Category: Environmental Stewardship

pope plantThe most common question surrounding the new encyclical from Pope Francis is some variation of: Why is a Church leader talking about politics, economics, and science? Many argue that this encyclical is merely trying to encourage conversation on how best to be stewards of creation. In the past, papal encyclicals have created controversy, but have helped to further debate and discussion and have informed consciences.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, of the National Review, argues that this encyclical on ecology, “presents a fuller vision of creation and our responsibilities toward it than we’re reliable to see on any given Vanity Fair Caitlyn Jenner cover-story reading day.”Lopez assures that the pope, in this encyclical, is “not concerned with settling some scientific dispute, not does he claim competence to do so.” She reiterates this point but actually quoting the encyclical: “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

However, she does raise issues with some specifics of the encyclical, citing Acton’s Samuel Gregg:

preachDylan Pahman has a bit of an issue with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. It seems the two have written an op-ed for the New York Times in response to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. The only problem is, according to Pahman, the two don’t sound like Christians.

The Patriarch and Archbishop’s op-ed could have been written by a deist like Thomas Jefferson, or a UN bureaucrat versed in God-talk. Sure, they vaguely mention God and creation. But the Gospel message of the Son of God become Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose again to save the world from corruption, sin, and death — a global cause and calling if there ever was one — is missing in action. (more…)

Peter Johnson, external relations officer for the Acton Institute, discusses the muddled economic message in the recent encyclical for The Federalist:

While I don’t doubt for a moment that Pope Francis sincerely wants to help the poor, I think it would be difficult for even the most erudite Catholic scholars to find a coherent message in a passage like this.

For example, he praises business as a “noble vocation” while summarily disparaging “economies of scale.” While he recognizes that poor people need to be connected to the larger economy to rise out of poverty, he also encourages “civil authorities” to constrain those in the larger economy who actually have the capital to invest in new enterprises.

This vacillation between upholding the merits of enterprise and disparaging profits runs throughout the encyclical. If I could sum up his view on commerce in one sentence it would be this: Business is okay, as long as you don’t make too much money.

Read the entire post “Pope Francis’ Incoherent Economics” here at The Federalist.

scientific_methodMy husband and I had a conversation about science on the way home from church yesterday. Since he is a scientist, it drives him a little buggy when people talk about “consensus” as a way to come to a scientific conclusion, or that scientific facts can be “bent” to uphold a particular opinion or viewpoint. As he said, science is about discovery and fact, not about agreement. One hundred people can agree that grass is, in fact, a mammal, but that is not science, nor is there scientific evidence to uphold that claim.

Jay Richards gives us a litmus test for scientific evidence. When should we be skeptical of science?

First, be skeptical when different claims get “bundled” together.

Usually, in scientific disputes, there is more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that human emissions are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we have to transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different assertions with different bases of evidence. Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan, and that wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

Don’t assume that “consensus” equals science. (more…)

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Robert Sirico writes about the encyclical, the role of free markets and the need for continuous conversation about the environment:

Let’s cut to the chase: Much of what is in Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental stewardship, Laudato Si’, poses a major challenge for free-market advocates, those of us who believe that capitalism is a powerful force for caring for the earth and lifting people out of poverty. But one of the most welcome lines is a call for honest, respectful discussion.

Read the full text here.

Laudato si coverPope Francis has released his eagerly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. While the document deserves a close reading, it’s extreme length (80 pages/45,000 words) will make it difficult for many people to process. To help highlight some of the key points I’ve produced a section-by-section summary of the entire encyclical.

As with any summary, much of the meaning and context will be lost. But I hope this will provide you with a starting point for greater engagement with the latest edition to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.


In the early 2000s, I spent two years working for the Peace Corps, teaching subsistence farmers modern beekeeping practices to produce honey for consumption and sale.  Despite the time and distance, I have continued to maintain close relationships with many of the desperately poor people with whom I worked. Because of my experience abroad—living first for years first in Paraguay and then Senegal, West Africa—I have long maintained a nagging sense that modern Western culture has a general apathy toward those in material poverty.

In short, it is my experience that Americans seem to care more about the daily vacillations of stock market than about the plight of those overseas who have unjustly been excluded from world markets.

This Pope gets it: The modern bourgeoisie need a swift kick in the butt. We need to break out of our comfortable cocoon of apathy—not only because loving your neighbor is the way to salvation—but also because apathy oftentimes breeds an unconscious complicity in the exploitation of the poor.

And while Pope Francis clearly has a heart for the poor—in much the same way I do—I am also very troubled by the overall economic incoherence of his message. For example, there is a passage in the encyclical, which explores the type of rural poverty that I experienced in Paraguay:

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, spoke with Business Spectator about the economic message of the new encyclical:

When you read through the text, you find the free market, and finance in particular, is identified more or less as responsible for many environmental problems, Dr Gregg said.  It’s almost a subterranean theme of the encyclical …In many respects it’s a caricature of market economies.

Read more at “Pope Delivers Strong Message on Climate Change.” from Business Spectator.

The editors at The Stream put together this list of 11 things about Laudato Si that probably won’t be in the headlines:

(1) Creation has a Creator, and is more than just “nature-plus-evolution”:

(75) A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshiping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality. (more…)

640x0When Pope Francis releases his encyclical tomorrow there is a group of Christians that will be eager to respond: American evangelicals.

Rather than responding based on what we read in the headlines, says Spence Spencer, evangelicals should read the encyclical in light of historic Roman Catholic teaching:

Whatever the content of the new encyclical is, we must read it in concert with previous teachings of the Church. Laudato Si will not undermine the Catholic Church’s basic teachings about the value of human life nor authorize concern for the environment to the neglect of concerns for human flourishing. The basic teachings about the special place for humans in creation as stewards exercising responsible dominion over the created order have been a central teaching in the Catholic tradition. Additionally, opposition to population control measures through the prohibition of most forms of birth control and rejection of abortion are rooted in the foundations of Catholic social teaching.

In addition to these basic, biblical forms of stewardship, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently emphasized the principle of subsidiarity, which encourages finding solutions in communities closer to the problem. It pushes against collectivism and excessive governmental coercion. Subsidiarity affirms the dignity of humans and the importance of human freedom. We should keep these things in mind in light of the content of Laudato Si.

For more on the Acton Institute’s coverage of the encyclical, see Acton Speaks on the Environment.