Why Pope Francis and the Church Treat Climate Change as a Moral Issue

Last month, NPR (National Public Radio) held a workshop for energy and environment reporters in Chicago. I was invited to be on a panel titled “The Environment as a Moral Question” and outline Catholic teaching on ecology and climate change. Here are some excerpts of my address:

Catholic Social Teaching

In order to frame my remarks, it’s important to first outline Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Catholic Social Teaching as a body of key magisterial documents that together “propose principles for reflection; provide criteria for judgment; [and] give guidelines for action” (2423). These magisterial documents include papal encyclicals, like Laudato Si, and, according to William J. Byron, S.J. CST, generally contain ten themes: Human Dignity, Respect for Human Life, Association, Participation, Preferential Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable, Solidarity, Stewardship, Subsidiarity, Human Equality and the Common Good.


The CST principle of stewardship is rooted in the biblical insights that creation is intrinsically good and that humanity has a vocation to “cultivate and care for” creation on behalf of the loving Creator (Genesis 1, 2:15). While this principle uniquely informs Catholic teaching on climate change, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out that “the Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.” Read More

Individualism, Free Market Myths, and the American Response to Climate Change

Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke at a conference on climate change at Boston College last week. Here are some of the passages in his remarks that relate to the United States and its responsibility to address climate change and protect creation:

Pope Francis is critical of the “bondage of individualism” and a culture of instant gratification that gives the immediate individual wants higher priority than the longer-term needs of many. He is critical of the “technocratic paradigm” which sacrifices morality on the altar of economic efficiency, and which places profit as the exclusive economic goal. He is critical of the myth of “infinite or unlimited economic growth”, based on the false belief that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s resources.

In some circles in the U.S., we can see traces of this excessive individualism, this belief in the liberating power of the market, this exaltation of technology and progress. We see evidence of short-term-ism—the politician subject to the electoral cycle, the business executive or investor putting short-term financial return over long-term sustainability. We see some public figures creating a dichotomy between economic issues and moral issues, forgetting that—as Pope Benedict XVI said—“every economic decision has a moral consequence”….

Yet I am confident that America can tap into the very best of its moral foundations and traditions, and play a strong leadership role in overcoming this crisis. I know there is a lot of good work going on already. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the Clean Power Plan that will reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants—and Pope Francis explicitly praised President Obama for his efforts to reduce air pollution.[18] Additionally, the U.S. has pledged $3 billion to the international Green Climate Fund that will enable lesser-developed nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change….

Ultimately, I believe that America can marshal its best resources to solve the climate challenge and protect our common home—its creativity, its ingenuity, its willingness to tackle practical problems, its spirit of hard work. But also its core values like compassion, human rights, sense of solidarity, and commitment to the global common good. America has risen to such occasions before; it can do so again.

You can read his full remarks here.


Newborn: Prayers Answered

This post by  Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ is also featured on The Jesuit Post.

I don’t think I ever prayed for anything as regularly or as fervently. Since last Christmas, when my sister told us she and her husband were expecting their first child, the constant petition on my lips was for the health of mother and baby. “For my sister and all pregnant women.” I said it a lot.

And I meant it.

I knew my sister was in good hands with my brother in-law and mother around, and since I live far from them, I couldn’t do much anyway. But I could pray. When I have nothing else to offer, I can at least do that. So I prayed for my sister at staff meetings, at Mass in my community, during my personal prayer times. I invited others to pray with me for her and asked God to direct it all, as God willed it.

And I waited. Read More

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The ‘Francis effect’ is about more than politics by Allison Walter: “During my sleep-deprived adventure, I saw my church come alive, with millions gathered together in song in the city streets because they have renewed hope. I had strangers tell me that they’re giving the church a second chance. I saw young people who’ve lost faith in governments and institutions in tears because Francis gives them something to believe in.”

West ‘walking into abyss’ on Syria by Charles Lister: “The vast majority of refugees now entering Europe are fleeing Assad’s murder machine, not IS or al-Qaeda. Ever since Syrians took to the streets in March 2011, the Western response has been both feeble and noncommittal, but the world is now in need of real leadership. Unfortunately, it seems our leaders are walking into the abyss with their eyes closed.”

Time will tell if Pope Francis’ visit has truly changed America by John Allen: “Going forward, perhaps one good way to gauge the political impact of Francis’ trip is not whether left and right suddenly agree with one another, but whether American liberals and conservatives at least become less likely to demonize one another over the issues Francis has identified as part of a single continuum of concern for life and dignity.” Read More