Creation Corner Column, July 2015: The Pope's Environmental Encyclical, the Dalai Lama's Agreement, and the Parliament of the World Religions
Three significant announcements were made in June:
Papal Encyclical released June 18, 2015
Laudato Si', (Latin for the first stanza from St. Francis's Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon...Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures), subtitled, in English, "On the care of our common home", came from Pope Francis, trained as a chemist, six months in advance of the December international conference on climate change in Paris, and 3 months in advance of his September address to a joint session of the U.S.A. Congress.
Building on earlier efforts of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and studies of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, it addresses the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide on the health and beauty of God's creation. An emphasis is made on our responsibly serving creation and its integrity, not dominating it. Thus, a moral obligation. Thus a new perspective on our role on earth, to protect and preserve, to conserve, to restore, to redeem.
This encyclical on ecological issues follows earlier ones by the Catholic Church on controversial issues: Leo XIII affirmed the right of workers to have labor unions and earn a living wage; Pius opposed the Nazi invasion of Hungary; Paul VI spoke out against the VietNam war.
In 192 pages, six chapters, an index and footnotes, the encyclical may not be seen as advancing new perspectives, for it reiterates what for many environmentalists are commonly agreed-upon themes. Environmental degradation is widespread, a scientific consensus exists about climate change, the need to reduce greenhouse gases, the use of fossil fuels should be substituted for progressively and without delay so that the global economy may be "decarbonized", and that humanity needs to change its lifestyles, production and consumption habits. For many, such advocacy is not controversial. But with Pope Francis such reiteration brings the discussion to a wider audience.
Furthermore, he posits that radical changes in the world's political and economic systems need to occur to address the issues. Many are mentioned, examples of which are the human right to secure and drinkable water access, more energy conservation and efficiency within urban infrastructures, biodiversity, etc. An inequity exists between the global north and the global south, and the discussion and resolution of this debt that the north owes the south needs to be reconciled with a greater transparent inclusion of diverse voices, especially of the poor, in global decision-making for unity in solving the problems.
Those who are guilty of the "sin" of trashing the commons need to repent and turn away from denying climate change. As the word "ecology" derives from the Greek word for house, we need to be mindful, as Mark 3:25 reminds us, that a house divided against itself will not stand. Catholics and non-Catholics need to work together to implement a framework toward an inhabitable, inheritable future for our descendants, not bequeath the problem to them. Just as Lincoln did not say we'll provide emancipation later, and the Supreme Court did not allow for a delay of decades for desegregation, nor did Reagan say "Tear Down This Wall" in a hundred years, we must "Do It Now".
After WWII, a Marshall Plan helped rebuild Europe. We need a plan now to build a "green" future. Creation groaned in the time of Paul in Rome; it does so today also.
Dalai Lama Backs Pope's Call on Climate Change
The spiritual Buddhist leader speaking at a Glastonbury, Somerset, U.K. festival has endorsed the Pope's message, and called on other religious leaders to "speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind."
Praising the encyclical that warned of unprecedented ecological damage, he too thought people had a duty to say more and make more of an effort, calling for pressure on international governments to stop burning fossil fuels and mass deforestation and invest more in green energy sources. A timetable for change, not just expressing views, must occur, he said. (source: The Guardian Weekly of July 3, 2015, p. 17)
Sustainability added as a theme to the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions, Salt Lake, Oct. 15-19
The three critical issues that the 2015 Parliament is committed to addressing are:
Climate Change and Creation Care
War, Violence, and Hate Speech
Economic Inequity and Wasteful Living
To register: 70 East Lake St. Suite 205
Chicago, IL 60601
The Parliament of the World's Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Individuals and communities who are equally invested in attaining this goal are invited.