This text is a chapter of a book in italien Curare la Madre Terra, EMI, Bologna 2015

Leonardo Boff is theologist and ecologist

Why Pope Francis’s climate message is so hard for some Americans to swallow (Washington Post)

 – June 18, 2015

With the official release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, it’s clear that several strains of thought prominent in the U.S. will be particularly challenged by the document. That includes U.S. individualists who tend to support limited government and fewer environmental restrictions — Rush Limbaugh has already accused Francis of Marxism — and also those who perceive a strong conflict between science and religion.

The Pope’s entire case for caring for “our common home,” as he puts it, is moral. And the precise moral worldview being articulated — what might be called communitarianism, the idea that we’re all in it together, that “it takes a village” — deeply challenges an individualistic value system that research suggests is quite prevalent in the U.S. In several places in the text, indeed, the pope explicitly critiques “individualism” by name.

“In the particular case of the United States of America, which does have a strong individualistic trend, we will be challenged by the Pope,” says Bill Patenaude, a Rhode Island based Catholic commentator who writes the blog Catholic Ecology.

Vatican announces pope’s message on climate(22:40)
Vatican leaders released Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical June 18 in Vatican City. (The Vatican English)

At the same time, the document also represents a mega-merger of religious faith and a vastness of carefully researched scientific information — challenging the conflict-focused way that so many Americans have been conditioned to think about the relationship between science and religion.

In essence, then, the Pope rolls science and faith into a comprehensive statement about our global, common responsibility to address the planet’s vulnerability.

Let’s take them in turn:

American Individualism. The United States, says Dutch social psychologist and intercultural researcher Geert Hofstede, is “one of the most Individualist…cultures in the world.” Individualism, in Hofstede’s definition, is “a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families.”

Hofstede isn’t the only one making such observations. The Pew Research Center noted recently that “Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world.” That’s not to say that every American is a rugged individualist — just that this way of thinking, and feeling, is more prominent here than in many other nations, according to researchers.

There are many benefits to individualism, in the sense of how it drives people to strive to succeed, and allows them to choose their own paths and innovate in order to get there. In the context of the Pope’s encyclical, though, what matters is how such an outlook also helps to explain why we have such conflicts over collective environmental problems like climate change. For instance, numerous studies have found strong links between manifestations of individualism — such as free market beliefs and libertarian values — and the denial of global warming, or the perception that it isn’t a very serious problem.

That includes the research of Yale law professor Dan Kahan, whose “cultural cognition” model divides people’s moral values along two axes — one running from being very hierarchical to very egalitarian, and the other running from being very individualistic to being very communitarian. In this analysis, individualists are people who are much more likely to assent to statements like “It’s not the government’s business to try to protect people from themselves” and “It’s a mistake to ask society to help every person in need.”

Here’s a figure from Kahan’s research, dividing people’s value systems up into four quadrants based on where they lie on the hierarchist-egalitarian and individualist-communitarian spectra, and then further noting what kinds of issues those in the different quadrants tend to view as “high risk” and “low risk”:

In the context of U.S. politics, we’re used to watching hierarch-individualists (Republicans) and egalitarian-communitarians (Democrats) clash along both moral axes. But the Pope is a different blend than we’re used to. “The Pope is hierarch communitarian,” says Kahan by e-mail. “No doubt about that.” In this analysis, Francis lies in the top right quadrant of the diagram above. Yes, he’s pro-life — but also an environmental activist.

The communitarian side lies at the heart of the Pope’s current environmental endeavor, and his call to address a global, collective problem — warming. And to focus, in particular, on how it harms those who are most vulnerable.

“That’s very much where the climate problem has taken the environmental movement is concern for the people who are affected by it but didn’t cause it,” says Evan Berry, a professor of philosophy and religion at American University. “Interestingly, those are the most basic concerns of Christian morality. This is Catholicism 101. So the fact that that’s how a Christian leader would think about environmental questions, it’s surprising that that wasn’t on the table many many years.”

It’s there throughout the encyclical — and not just when the Pope calls the Earth’s climate a “common good.” He criticizes “individualism” by name on several occasions. Here’s one example:

Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment. These attitudes also attune us to the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us. If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about changes in society.

Or as the Pope puts it later, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”

So clearly, Francis is critiquing individualism — especially at its extremes.

Science and Religion Conflict. At the same time, from the Scopes Trial to the stem cell saga, we are also a country that has traditionally seen major battles between science and religion — and has thus been conditioned to see them as being in conflict. It’s a perception that actually comes from two separate sides — from many religious believers but also from many atheists or non-believers.

While perceptions of conflict are most centrally focused on the teaching of evolution, they extend throughout realms involving reproductive health and even into the environmental arena, where U.S. evangelicals tend to be considerably less accepting of climate change.

Pope Francis is having none of that. Indeed, the encyclical contains a grand statement about the necessarily complementary relationship between science and faith. “Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both,” Francis writes.

“The catechism of the church is very clear on that,” says Patenaude. “Faith and reason are not opposed to one another. They are the two strands of the DNA of Catholic intellectual thought.”

Francis’s encyclical lives up to that merged identity — much in the way Pope Francis himself does, with his chemistry background.

For instance, Francis doesn’t just say humans are causing global warming. He enumerates the greenhouse gases much as a chemist might:  “carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others.” And he also lists numerous non-human or natural factors that influence the climate — “volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle” — before finally reiterating that it’s mostly human caused.

And the heavy layering of science extends far beyond the climate issue. As the Post has described, the encyclical is full of scientific content on a diversity of environmental issues — sometimes even throwing around highly technical concepts like ocean acidification, “bioaccumulation” and “synthetic agrotoxins.”

So if you’re one of those who insists that science and religion are in conflict — or one of those who stokes that conflict — Francis presents a major challenge. And it’s worth noting that while it isn’t central to this encyclical, Francis has also spoken up in the past in favor of the Big Bang and evolution, two major scientific concepts that have met with considerable religious-driven resistance in the U.S.

So in sum, here we have a leader of one of the world’s dominant churches articulating — and soon, coming to the U.S. to further articulate — a vision in which science and faith are partners in a communal quest to protect the vulnerable from the rampant profit motive and exploitation of the Earth.

For U.S. individualists and science-religion battlers, that is going to be serious cause for contemplation — which, perhaps most of all, is what Francis’s encyclical is asking us for.