The 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:
There are, surely, debates to be had about some of the issues raised and recommendations made in Laudato Si’. Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, though concerned about the pope’s weighing in too deeply on some technical issues (like the impact of air conditioning), is clear that “it is perfectly legitimate for Pope Francis to address the moral dimension of man’s relationship with the environment. Our free choices and actions vis-à-vis the natural world unquestionably touch on issues of doing good and avoiding evil.”
To be free, we need to know what the choices are in the first place. That’s where conscience comes in. That’s where the likes of Laudato Si’ come in.