I must say, Pope Francis’s latest encyclical focuses on the perfect topic: the environment. While I’ve seen a lot of commentary on the content of what Laudato Si says, I haven’t seen a great deal of commentary on the choice of topic.
Here’s why I think the environment was such a good topic for the encyclical:
1. Liberals love it. Not that we’re trying to appease liberals. It’s just that liberals don’t seem to know that the church isn’t purely conservative; they know we don’t like abortion, so all the sudden we’re Republicans. (I’ve talked more about the downfalls of the bipartisan system here.) Pope Francis’s concern for the environment helps show that Catholicism is not as one-dimensional as people sometimes think.
2. It shows that Catholicism is smart. Oddly, there seems to be this perception that either you believe in the Big Bang or you believe in creationism. Psych! A Catholic priest devised the Big Bang Theory. For realz. Anyway, the Catholic Church believes in one Truth. So, if we find something is true by science, it must also fit into the truth of faith. Now, the Big Bang theory seems to be a good scientific explanation of why the universe is expanding. In no way does the Big Bang theory solve the entire issue of creation though!! The question then becomes, “Who/What propagated the Big Bang?” Who/What created the matter in the universe? Perplexing, huh? Catholics do not read the creation stories of Genesis literally like many Protestant groups do, i.e., we need not believe God created the world in 7 days. The important thing to take away from those stories is that He is the Creator of the universe. In this sense, creationism and the Big Bang theory are entirely compatible.
3. It promotes world peace. Pope Francis’s call to safeguard Creation is a group effort. He talks a lot about the connectedness of the world. We’re all in this together; we need to cooperate if we’re going to pass on a healthy earth for the next generation.
4. It takes a stance that most people agree with. Again, we aren’t trying to agree with the world though. But people are more likely to read something they agree with. For example, if Pope Francis had written about the sanctity of marriage, most non-Catholics would just say, “Ew. There goes that antiquated church again.” Of course, I don’t mean to diss the Catholic stance on the sanctity of marriage; in fact, I agree with it. It’s just that the environment is not so controversial. The common non-Catholic might actually read some of this encyclical. And then they will be swept off their feet by the beauty of the holistic treatment of the environment from a Christian perspective. Most people don’t really think about the environment in terms of God. This encyclical is changing that. What I’m trying to say is that it could have more of an impact in drawing people to the Church.
Read Laudato Si here on the Vatican website.