On Care of Our Common Home

On Care of Our Common Home

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Pope Francis has a unique perspective as the pastor of a global flock that is experiencing all aspects of our changing world. One year ago he issued his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’, On Care of Our Common Home” and addressed it to “all people of good will.” He tells us that our common home “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” [2]

80% of lung diseases are caused by pollution burning fossil fuels

The encyclical highlights the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change and its impact on the environment and on people. This is reflected in the fact that 80% of lung diseases are caused by pollution burning fossil fuels and in California alone kills 25,000 people per year and costs $200 million in medical expenses. 14 of the past 16 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000, with 2015 being the hottest year on record.

The correlation between warming temperature and the severity of storms, ocean acidification and sea level rise has been established. But the Pope says that, even if you disagree with the science, there is a moral imperative for acting to protect natural as well as human creation. It is those who are most vulnerable who are suffering from this crisis. They have the least access to resources to mitigate the its effects and have contributed the least to the problem.

The fact that climate change is a real and serious problem effecting the environment and people worldwide has been the Catholic position for many years. In 1990, Pope John Paul called the environmental crisis a moral issue. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has advocated action and discussion since their 2001 statement, “A Plea for Dialogue.”

In his encyclical, Pope Francis expands on these earlier teachings to say that humanity, nature, science, economics, politics, and our moral values are interconnected. The Pope especially links environmental degradation and the plight of the poor, marginalized, and future generations. This interconnectedness means that the problems of poverty, the dignity of life, economic inequality, environmental and moral degradation that we face today must and can be solved together.

It is all of our responsibility, whether clergy or lay, to become active to change our own lifestyle, initiate a dialogue in our parishes, and advocate for action to mitigate and adapt to the ecological crisis. The Pope calls on all, especially Catholics, to participate in public life and work for the common good. “We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it with his plan for peace, beauty, and fullness.”

I encourage each of you to read the encyclical and take to heart Pope Francis’ plea for urgent action and advocacy. Read about the Church’s position on the ecological crisis and what can be done at the Catholic Climate Covenant website. Pope Francis challenges us “to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” because true wisdom is “the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons.” [47]

There is much work to be done, but we should not be discouraged. As Pope Francis writes, “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents having created us.” [13]