I really cannot believe that there isn’t more thunder in liberal circles with Pope Francis’s recent public statements on #climatechange.
Do any of you remember what it was like when Benedict or Paul opened their mouths? It was always a “brace yourself for a draconian throwback from the 15th Century” kinda moment.
But #PopeFrancis seems to be the rare bird, not just in the church but in the world, who is taking the Jesus model seriously. He’s not all “home school this and Original Sin that” he’s more like, “forgive everyone” and “please feel free to breast feed your babies in church”.
A little more than a week ago, Pope Francis announced that he will “issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions,” regarding climate change, according to the UK Guardian. His goal is to rally unified support for action at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015. Encyclics are a high priority declaration that get handed directly down the ranks worldwide.
Now, I realize that for those of us on the left, this is the kind of declaration we have all been waiting for from a global figure, but his constituency may not feel this way.
But here is the beauty of his argument: Pope Francis is approaching this from a human rights perspective, a slant that leverages the sense of charity and justice that the #Catholic Church is famous for. The Pentagon recently published a report on climate change and how it is directly related to destabilization in certain regions of the world. The nature of the conversation is changing, linking environmental and social justice together more closely. His Holiness is speaking in bigger terms, and with eloquence: “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,”
Could someone with this much clout make such a persuasive, human-centric case that he could sway the populace?
I want us all to set aside our informed cynicism about the state of the planet for a second and imagine one person could mobilize world leaders and such a significant portion of the global population that we could radically alter the current path of humanity. Just sit with that for a second.
The Catholic Church is arguably the oldest corporation in history, and while I understand why religious people would veer away from that label, that descriptor actually works in the context of economics. It has the oldest, longest running message, the biggest target audience, the most capital with which to enact rapid, massive change and a CEO with considerable decision-making power. In ancient Rome, there were mostly terrible emperors who wallowed in food and sex, but even in there, a few good guys pushed civilization forward, building libraries and aqueducts.
I’m really hopeful for the first time in a long time that we can engender a collective ideological shift; history says it has happened before. Maybe this sweet man who has said nothing but peace-making things since he became the Pope will say to the world, come on now, the science says yes, let’s clean it up. Maybe half his church leaves him, and then all the liberal-leaning christians will move in to support that path, who knows?
Saint Francis is the guardian of the animals, the protector of nature. He was a symbol of man’s responsibility to his world. In his prayer he says, “Lord, make me an instrument of peace.” Pope Francis is seeing the disconnect we are experiencing with nature and with our neighbors as the same thing. May he do his best to heal it and may his flock listen.