Can Pope Francis make a difference on climate change?

Jun 2, 2015 | 3 comments

if we destroy creation

Soon we will see an encyclical from Pope Francis on the issue of climate change.  Already there is serious speculation on its likely impact – especially in the US, where Catholics are divided on the issue.

In preparation for this event we highlight here some web pages that will help readers to understand the pope’s concerns, and the likely themes to be covered by the encyclical.

One of these is likely to be the need for all Christians, and all of the great religious traditions of the world, to be discussing together how to collaborate in building a global momentum for concerted governmental action on this issue.

This discussion can begin any time, and readers are invited to submit their own views and suggestions to us here.

Click here to read the homily of May 2014, in which Pope Francis warns that ‘if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us’.

Click here to read Thomas Reese’s best guess as to what the pending encyclical is likely to say.

Click here for the website of the Global Catholic Climate movement, already endorsed by Pope Francis.

Click here for an NCR article on the psychological barriers to convincing a majority that climate change is an urgent moral and survival issue.

Click here for a Guardian article of December 2014, explaining why the pending encyclical is likely to anger rightist Catholics and other Christians in the US.

Headline and Francis

Guardian headline of December 27, 2014

Click here for an NCR article of June 6th, surveying conservative Catholic misgivings about the pope turning his attention to this issue.   ‘Conservative corners have tepid take on Pope Francis’ environment encyclical’.


  1. Martin Murray

    “the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.”

    Good news, but urging people to act on moral and scientific grounds alone has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. There needs also to be theological grounds.

    The Church urgently needs to endorse an evolutionary theology of creation based on the already existing but largely ignored insights of creation spirituality and new cosmology. There is so much could be said about this, but in simple terms, the Church needs to update its creation and salvation narratives. This world is our home. We are not just passing through. Salvation, to quote Brain McLaren, is not a personal (anthropocentric) ‘evacuation plan for the next world’. Incarnation shows that this world matters – to God. We also need a Cosmic Christology based on the Cosmic indwelling Christ which in itself has the potential of moving ecology to centre-stage of our spiritual lives.

    The simplistic and literalist creation narrative presented to us in the Catholic Catechism is totally inadequate and an insult to the post-modern, scientifically educated mind.

    The time has come for our teaching magisterium to check if it didn’t throw out those Teilhard de Chardin books, and get to work!

    I then look forward to some publications, along with sermon and workshop guides being circulated as a follow up to this very welcome encyclical.

  2. soconaill

    “The Church needs to update its creation and salvation narratives.”

    This is undoubtedly true. The strength of a moral code depends in the end on the strength of the narrative or story that underlies it – and I have been going to Mass for seven decades without once hearing a priest pause at the creed to dwell on its meaning. As a consequence we all tend to lack a passionate ownership of the story to which we give rote utterance, or any clear sense of how to tell that story to a 21st century secular world.

    The key profession of belief in the resurrection of Jesus is therefore a mere inconsequential nod of intellectual assent, with no more impact on our behaviour than when we bow to Einstein’s theories of relativity – when it’s clear that human dysfunction is closely related to the despondent conclusion that this short life is all we’ve got. If I am simply a chance piece of disposable flotsam on a meaningless ocean of creation I can have no heroic destiny or calling – no secure self-esteem.

    Every life is a key eternal part of that vast drama of creation: we need to be able to say that to one another, with deep conviction – and that a sense of the indwelling spirit can be with us in every trial. Why do our church structures still prevent us from discovering this story together?

  3. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Can Pope Francis make a difference on climate change? He sure can and here’s how : the Roman Catholic Church has to target an isolated demographic (let’s say 100,000 predominately Catholic participants) in a place that will be hit the hardest by climate change (Cape Breton Island comes to mind) and they have to roll out the “model” of society that they see fit for tackling this issue (hint : if they don’t know what that is, then they can’t do anything about climate change). You don’t take that name without a plan, right? If I could only show you my dreams of this place in 50 years, you might think differently. He might act differently too.


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