Justin Catanoso writes: On May 24th, a grim-faced Pope Francis handed a signed copy of Laudato Si to President Donald Trump during his visit to Rome. The United States president, who has called climate change “a hoax,” promised to read the papal encyclical, a spiritual and secular plea to save the Earth from environmental destruction.
A week later, Trump announced plans to yank the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, whose prologue was influenced by the principles embodied in Laudato Si. In doing so, Trump repudiated 195 nations’ pledges to reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the worst effects of climate change; he repudiated Pope Francis and his encyclical as well.
Two years after the release of Laudato Si—and long after its intense global attention has faded—it’s worth asking: is the uncompromising and unprecedented Catholic teaching document fulfilling Vatican expectations by uniting leaders of all faiths, along with their billions of congregants, to take decisive climate action “in care for our common home”?
The answer is a qualified “yes”—based on evidence from interviews with a range of faith leaders, recent conferences, signed pledges, and a host a concrete actions, large and small, in congregations and seminaries around the world.
“There is an assumption that if religious leaders let the pope talk about [environmental protection], it will usher in rapid, large-scale change,” said Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, a U.S.-based interfaith environmental activism organization with an international reach.
“That’s magical thinking. It’s not how the world works. What matters is discipline in determining long-term work by faith groups. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like it to, but it’s underway,” he said. [Continue reading…]