“Praise Be to You” – Ways for Vincentians to Start Thinking about the New Climate Change Encyclical

By Tom Dwyer, Northeast Region SVdP Society Voice of the Poor Coordinator

In the fresh and large wake of a brand new papal encyclical on climate change and the ecology that many in the media and the public policy arena are calling “game changing”, the challenge before us as Vincentians and more particularly as Voice of the Poor advocates becomes how to interpret and act on the Pope’s message in light of our work with the poor and marginalized.

“We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.  Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.” ─ Pope Francis in Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home (139) With the issuance this past Thursday, June 18th, of the Encyclical formally entitled Laudato Si (Praise Be to You – On Care for our Common Home), as one leading proponent for climate change said, “Climate change is now an issue of social justice.”

The Encyclical is the latest in a long, rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching dating back to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Encyclical, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor).

But where to start?  The document is more than 100 pages long and the issues complex.  Here’s a few resources to give context, help frame your thinking, and stimulate action.

  • America, the national Catholic review magazine, has posted a most helpful, informative road map to the Encyclical.  It begins with a brief overview of the key themes and spiritual underpinnings of the document, and then follows with several paragraphs for each of the six chapters that highlight key points and passages.
  • For Voice of the Poor advocates, Chapter Four, entitled “Integral Ecology,” is worth careful attention.  In it, the Pope offers practical examples of the effect that mistreatment of our home, the earth, has on those who are poor and disadvantaged.  A particularly telling subsection is entitled the “Ecology of Daily Life.”
  • For a perspective on the impact that document is likely to have on public policy decision makers, two commentaries are suggested for reading:
  1. One by John Allen, Jr., a long-time writer on Catholic matters now an associate editor for The Boston Globe and the editor of the related Website Crux.   Allen’s insightful article is entitled “Pope’s Eco-Manifesto Looks like a Game Changer in the US.”
  2. And another by E. J. Dionne, a well-respected and well-known political and social commentator who writes for The Washington Post.  In his Opinion column, The Pope, The Saint, and the Climate, he admonishes us all, despite our political leanings, as follows:

 “Yet progressives and conservatives alike should attend to what motivates Pope Francis here — not the usual left-right politics but a theological concern for our obligation to care for our “common home,” a skepticism of a “throwaway culture,” and an insistence that a belief in God means that human beings cannot put themselves at the center of the universe.”

 Ø  Acquaint yourself with an organization known as the Catholic Climate Covenant and its excellent Website.  It offers many useful suggestions for advancing the cause of environmental justice and responsibility in the tradition and philosophy of Catholic Social Teaching.  You can learn about and take the St. Francis Pledge through which you and organizations in which you participate commit to praying, acting and advocating to solve climate change.

The Catholic Climate website also contains excellent resource materials about the new Encyclical.  You can download a  copy of the Encyclical there or by clicking here.  You can also access a list of key quotations from the Encyclical arranged by topic.

  • You can thank Pope Francis for his courage and inspiration in issuing Laudato Si’ by signing on to a message to him sponsored by Network, the national Catholic social justice lobby.   As of this writing, nearly 3,500 persons had signed the message telling the Pope he does not stand alone.  Add your personal observation and read those of others.word cloud

From that start, we can think about other things we might do as Vincentians:

  • Within our conferences, councils, and Voice of the Poor Committees, study and discuss the document and reflect on ways climate change, the degradation of our environment and the “throw-away culture” that Pope Francis rails against impact the poor and marginalized.
  • Inform fellow parishioners about the key teachings of the Pope’s Encyclical and its impact on the local community as you see it as Vincentians out in the streets ministering to the poor and needy.  Do this by hosting a seminar or workshop, publishing bulletin inserts, or preparing informational flyers for distribution at church.  See if you can post this type of information on your Parish’s Website, or on your own SVdP Websites.
  • Encourage Vincentians and others, Catholics and non-Catholics, to take the St. Francis Pledge.
  • Examine the institutions in which you are involved, be they religious, private, non-profit, governmental, association or employment based, in light of the ecological and environmental concerns the Encyclical expresses.  To the extent you identify inconsistencies, explore ways to bring about change.   John Allen’s article offers some examples of this already underway and the role the Church itself (and our Vincentian facilities) could play.
  • Let your policy makers – elected officials at all levels of government, civic leaders, and corporate and public leaders – know this is a matter of utmost concern to you, and why!

Please share your ideas and actions so they can be shared through future e-Newsletters and other means.

Pope Francis Hears Cries of Poor, Earth

to go forth

Colecchi headshotWhen Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, he chose the name Francis for a reason. He wanted to take his inspiration from St. Francis, the man who loved peace, the poor and God’s creation. His encyclical, Laudato Si’, embodies those commitments.

Pope Francis says in a prayer, “The poor and the earth are crying out.” The question is: Will we hear and respond to their cry?

The world’s poor are already suffering ecological devastation. Extractive industries in Latin America often violate environmental standards, poisoning the health of children, women and men, and destroying aquifers and agriculture. Conflict in Africa is frequently driven by shifts in climate. It is no secret that the violence between Arab Muslim herders and African Muslim farmers in Darfur was driven in large part by competition for land as desertification robbed communities of pastures. In Asia, the devastation of the Philippines in the wake of Super…

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