On Naharnet, a Lebanese news and information site, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg and Director of Istituto Acton Kishore Jayabalan comment on Pope Francis’s forthcoming environmental encyclical, which the news organization says is planned for release this summer. (Note: The article describes Acton as a “Catholic” think tank but it is, in fact, an ecumenical organization with broad participation from Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and those of other faith traditions.) Naharnet notes that “a papal encyclical is meant to provide spiritual guidance to the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, but among advocates of climate action hopes are high that this one will resonate far beyond the church.”
Samuel Gregg, research director of the conservative Michigan-based Catholic think tank, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, said he doubts that the pope will weigh in on the science of climate change or on any particular political course of action.
“Individual Catholics—lay people, as well as bishops—have a variety of views on the science of climate change, and as citizens, they’re quite entitled to hold those views,” he said. “It’s not the church’s responsibility, nor does it have the authority to say that Catholics must support this treaty, that treaty, or any treaty. It doesn’t fall into the area of faith and morals. And this is often a distinction not understood outside the Catholic Church, or even by a good number of Catholics themselves.”
The Acton Institute counts young clerics and religious people from the developing world among attendees at its annual seminars on the virtues of unfettered free markets. (A sampling of upcoming Acton University courses: “The Moral Case for Economic Growth,” “The Invisible Hand from Adam to Adam Smith,” and “The Spiritual Dangers of Doing Good.”)
Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, already has laid the groundwork for courteous disagreement with Francis. “It is one kind of problem if a Catholic disagrees with papal teaching on the Trinity or abortion; that Catholic’s eternal soul would be considered at risk,” he wrote in a recent blog.
“It is an altogether different kind of problem if a Catholic disagrees with the pope on his diplomatic efforts or environmental views… The Church wisely respects differences of opinion on such matters.”