Care for Our Common Home

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Laudato Si

Summary of Laudato Si

In a gathering cosponsored by the Holy Name Society, the Rosary Society, Youth Group and Women’s Reflection Team, 32 parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle experienced a simple Lenten supper followed by a presentation by Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ. Sister is one of the 25 Ambassadors of the Catholic Bishops’ Climate Covenant.

Here is a brief summary of the presentation on Pope Francis’ encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home.”

This is a wide-ranging document that does not just address “nature.” Pope Francis asks us to look at all creation, including people, and address a crisis of mistreatment and poverty. It critiques out-of-control consumerism and consumption, destruction of the environment, and neglect of the poor and powerless.

The encyclical is divided into five sections:

  • Our common home is in crisis. Nature and our society is showing very troubling symptoms.
  • God and creation. Our faith has a lot to say about creation and the crisis we are experiencing,
  • Causes of the crisis. Pope Francis urges us to look below the surface, at what is causing the problems.
  • A new vision. We need a new, alternative perspective to address the crisis.
  • What can I do? Pope Francis suggests a number of concrete steps we can take.

Quick Topices from the presention:

  • Controversy. Much of the controversy about this document has focused on climate change.
  • Not a “climate change document.” Pope Francis is focusing on a much bigger picture here. Only four out of 246 paragraphs focus on climate change. (§23-26)
  • Pope Francis sees climate change as an important issue. He says according to “very solid scientific consensus” (a recent study by James L. Powell put it at 99.99% of scientists), we are seeing climate change that is causing grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political, and for the distribution of goods. The poor will be hurt the most. (§23-26)
  • Skeptical? If you are a person skeptical about climate change, we encourage you to read what Pope Francis actually wrote about it. However, the rest of the document is not contingent on this topic.
  • The poor are suffering. Poor people and countries are disproportionately affected by the nature crisis, but also the direction our global society has been heading. (§48-52)
  • Decline in the quality of human life. Despite technological and economic progress, quality of life has declined in many ways: ugly, chaotic cities, limited access to beauty and nature, and hectic lifestyles. (§43-45)
  • Breakdown of society. Global change has resulted in many social ills: unemployment, social exclusion, inequitable distribution of resources, social breakdown, violence, drugs, and loss of identity. (§46)
  • Media and technology can cause “mental pollution” and keep us from learning to live wisely, think deeply, and love generously. (§47)
  • “Creation” is God’s loving plan. God has a purpose for creation. (§76-77, 83-85)
  • Creation is holy. When we experience God through creation, we are moved to give praise. Creation has a message to us from God, and can help us understand God. (§85-88)
  • God alone owns the world. We are not owners of creation. (§67, 75, 89)
  • We are not God. When we claim an unlimited right to hurt creation, we are trying to take God’s place. (§67, 75)
  • Caretakers, not dominators. The Genesis account does not justify us having absolute dominion over other creatures. We are to “till and keep” (Gen. 2:15): cultivating, caring, and protecting creation. We are stewards. (§67, 79, 82)
  • We can take what we need, but we need to ensure it is fruitful for future generations. We need to respect the laws and balance of nature. (§67-68)
  • Faith motivation. As believers, our faith should motivate us to care for creation. (§64)
  • Our faith offers a way out of this mess. There is an alternative, more fulfilling way to live. (§222-227)
  • We can do this. We are capable of beating this crisis. (§205)
  • God will help us. God can even bring good out of our evil actions. (§80)

So, what is the “Catholic” message here? It is to make the connection between global climate change and its effects on people who are poor and vulnerable. Sister Clark referred to an experience she had in South Africa prior to the election of President Mandala. She met Ursula who was a young student leader in the time of great violence. She had been tortured and had lost the use of her vocal cords. She said to Sister, “Now you are my voice. Go back to your country to tell them what you saw. In a similar case in El Salvador during their civil war, Sister heard the leaders of the Island of Copapaya tell her, “You are our lungs. Now we can breather knowing you will tell the people what you saw and heard here.” In a DVD of the Pacific Islands today, Sister saw how there are people who are already suffering from Climate Change and losing their whole way of life. She said “These people are now my ‘Ursula.’ I must do all that I can to reduce my carbon footprint. (A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. The normal amount of carbon per million particles so air is 350 to a million. It is now about 400!) We must reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to keep this planet Earth a living place to call home for us humans and all other species on it.

Web Refereces – Sisters of Saint Joseph – Chestnut Hill / Philadelphia – Earth Center by the Sisters of Saint Joseph


http:/// – Catholic Climate Covenant’s website – WATERSPIRIT at Stella Maris Retreat Center – Interfaith Partners for the Environment – Link to Laudato Si – US Conference of Catholic Bishops Webpage on Environment/Environmental Justice Program<