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Ashley McKinlessJune 11, 2015

On June 18, Pope Francis published his much-anticipated encyclical on the environment. The encyclical, the first of his papacy, is called "Laudato Si'" ("Praised Be"), a line from St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of Creatures." America is providing ongoing coverage of the encyclical, including first reactions in the hours and days after its release. We invite you to explore our analysis of this historic document as well as statements on Christian stewardship from previous popes.


What the Environmental Encylical Means, a roundup of expert analysis

The Mood of ‘Laudato Si’’: A Reply, Nathan Schneider (6/22)

'Laudato Si',' the Whirlwind and Yoga, Francis Clooney, S.J. (6/20)

Eight Ingredients of the First Third World Encyclical, Nathan Schneider (6/18)

An Encyclical Alone Won’t Save the Planet, Nathan Schneider (6/16)

Clues to the Encyclical II: A Long Tradition of Papal Teaching on Social, Economic and Political Matters, Vincent J. Miller (6/4)

"In the modern era, the church has struggled to balance respect for the growth of technical spheres of knowledge such as economics, medicine, and psychology, with the need to preserve the right to judge their moral dimensions and to interrogate their philosophical premises."

Climate Check, Gerard O'Connell (5/25)

"The forces in the United States that are criticizing the probable content or downplaying the morally binding import of the encyclical may be divided into two blocs: the first is tied to economic interests; the second consists of Catholic thinkers linked to conservative American political thought."

A Planetary Pope: When Francis speaks on the environment, by Christiana Z. Peppard (5/25)

"It would be a profound shame—indeed, an epic failure of goodwill and humility—if the moral message proffered by the pope were to be squandered on the weary terrain of U.S. political infighting."

Clues to the Encyclical: It Will be a Theological, Not a Political Argument, Vincent J. Miller (5/7)

"Although the church has been slow to awake to the environmental crises we have created, the tradition has always spoken of intemperance and excessive consumption."

What to Hope for in Pope Francis' First Encyclical, John A . Coleman (3/28)

"Francis links an option for the earth with an equally strong option for the poor—since, in many ways, the poor suffer the worst effects of global climate change and ecological destruction."

Pope Francis’s Ecology Encyclical – What Can We Expect?, Henry Longbottom, S.J. (The Jesuit Post, 12/10/14)

"Is it possible that the encyclical will help formulate a common language of our responsibilities towards the natural world which is universal to people of all faiths and none?"


Pope Calls for Bold Cultural Revolution to Save 'Our Common Home,' Gerard O'Connell (6/18)

Uproar in Rome Over the First Vati-leak in Francis’ Pontificate, Gerard O'Connell (6/16)

Encycli-leak: Respecting the Embargo of Pope Francis Letter We Are, Kevin Clarke (In All Things, 6/15)

Bishops Urged to Help Catholics Understand Enviro-encyclical From Pope Francis, Carol Zimmermann (6/11)

Pope Francis to Be Dubbed 'Greener Pope' After Encyclical on the Environment?, Kevin Clarke (6/10)

High Level Launch for Pope’s Encyclical, in the Vatican, on June 18, Gerard O'Connell (6/10)

Caribbean Bishops Reflect on Climate Change, 'Anticipating' Pope Francis, Catholic News Service (6/10)

Climate Encyclical: A Strong Moral Message to the World, Barbara Fraser (6/9)

Media Coverage and Commentary

Pope Francis’ Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment (Ross Douthat, New York Times, 6/20)

Pope’s encyclical generates responses from over-the-top enthusiasm to harsh dismissal (Washington Post, 6/18)

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change (New York Times, 6/18)

Exclusive: Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical (Time, 6/18)

Whodunit playing out as Vatican reels from encyclical leak (Washington Post, 6/16)

Pope Francis wants to stop global warming, so why is he bashing one of the most popular solutions? (Quartz, 6/16)

Why the Pope's New Climate-Change Doctrine Matters (The Atlantic, 6/15)

Pope Francis Calls for Climate Action in Draft of Encyclical (The New York Times, 6/15)

Italian magazine leaks draft of Pope’s environment encyclical (The Irish Times, 6/15)

Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical Leaked Four Days Early by Italian Magazine (Time, 6/15)

Papal Draft Blames Most Global Warming on Human Activity (Wall Street Journal, 6/15)

Italian magazine publishes leaked version of pope’s eco-encyclical (Crux, 6/15)


Ahead of the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, experts reflect on the history and significance of the church's role in promoting the stewardship of creation.


Francis is not the first pope to speak out on the environment. Previous popes and bishops have called on Christians to reflect on the connection between our care for creation and how we relate to other people, especially the poor and vulerable, and to the Creator. Here are a few of those recent statements:

If You Want To Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation, Pope Benedict XVI (2010)

"It is not hard to see that environmental degradation is often due to the lack of far-sighted official policies or to the pursuit of myopic economic interests, which then, tragically, become a serious threat to creation."

Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI (2009)

"The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole."

Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II (1991)

"Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray."

Peace With God The Creator, Peace With All Of Creation, World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II (1990)

"The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution."

Justice in the World, Synod of Bishops (1971)

"It is impossible to see what right the richer nations have to keep up their claim to increase their own material demands, if the consequence is either that others remain in misery or that the danger of destroying the very physical foundations of life on earth is precipitated."

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8 years 10 months ago
This collection of backgrounders and resources took lots of work, and I appreciate it. This is what we need to be able to discuss with others both in the Church and outside the Church, Pacem.
Jack Rakosky
8 years 10 months ago
This is a fine list of resources. Today Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia reminded us that the Pope has already issued the program manifesto for his pontificate, The Joy of the Gospel: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html While awaiting the Encyclical I began re-reading the Joy of the Gospel. I have always found it a helpful framework for understanding what Francis is doing. For all the commentary about Francis it is always best to read what he has to say for himself.
Bill Mazzella
8 years 10 months ago
The encyclical begins with the Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi. It is beautiful that the Poverello's canticle of nature is given center stage. From Francis to pope Francis, the celebration of Sister Earth. Goodbye Innocent III and all of the destroyers of life and welcome to each Francis embracing God's creation.
Alex Finta
8 years 10 months ago
Just a comment from a meteorologist. It's remotely possible that America's editors will be surprised that not all Catholics are convinced by Pope Francis's ignorant encyclical. It's a bad idea to let extremists write sections of an encyclical for you. Francis has made that mistake in spades. It takes remarkable ignorance and arrogance to categorize carbon dioxide – a gas essential to all life on this Earth – as carbon pollution. Carbon dioxide isn't carbon, and it certainly isn't pollution. Animals (including humans) exhale CO2, and inhale oxygen; plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. That mutual exchange is called symbiosis, the most fundamental fact of ecology on this planet. It takes equal ignorance and arrogance to imagine that Francis is helping the poor by denying them the advantages of modern technology made possible by cheap, on-grid, RELIABLE electricity. More than 1 billion poor people have no electricity; three billion have intermittent, unreliable electricity. How is one to refrigerate food and medicine, to cook cleanly (not on a fire of wood and dung), to pump clean water from a well, to transport produce to market and goods back, to hear news on TV and read after dark? This pope is a scientific and economic ignoramus. Pope Urban 8 is a model of rational thought by comparison. It took the Church only 400 years to repent of their stupidity re: Galileo. Let's hope this fiasco does not long outlive the current incumbent.
Tom Maher
8 years 10 months ago
I too share your great concern that the Church is making profound errors in moral judgment by accepting uncritically erroneous or disputed scientific claims and judgments that have not been proven and which are in fact highly controversial. As you mentioned the Church's condemnation of Galileo and his scientific observations and conclusions will always remain a profound and fundamental historic mistake which should definitely not be repeated 400 years later in the 21st century. Even 400 hundred years ago science could and did validate Galileo's claimed observations of the motion of the planets and his work showing that the planets including the earth revolved around the sun by other people repeating these observations and testing and proving Galileo's work. By repeated observation, testing and proof Galileo's claims that effectively the sun and not the earth is the center of the solar system were proven, contrary to the say-so beliefs formed from interpretations of scripture based on fragmentary and out of context mention of "the heavens". Scientific facts are established by proof from repeated testing and not by the say-so of anyone. Scientific conjecture is not proven scientific fact. Even long-held and proven scientific facts can be overturned or revised hundreds of years later on re-testing of detail as frequently has happened. Scientific facts are not immutable and are always subject to skepticism, testing and revision. It is a huge mistake for the Church to accept as definitive the say-so of scientists while numerous other scientists can show there is no proof or dispute the fact, significance and implication of man-caused climate change. Natural causes of climate change are always present and far more likely to be the more significant cause of climate change and can not be altered by human efforts. Earth's climate has thousands of variable most of which are not man made. These variables are hard to account for in an reliable over-all theory that is testable. No proven theory exists to explain the numerous interactions variables resulting in earth climate at any moment in time. Most of the inputs into earth's climate such as amount of sunlight are unpredictable. Long before our present age there have been numerous climate changes on earth such as ice ages that would intermittently reserve themselves and then would come to an end . It is profound historic mistake for the Church to favor one side of a many-sided scientific controversy and build an elaborate moral teaching based on erroneous and highly disputed scientific claims which have often been disproven. It is futile and misdirected effort for the Church to urge huge worldwide expenditure of effort and resources to alter natural processes by feeble human efforts which are not effective.
Chuck Kotlarz
8 years 10 months ago
According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and it's caused by humans.
Tom Maher
8 years 10 months ago
Science is not based on professional opinion it is based on testing of theory and proof of theory that can be replicated. Popularity of a concept such as human caused climate change is not proof of any theory that explains exactly how and why climate change is occurring uniquely due to human causes, or due mostly to natural causes. No one ever cites or explains the proof of any theory. What is cited is what scientists personally believe based on their own untested private theories which does not establish any scientific proof or scientific knowledge. The opinions of scientists are only opinions which are likely wrong, incomplete and grossly inaccurately describe the actual complex processes that will someday actually prove what climate change is all about and its real causes. Educated guesses or opinions are not scientific facts that can be relied on as valid let alone base elaborate moral judgments and theologies on. Frequent climate predictions by scientists and popularizers of climate change political advocacy such as Al Gore over the last thirty years have been conspicuously and repeatedly wrong in their opinion based predictions of climate change. The science of climate change continues to be highly fragmentary and not capable of producing accurate and reliable climate prediction of future climate events and trends. It is extremely disturbing to read the Washington Post article of June 20, 2015 titled "How climate change doubters lost a papal fight" by Anthony Falola and Chris Mooney that indicated scientists disputing human caused climate change were not allowed to attend the Vatican Summit on Climate Change last fall to voice their dissenting views. The encyclical was produced without the input of scientist offering alternate explanations to what causes climate change. The encyclical was issued without mention that there are substantial scientific objections on the topic of human caused climate change even though climate change theories are not settled science. Suppressing climate change controversies and alternate explanations is not how science works. Science does not suppress skepticism of popular theories. Science encourages skepticism of all theories since theories, though popular and widely held, often prove to be wrong, inaccurate or incomplete.
JR Cosgrove
8 years 10 months ago
I posted this on another thread Here is the article from the Washington Post about the inability of the other side to be heard. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/how-climate-change-doubters-lost-a-papal-fight/2015/06/20/86af3182-15ce-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html This story is especially relevant given this from the encyclical.
188. There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.
Chuck Kotlarz
8 years 10 months ago
Read up on Citizens United…if people don’t want to listen, nobody is going to stop them.
Chuck Kotlarz
8 years 10 months ago
In real estate the three most important words are location, location, location. In a court room, the best lawyer makes sense. In an operating room, the best surgeon makes sense. In the world of Mother Nature, 97% of scientists makes sense. Of course, some perhaps prefer a lawyer holding the scalpel.
Chuck Kotlarz
8 years 10 months ago
"It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide." American Meteorological Society (2012)
Chuck Kotlarz
8 years 10 months ago
Sustainable energy is replacing US fossil fuel usage, but that's what progress is, an old world passing away and a new one taking its place. The US has the three largest PV solar farms in the world. Eight of the ten largest wind farms in the world are located in the US.

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