Catholic Vision. Diagnosis, & Principles for Decisions & Action

October 29, 2015

Bishops from all continents and Pope Francis are united in calling for transformational change.  Pope Francis has used his popularity and authority to firmly frame climate change as a symptom of a planet whose ethics have gone haywire, of a human race that has lost perspective in its treatment of the poor and the environment, and in its greed and wastefulness run amok.

The needed change concerns everyone.  What is at stake is justice between people and generations, the dignity of those who inhabit the planet now, and those who will inhabit it in the future.  At stake is the very possibility of human life on Earth.

Laudato Si’ has spotlighted the gravity of the situation facing humanity, and the urgent need to find ways to escape “the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us.”(LS 163).  Pope Francis has given voice to those who are crying out — the Earth, which is our mother and sister, and the millions of poor people who live on Earth — who struggle to be heard.  On their behalf, the encyclical several times addresses world leaders, urging them to take responsibility for the common good and go against “the mindset of short-term gain which dominates present-day economics and politics.”

Catholics, led by the Pope and bishops, believe that it is essential to rise above the particular interests of individual countries and interest groups to negotiate & make decisions based on life-giving principles:

  • Concern and work for the common good
  • A preferential option for the poor and for the Earth
  • Solidarity with all our brothers and sisters and all creation
  • Universal ownership and destination of the goods and resources of the Earth
  • Subsidiarity (inclusion and maximal decision making by local communities/governments)

Francis proposes a new more integral mindset that captures an ancient awareness that all living beings, human peoples and systems as well as non-human ones—all of creation—are fundamentally interconnected. Only with attentive care for these bonds will we “find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests.”(LS 110)

The Pope also cuts to the chase with some of the concrete changes that must be made:  we must transition off of fossil fuels “without delay” (LS 165).  He and bishops from four continents have made a stand and call for global warming to be kept below 1.5 C.  The most recent worldwide bishops’ statement issued on 26 October makes clear that decarbonisation must be complete by mid-century.

Pope Francis has also said it is important to not wait for leaders, but to organize, act, and mobilize for change.  He said in July, “the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change.”  Again and again in his visit to the Americas, the Pope called for people to act and “have courage,” including ‘ecological citizenship’ — solidarity with all our brothers and sisters, awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings, and realization of the need to act and care for our common home, entrusted to us by God.

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