By Brenda Flanagan
“It’s really powerful and it doesn’t pull any punches,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper.
Ecologically-minded activists from all faiths welcomed this sweeping encyclical from Pope Francis — who challenges the world “…to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor…” and fight for a cleaner planet, and against what he called, “…business interests and consumerism…”
“He gets that this is a critical issue,” Rev. Harper said.
Rev. Harper heads an interfaith group that finds common ground in preserving the environment. He says they all welcomed the Pope’s message.
“Climate change puts poverty on steroids. It hits the poor hardest, it worsens conditions that poor communities and poor people have to live in,” Harper said.
In the encyclical — called Laudato Si, or Praise Be — Francis issues an emotional call to action — an “…urgent challenge to protect our common home,” which he says, “…is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” The Pope criticizes powerful special interests, “…extreme and selective consumerism” saying, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods…”
“I think it was very powerful and very beautiful, really. It brings together two different concerns: ecology of the planet — which is god’s gift to us — and the ecology of humanity — also god’s gift to us,” said Archbishop John Myers.
The encyclical claims global warming is man made, according to scientists, and lists human miseries caused by climate change — floods, famine and disease. But Francis imbues his scientific missive with an overarching moral imperative. And it’s pointedly political, noting, “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”
“Do we buy too much? Do we buy the wrong things? Do we have more than we need? So that all of us can make small daily choices that in the long run can make a difference,” Myers said.
The encyclical looks ahead to the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Paris, where all nations will try to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate change.
The encyclical could pose problems for Catholic politicians, like Gov. Chris Christie, who often find themselves at odds with environmental activists over issues like the ExxonMobil cleanup lawsuit or greenhouse gas emissions. It also drew immediate fire from Catholic conservatives like Bill Donohue, who stated, “Conservatives will recoil at his left-leaning politics, anti-market impulse, embrace of global policies to combat climate change and his doomsday scenarios.”
The Pope obviously intends to create a coalition, to draw people together in common cause, but this encyclical could also become another wedge further dividing Catholics who just don’t see the world the way Francis does.