The Enviro-Pope: "Sin" of Climate Change?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/03/2015 01:30:00 AM
Having "greened" the Vatican, the Pope seeks to do the same the world over.
The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land - Lev. 25:23-24. For all its faults, there has never been much doubt that the Roman Catholic Church has been solidly in the environmentalist camp. After commencing on the installation of a massive solar panel in 2008 pictured above, the Vatican has solidified its (quasi-)national position as a leader in green energy by having the most solar power installed per capita.

The solar panel installation at the Vatican was initiated by Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Now, however, the former is seeking to move past the immediate confines of the Vatican in bringing the environmental message to the faithful. Around July 2014, there were rumblings about how he was preparing an encyclical--typically a letter from the Pope to all the bishops--concerning environmental matters. Hence some consultations he held with them. For instance, Fr. Michael Anthony of the Franciscan order previewed this "green" encyclical:
The Pope himself brought up the issue of the environment. And he talked about his deep concern that we need, the Church needs, to find the way to respond, using the best of science. But also using the best of goodwill of all of humanity, to bring together a consensus on trying to respond to the crisis, the ecological crisis...

Keep in mind that the Pope, the Church, in October [2014], will have a Synod on family life. There will be a pre-Synod and then the Synod. So the Pope is gonna be very busy preparing for that Synod. So, some time after October, maybe November. He might wait until the beginning of the new year.
A few days ago, we received further news that these plans are on track. After visiting the Philippines later this month--especially emblematic of climate change concerns given the wake of supertyphoon Haiyan--the environmental encyclical is due out in March. Already there is talk of a new schism: Whereas the George W. Bush-esque evangelicals Stateside supported the Vatican's conservative stance on social issues, their climate change-denying ways are likely to come into open conflict:
Pope Francis is due to publish an encyclical he feels is so important it will be printed and distributed to parishioners in their pews. Pope Francis plans to publish his long awaited encyclical on the environment and he plans to tackle the issue of global warming head on...

This March, following a visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis will publish an encyclical on the environment that insiders say will tackle the issue of global warming head on. Pope Francis is hoping to have some impact when world leaders meet to discuss climate change in Paris next year. The encyclical will have one definite impact in the United States - it will chagrin conservatives in the U.S. who generally believe that global warming is a hoax.
There is a tendency to interpret the Vatican in terms of largely Amerocentric labels of conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, but we are reminded that these labels matter less in a less parochial, more global context:
Pope Francis, and the Church itself, defy political labels. The Church is far higher than any political persuasion and is concerned with Truth, not political preferences. The publication will be a reminder to American political conservatives that Pope Francis defies all attempt to label him as one thing or another. He is neither conservative, nor liberal, but he is Catholic. The coming encyclical is informed by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the world's single-longest running scientific mission. The institution has already affirmed that global warming is real and a threat to people around the world, especially in developing nations. 
There is also much to be said about combining findings from science with guidance on the appropriate responses of the faithful to climate change:
It is easier to simply consign the issue to the dustbin of "myth" and stop thinking about it...However, finding the moral balance we need to strike between long and short term gains, between the dignity of individuals and the rights of others to generate a living through their labor, isn't a simple task. This is why the direction of Pope Francis and the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, will be so welcome by most of the world. 
Note that in the title I have put "sin" in quotation marks since the wording of the encyclical on, yes, man-made climate change is yet uncertain. As a preview, possible climate change discussions would involve whether anthopogenic climate change constitutes a sin of omission (neglect) or the rather worse sin of commission. In turn, this and other distinctions hinge of how Biblical and other relevant texts place importance on environmental stewardship.

Say what you will about the Roman Catholic Church, but it undoubtedly takes the lead among religious authorities on this key topic. Meanwhile, watch this space come March as we await the forthcoming encyclical: videmus, speramus.