Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment

At the recent Racism and Care of the Environment Workshop,1 I led a topic table on Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si—On Care for Our Common Home. Thirteen people came. Most were of Catholic heritage. Almost everyone had heard about or even read some of Francis’s words.

I spoke a little about the encyclical, emphasizing the following:

People before profit. The pope writes about how climate disruption is mainly the result of the rich (predominantly white) industrial world’s emissions of heat-trapping gases, while the worst impacts of it—droughts, sea-level rise, super storms—are experienced by poor people, mostly of the global majority, who have the least means to buffer themselves from calamity. Here’s a quote from the encyclical that I read at the table: “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.”

It matters that this pope is the first Roman Catholic pope of the global majority. And some right-wing2 ideologues consider him “the most dangerous person on the planet.”

Gratitude. Throughout his letter, Francis reminds us that the earth provides for us, that without her gifts we would not live, that thankfulness (in prayer) is our proper relationship with the earth.

Reciprocity. The earth takes care of us, and we must take care of her. This is what Indigenous people around the world emphasize, and I think it’s important that the leader of two billion Catholics is acknowledging it.

Awareness of our deep connection. In RC we understand that loss of connection, with people and the earth, is related to hurts that have left on humans patterns of greed, neglect, irresponsibility, “superiority,” racism, and harming the environment. Francis emphasizes the same thing (in Catholic lingo) in the encyclical.

Simplicity. He says that if everyone lived simply, there would be enough material resources for every person on earth to thrive. He himself has made it a point to forego the extravagant pomp that has been attached to the position of pontiff and lives as simple a life as a pope could possibly live.

After I shared these thoughts, everyone had a chance to discharge.

While the encyclical is a source of great hope and will bolster the growing movements to end racism and environmental destruction, it doesn’t talk about what we in RC have: discharge, and deep relationships built on the understanding of discharge, re-emergence, oppression, and liberation. Our job, however, is not to criticize where the pope and the Church fall short but to listen to other Catholics, and our allies, about the encyclical, racism, and care of the environment, and bring our thinking and skills into the mix.

Jack Manno

Syracuse, New York, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Catholics

1 A workshop held in Warwick New York, USA, in August 2015, led by Barbara Love and Diane Shisk
2 "Right-wing" means politically reactionary.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00