2014 was a banner year for moving the Roman Catholic Church in a decidedly more progressive direction and if reports of the Pontiff’s upcoming plans are any indication, 2015 promises to offer more of the same. Next up on the Holy Father’s agenda: climate change.
In advance of the coming year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled to convene November 2015 in Paris, Pope Francis is preparing to publish an unprecedented Papal Encyclical addressing both climate change and the impact of human behavior on the environment. The official letter from the Pope will be disseminated throughout Catholic parishes world-wide, urging the Roman Church’s 1.2 billion followers to take action on the basis of both scientific and moral grounds.
But he’s not stopping there. Pope Francis also plans to talk climate change in an upcoming address to the UN General Assembly, as well as organize a conference of the world’s largest faiths to discuss the moral implications of climate science.
“An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it… The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands… The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”
Is it just me, or does Pope Francis seem to get some kind of ecclesiastical pleasure out of riling up the talking heads over at Fox?
This isn’t the first time that Pope Francis has taken aim at science-deniers, though it is easily the most dedicated on a specific issue we’ve seen him. Back in October, Francis reiterated the Church’s long-standing position that evolution and Catholic doctrine were not at odds. In contrast to Evangelical Christians in the United States, the Catholic Church has long since accepted evolutionary theory, dating as far back as a 1950 proclamation by Pope Pius XII. Skeptics expect the Pope’s message on climate to clash with that of conservative Evangelicals. Calvin Beisner, of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation: “The pope should back off. The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science… our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”
Vatican officials also seem poised to expect a degree of internal push back on the issue, as Dan Misleh, head of the Catholic Church’s climate covenant, explains to The Guardian:
“There will always be 5-10% of people who will take offence. They are very vocal and have political clout. This encyclical will threaten some people and bring joy to others. The arguments are around economics and science rather than morality… A papal encyclical is rare. It is among the highest levels of a pope’s authority. It will be 50 to 60 pages long; it’s a big deal. But there is a contingent of Catholics here who say he should not be getting involved in political issues, that he is outside his expertise.”
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