by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
The encyclical on the environment from Pope Francis is stimulating a great deal of discussion and hope in academia and the environmental movement. The encyclical is expected in June or July.
The pope wants to make the environment one of the signature issues of his papacy. As he explained to reporters three days after his election, one of the reasons he took the name Francis was because St. Francis of Assisi is “the man who loves and protects creation.” He went on to say, “These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”
Conservationists are hoping that the encyclical’s attitude toward animals, especially wildlife, will reflect the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, according to Lonnie Ellis, associate director of Catholic Climate Covenant.
The encyclical is widely expected to give support to those who attribute climate change to human activity since the pope has already said he accepts this scientific conclusion. Although popes are clearly not infallible when it comes to science, Francis is the first pope to have a modern scientific training: He was educated as a chemist and worked as one in Argentina before he entered the seminary.
Christiana Peppard of Fordham University said she hopes the encyclical will affirm that “contemporary science is a marvelous way of knowing the world and that it represents a collective, collaborative way of discerning important realities about the Earth that we share, and thus that there is zero justification for skepticism of climate change among Catholics.”…