Pope Francis’ environment encyclical: game-changer or dead letter?

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Pope Francis' new encyclical titled "Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home", is displayed during the presentation news conference at the Vatican on June 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi 
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ENCYCLICAL-FUTURE, originally transmitted on June 18, 2015, and with RNS-POPE-ARRIVE, originally transmitted on Sept. 22, 2015.

Pope Francis' new encyclical titled "Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home", is displayed during the presentation news conference at the Vatican on June 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ENCYCLICAL-FUTURE, originally transmitted on June 18, 2015, and with RNS-POPE-ARRIVE, originally transmitted on Sept. 22, 2015.

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(RNS) Pope Francis’ landmark document on protecting the environment and battling climate change is finally out after months of anticipation -- and anxiety -- that in the history of encyclicals is probably rivaled only by Pope Paul VI’s 1968 letter banning artificial birth control. But will it have an effect? Here are four challenges Francis faces going forward.

  • Deacon John M Bresnahan

    Not the pope nor the environmental activists have spoken of what stimulates and contributes most to the gluttony that is turning the earth into a garbage dump–advertising. Ads never say we are demanding–like spoiled brats— anything and everything we want. For the ad moguls wrap it all in the word “need”.
    Where is the “need” for every American to be giant mounds of blubber oozing around the planet. One ascetic Christian I know keeps himself from the deadly sin of gluttony and stimulates him to donate money for food for the starving by putting a photo on his refrigerator of a starving child looking at him and saying “Thy Belly condemns thee.” (some saint said this in the early years of Christianity when Christians regarded asceticism as virtually a doctrine of our faith.”

  • Greg1

    Yes, the pope is spot on with this encyclical. Man has left God, and instead thinks he is his own end. But what does the pope mean by stating the earth is becoming a garbage dump? Well nuclear power plants are producing radioactive waste that is being stored underground, and will take a million years of half lives before it is no longer a danger. Can we turn off our lights, tv’s, cars, etc. after dark and save energy? We are building houses on all the fertile ground, and saying, where have all the farms gone? Why can’t we grow vegetables? Instead, of course, of building on the deserts, and farming on the fertile grounds. We are using all our potable water for toilets, and showers, instead of filtered salt water, or filtered non-potable water. We run city water to houses, well, run a second line for the toilets, etc.. We live miles and miles from our jobs; why not give a tax break for those who choose to live closer? Etc. Etc. Etc.

  • Doc Anthony

    Yes, this is a brand new, unprecedented encyclical from Pope Francis. But for all its good points about responsible stewardship of the Earth, it’s also a brand new, unprecedented MESS that functions as an uncritical, unbalanced $ALE$-PITCH for the hard-line global-warming cult, including its censors and enforcers.

    By failing to listen to and oublicly acknowledge those professional, credentialed scientists on ALL sides of the science story, including scientists who are clearly “supporters” of the global warming movement but who publicly offered a few science-based doubts and dissents and caveats — such as Dr. David Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado, and the multiple-award-winning, over-220-publications climate researcher Dr. Lennart Bengtsson — Pope Francis has FAILED to stay faithful to all sides of the science story on this issue.

    Jeb Bush is correct: Ultimately it would have been better for Pope Francis to have simply “stayed out of it.”

  • Doc Anthony

    Name correction there: Dr. ROGER Pielke Jr., Univ. of Colorado environmental scientist. Here’s a sample of what he said:

    ““It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Pielke said in his testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

    from The Daily Caller, July 18, 2015.

  • Doc Anthony

    July 18, 2013. Ok that’s all!

  • JR

    Though Catholics largely ignore Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control, it is a prophetic piece of work. All of the dangers and immorality he addressed in 1968 have come to fruition over the years. It was wrong, and is wrong, for us to ignore this issue that affects the whole world negatively. Ignoring common sense for idealistic self-indulgence will always lead to more social rot.

  • Betty Clermont

    Really? You doubted “the US hierarchy” wasn’t going into paroxysms of praise? http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/06/18/us-bishops-swing-into-action-with-release-of-the-popes-encyclical/ For the rest, it’s already been a no-brainer. According to a new Pew poll: 68% of the general public believe that the earth is warming. 55% believe that warming is caused by human activity and 54% believe that warming is a very serious problem. And these numbers are growing. So in the media’s upside down world in reporting on this pope, this somehow equated to massive opposition to the encyclical. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/06/16/catholics-divided-over-global-warming/

  • Pope Francis is right in this issue and Doc Anthony is dead wrong. Unfortunately, Francis did not go quite far enough. Now he should rescind the Vatican ban on contraception since human overpopulation is what is fueling climate change and its various concomitants. — Edd Doerr (arlinc,org)

  • Marybeth

    All the xenoestrogens generated from widespread use of the birth control pill is a major polluter. Also, the number of people is only a problem if you’re concerned with maintaining the status quo of hyperconsumption and voracious wealth. Human beings aren’t the problem – human creativity provides the solutions. Please visit overpopulationisamyth.com

    There is nothing greener than planning your family naturally.

  • Laudato Si is achieving its main objective-divide and conquer. Here’s how. http://bit.ly/1GSUfuo

  • Ronnie

    Maybe you should review the encyclical again:
    1.Pro-climate change
    2.Anti-population control
    4.Anti-gender ideology
    Actually I agree with all four, climate change happens all the time, it’s cyclical. And I believe Doc Anthony is dead right. Censoring all sides of the science story is not helpful to this issue.

  • Erehwon

    Dead letter. The nation in the world that has moved much of its population from relative poverty to relative wealth is China. In the relatively short time that the Chinese accomplished this they have also obtained a working manned space program, a missile that can penetrate the defenses of and wipe out US aircraft carriers, and they are in competition with the U.S. for having the world’s fastest supercomputer. And they have accomplished all this doing all the things that Laudato Si decries. And they’re not going to stop, nor agree to any international document that calls for putting on the brakes. If the rest of the world puts on the brakes, then China will rule the world.

  • Fr. Duffy Fighting 69th

    How will Catholics react? With disgust, trepidation and great anxiety for the future of the Roman Catholic Church. This Encyclical is full of schlock science, socialist dogma and calls for draconian changes to the present economic, social and political order. It can only be described as the demented musings of a man who is revealing his true agenda for all the world to see. He is not a religious leader, but a broken-down old socialist who has been given the power to destroy the foundational doctrines of the Faith. I shudder to think what will happen when he puts his sights on the teachings related to human sexuality, marriage and reception of the Holy Eucharist at the next Synod on the Family this Fall.

  • Jack

    If the UN, the New World Order or whatever will rule the planet nextly decides to enforce switching the current politics of low cost energies (mainly carbon based) to renewable ones, the richest countries certainly will suffer in their standards of life, but they will survive, while the poorest ones, those that are the dearest to the Pope’s heart will disappear forever or come back to the stone age.
    Is this clearly what the Pope wants?
    The global warming the climate pundits are threatening us to become a thermical apocalypse by the end of this century, is already belonging to the past since the temperatures rise has stalled from 1998 to 2015, warming indeed was only 0,04 °C in 16 years.
    These pundits are unable to explain this “pause” and they are unable to predict when the temperatures will resume climbing, or worse (for them) decreasing.
    Then the main conclusion to draw is that their computer models are wrong and that CO2 doesn’t rule the climate, but only at a small level.

  • Domenic

    (Fighting 69th.) You refer to the present economic, social and political system as “order.” Don’t see much “order” in our current system and certainly not the system the Greeks have.

    As to the Catholic’s reaction – do you think they will read this 40,000 plus word document? Having read up to the middle of the second chapter I don’t see the negative side as you present it. And as to the future of the Catholic Church – it’s been through much more than this in the past and has survived even though most Catholics have tried to destroy her from the inside for the last 2 millenniums.
    Wishing you a more positive future,

  • Cranmer

    Actually the encyclical is a great work of sound, moral, and completely Catholic theology. The church’s teaching on economic life, labor, and human dignity have been rather consistent for two thousand years. In fact, I’m sorry that you’ve rejected the teachings of the church in favor of a latter-day, American jingoistic conservatism that flies the face of most of what Christ and the church taught.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The pope is very right to raise the issue of over consumption and consumerism being an evil and is virtually one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony. But raising that issue is not unique to the pope. A writer named Vance Packard– who died in 1996– was the first modern major prophet railing against consumerism .
    Packard wrote 3 best-selling books: “The Hidden Persuaders” “THe Status Seekers, and “The Waste Makers.”
    And what is making us into greedy, gluttonous, fat and flabby overeaters and unsatisfied consumers??? A business no one criticizes these days: Advertising. We are tricked or seduced into believing every lustful want is a noble need.
    All 3 Packard’s books should be read side by side with the pope’s encyclical.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Pope Francis’ environment encyclical – relevant parts of the text need to be included in our school, college and university curricula. The young people are the ones who are going to inherit the Planet and prepare it further for future generations.

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  • Greg1

    It will be interesting for the news media to actually have to read this encyclical, as it is just as much theology, as it is a call to stewardship (in my opinion it is scientifically generic). You will see many ellipses (…) in their quotes as they excise the theological portions. But as with any encyclical, it must be read prayerfully. I thought it interesting to hear today’s readings at Mass (Mark 4:35-41), where Jesus tells the wind to stop, and it listens. That tells us we need to have one foot on this earth, and the other in prayer when reading this encyclical.

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