Caritas and Climate Change

Pope Francis has linked the issue of climate change with compassion for the global poor.

Laudato Si’, the new encyclical on climate change, is receiving global attention because of its potential impact on political debates over climate change.  Part of the Pope’s message seems to be based on the idea that humans have a duty to care for natural world, a rereading of the traditional assumption that God gave humans unfettered dominion.  Conservative Catholics are likely to feel uncomfortable with that idea.  But they may be even less comfortable with another core aspect of the encyclical: it’s link between climate change and compassion for the poor, a more traditional Christian virtue though one out of favor with many conservatives.

Some see concern for the poor as an overriding theme of Francis’s papacy:

“He has committed his papacy to being a champion of the poor, and the Global South, and he sees the earth as the poorest of the poor. … He sees himself as speaking on behalf of the developing world, and lending his voice to their cause,” said the Rev. Matt Malone, president and editor in chief of the Catholic news group America Media. [NY Times]

Laudata Si’ emphasizes the link between environmental problems such as lack of access to clean water and the needs of the poor. It also pinpoints the poor as those most vulnerable to climate change, because of their already tenuous situation and their lack of resources to enable adaptation.  As an advisor to the American bishops explained:

“We have had a battle between powerful interest groups on environmental issues for a long time. The missing voices have been the poor and the vulnerable. You turn the page and it always starts with, how does this affect the weakest and the most vulnerable. That’s not where the Senate finance committee or the U.N. start,” Carr said of the document. [Wash. Post]

Compassion is not an element that has been very much in evidence in current public discourse.   But perhaps that may begin to change.  So we can hope, at least — while remembering that among faith, hope, and charity, it is charity that is the greatest.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “Caritas and Climate Change”

  1. Not where the U.N. start ??
    Maybe we should remember that recognizing «the poor as those most vulnerable to climate change» and the FACT that the RICH OECD citizens are by far the ones who contributed the most to the problem, are 2 pillars of the Kyoto protocol. Indeed, that maybe exactly the reasons why many powerful (starting with our dear canadian prime minister ….) deployed so much energy (not the «clean energy» type…) to neutralize and discredit the protocol…
    I never thought I would say that but, today, I find the pope (THAT Pope!) inspiring…

    Benoit St-Jean, BAA, ACI, LL.M.(environnement)
    Conseiller en commerce international et changements climatiques
    Advisor in International Commerce and Climate Change
    Asesor en comercio internacional y cambio climático
    Montréal, @GoEcoSynergie

  2. Prof. Farber, one of Francis’s concluding statements is:

    “Enlighten those who possess power and money
    that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
    that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
    and care for this world in which we live.”

    Is this possible, not only for those who possess power and money, but also for all of humanity because the Golden Rule has been ignored by all institutions?

  3. You know Dan, I still find it amazing that a member of the most prominent political dynasty in America, and also a Catholic, would castigate his own Pope because Francis is championing morality and humanity as highest priorities instead of money and power.

    But then, Jeb is running for President and is desperately indenturing himself for all the Oligarch funding he can get. George and Jeb never learned anything about integrity from their father.

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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