News Release

Pope Connects Climate and Poverty, Latest of Political Encyclicals


JANET REDMAN, via Elaine de Leon Ahn, elaine at
Redman is the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies. She just wrote the piece “5 Key Things Pope Francis Says about Climate Change.” She said today: “Pope Francis’ encyclical is particularly powerful because it’s addressed to everyone of any faith, as well as those who do not follow a faith tradition. He boldly challenges the entire human community to take an honest look at the foundations of our society that has created wealth for some at the expense of the planet. The Pope has drawn a significant connection between our individual responsibility to care for creation and for each other, and the way we build the global economy.

“Pope Francis is crystal clear — the current development model, based on the intensive use of coal, oil, and even natural gas, has to go. In its place, we need renewable sources of energy and new modes of production and consumption that rein in global warming. Taxing carbon, divesting from fossil fuels, and ending public corporate welfare for polluters can help end the stranglehold dirty energy companies have on our governments, economies and societies.

“The Pope unapologetically calls on the global community to address how the chasm between rich and poor people — and nations — is linked to climate change. The encyclical names inequality itself as an impediment to solving a looming planetary and human rights crisis. In order to help remedy these imbalances, developed countries need to pay their ‘climate debt’ by supporting adaptation, community resilience, and clean, renewable energy alternatives in the global South that will help us all.”

Jeb Bush stated: “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.” The program “Marketplace” on public radio began their broadcast Thursday morning with: “The pope: Mixing a strange new brew of religion and economics”

Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution. He said today: “Pope Francis’ Encyclical is very much in accord with previous Papal Documents. I was surprised to read in the Los Angeles Times (6/16/2015, William Yardley and Tom Kington) a statement claiming that Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope states that this would be the first encyclical, ‘issued with the intention of influencing a political process.’

“Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“In the 19th Century Pope Leo XIII issued ‘Rerum Novarum,’ (Of Revolutionary Change), standing on the shoulders of The Communist Manifesto and in agreement with numerous points made by Karl Marx.” It stated: “Some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.”

Bonpane added: “Forty years later Pope Pius XI issued ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ (In the 40th Year) celebrating the words of Leo XIII and demanding a living wage.” That encyclical states: “The economic dictatorship which has recently displaced free competition can still less perform, since it is a headstrong power and a violent energy that, to benefit people, needs to be strongly curbed and wisely ruled. … On the one hand,economic nationalism or even economic imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country is where profit is.”

Said Bonpane: “The great Pope John XXIII who called for the Second Vatican Council in 1962 issued ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on Earth) an encyclical demanding an end to the war system.

“As religious people began entering the Latin American Revolutions as rebels Pope Paul VI issued ‘Populorum Progressio’ (The Development of Peoples) making the point that violent revolutions should be avoided because of the endangerment of the innocent — except in the case of long standing tyranny where the fundamental rights of the people are violated.

“And today with this new encyclical on the environment [‘Laudato Si,’ (Praise Be … On Care for Our Common Home)] Pope Francis will reach more people than any previous Pope. Why? Because he has sanctified one of the elements of Liberation Theology, ‘the preferential option for the poor.’

“He is stressing the impact of climate change primarily on the poor of the earth. This is in no way to claim that the Pope approves everything in the rapidly developing Theology of Liberation. Surely he would differ with many of us who think the days of sectarianism, dogmatism and imperial style orthodoxy are defunct.

“However, his enormous international popularity among believers and non-believers is such that climate change deniers will be an even greater minority.

“Global capitalism has ravaged nature and created a foul and immoral distribution of wealth.

“Unsustainable consumption is a dominant moral and ethical issue.

“Those who complain should read the letters of both of Pope Francis’ predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who wrote about industrial pollution destroying the environment.

“And all of this is said when the greatest danger to the environment is clearly and scientifically the military at peace. Beyond that it is undeniable that this small planet is absolutely unsustainable with the military at war.

“This is perhaps our last chance to choose life or death.

“This encyclical of Pope Francis has come at the proper time, it is an idea who time has come.”