Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment (“Laudato Si”) in June, and captured the world’s attention. The document is available online.
Those who agree with his views wonder why it should take a pope to open eyes to the morality of battling climate change. Those who disagree with the pope’s views on environmental issues declare that he should stay within his own area of expertise.
Most everyone can see there is climate change, but not everyone agrees that humans are to blame for it. Here’s a quick, but thought-provoking, look at both sides of the climate change battle.
In his encyclical on environmental issues, Pope Francis promotes a strong moral argument to the world for following the teachings of Christ’s love and concern for the world’s poor. He is prodding not only Catholics, but the entire world to take a stand on climate change.
His encyclical begins, Mother Earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
Citing Bartholomew, he said we are asked to “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, which entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from ‘what I want’ to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.”
Joseph Heathjune of the New York Times wrote, “The fundamental problem in markets, in Pope Francis’ view, is that they cater to people’s desires, whatever those desires happen to be. What makes the market a liberal institution is that it does not judge the relative merits of these desires. The customer is always right.”
Pope Francis plans to speak at the United Nations meeting on climate change in December in Paris.
Disagreement with Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental issues
There has been some serious disagreement in the U.S. from conservative religious groups. One of the loudest of these is the Cornwall Alliance, an evangelical Christian group. Check them out online.
They argue against the papal encyclical. Their view:
Science actually provides support that carbon dioxide is merely a byproduct of capitalism, not a pollutant and that we should learn to “adapt” by continuing to grow the economy.
If we attempt to battle global warming, we will not only be risking trillions of dollars, but doing irreparable harm to the poor. In fighting climate change, we will be trying to change the “will of God.” Should humans destroy the earth, it’s God’s will. (“The Rapture” may be the climax in this scenario.)
The following was on the front page of the Catholic Herald. E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance wrote, “The Pope should back off. The Catholic church is correct on ethical principles, it has been misled on science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect.”
In The Guardian, Leo Hickman indicated “the center of the debate [is] the interpretation of one of the most contentious verses in the Bible — the so-called ‘Dominion Mandate,’ or Genesis 1:28: ‘And God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.’
“They see human beings as, primarily, consumers and polluters. Whereas, the Bible teaches that humans, who are made in God’s image, are producers and stewards.”
It’s almost impossible not to be biased one way or another. So, what is our moral responsibility here?
— Marylin Olds is an opinion columnist and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.