Podcast: How ‘Laudato Si’’ changed U.S. Catholics’ minds on climate change

Parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto, Calif., pose next to solar panels in this undated 2015 file photo. The Archdiocese of San Francisco launched a "Laudato Si'" initiative to help parishes respond to Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical and form "care for creation" teams. (CNS photo/courtesy St. Thomas Aquinas Parish)

It’s been five years since the release of “Laudato Si’,” and Pope Francis has called for a year of prayer and study on the encyclical’s themes of integral human ecology—that is, the importance of protecting the environment and the poor, who are most directly affected by climate change and the destruction of nature.


Listen and subscribe to Inside the Vatican on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

But five years out, as the church works with new resolve to implement “Laudato Si’,” it is worth asking: Did the document make a difference the first time around?

On this episode of Inside the Vatican, I speak with Sam Winter-Levy and Bryan Schonfeld, two Princeton University doctoral candidates in political science, who recently released a paper studying the impact of “Laudato Si’.” The two examined data sets from a survey of Americans’ opinions on climate change from before and after the encyclical’s release, and they found that among churchgoing Catholics, there was a significant shift towards belief that climate change is real and caused by humans, and that there is a moral imperative to take action on it.

We discuss their findings, and what the results reveal about the role religious leaders like Pope Francis can have in shaping public opinion.

Read more:

Correction June 14,2020: An earlier version of this article and the current audio of the podcast mistakenly referred to Mr. Winter-Levy and Mr. Schonfeld as sociologists. They study political science.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]


The latest from america

Peter Seewald described Pope Benedict as “extremely frail,” and as saying that while he is mentally sharp, his voice is barely audible.
Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder and former editor of La Repubblica, speaks on Italian television Feb. 1, 2015 (CNS photo/Cristiano Minichiello, AFG). 
The only reports of Mr. Scalfari’s long conversations with Francis have come from the elderly journalist, who does not record or take notes.
Gerard O’ConnellAugust 02, 2020
For young Catholics, puberty can feel like a minefield where one wrong sexually-charged step could have everlasting consequences.
John DoughertyJuly 31, 2020
Brendon Busse, S.J., center, celebrates a Mass at Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles on June 20 for hospitality workers to view online. (Courtesy Unite Here Local 11)
For many in the hospitality industry, writes J.D. Long-García, the lingering pandemic means no job, unpaid bills and even imminent homelessness.
J.D. Long-GarcíaJuly 31, 2020