Care for our Common Home, Earth: One Year Later, Laudato Si’ still needs our attention

The National Catholic Reporter recently highlighted how Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ has stirred up action for care of our common home, Earth. It’s been a full year since it came out in June 2015. However, the news article noted that a great number of Catholics are still unfamiliar with this “letter to all people” in this crucially important time for our planet.

Brian Roewe, staff writer for the NCR story, referenced a recently released survey  from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. This survey of Catholic attitudes provided some interesting findings:

  • For instance, CARA found that a year after Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, “Catholic adults in the United States are generally more likely to be concerned about climate change than other Christians.”
  • Catholics are also more likely than other adults to believe they have a moral responsibility to personally do what they can to combat climate change.
  • However, only a third of Catholics have heard of or read the encyclical — a percentage that has roughly held steady since July 2015 (a month after Laudato Si’ came out). Perhaps this is not too surprising: there is generally low awareness of specific papal statements. The public is often more aware of news reports about the Pope rather than any specific documents coming out of the Holy See.

Still, it is somewhat jarring to hear that the CARA survey found 56 percent of those polled were not aware of the Laudato Si’ encyclical. On the plus side, 6-in-10 Catholics agreed that climate change was occurring and largely a result of human activity. Additionally, 2/3rds of Catholics – and roughly the same percentage of Americans in general – believe in a personal moral responsibility to address climate change.

Catholic Rural Life, as an active member of the Catholic Climate Covenant, has regularly spread the word about prayer and study guide resources for the encyclical. We’re also in lock-step with the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops when they advocate on Capitol Hill for full U.S. funding of the Green Climate Fund and national carbon standards on coal-fired power plants via the Clean Power Plan.

 

But a big challenge remains: developing a greater comfort with the encyclical among clergy and lay leaders.

To that end, the Catholic Climate Covenant continues to develop Resources.  Coming soon is a training program to help pastors become more comfortable discussing the encyclical and the theology behind caring for creation and addressing environmental issues.

 

OTHER UPCOMING INITATIVES

  • World Youth Day 2016: The Global Catholic Climate Movement is hosting a “Laudato Si’ Eco-Village” during this year’s World Youth Day Youth Festival in Krakow, Poland (July 26-29).  They are still accepting organizations to participate in their exhibit space and Youth Animators Training. See more details and registration information here.
  • The “Season of Creation is happening again this year, running from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4. This is the time to start planning activities to celebrate the Season of Creation in your parish or community. CRL will share some ideas and keep our network informed of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network for the kickoff prayer day.
  • Divest-Reinvest Actions: A new round of Catholic divestment announcements will take place on September 27, during Climate Week in NYC. Interested in learning more about fossil fuel divestment and how your organization can participate? Visit the Catholic Divest-Reinvest online hub to learn more.
  • World Social Forum 2016: Several Catholic organizations, such as CIDSE, Franciscans International, USG/UISG and Churches & Mining, will participate in the World Social Forum in Montreal (in August) to work and network on environmental issues.