Pope’s climate encyclical, June 18, is well-timed for CCL’s actions with Congress

Pope’s climate encyclical, June 18, is well-timed for CCL’s lobbying

By Steve Valk

Pope Francis

Pope Francis will release his encyclical dealing with climate change on June 18.

After month’s of speculation about a release date, the Vatican has announced that Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment will be issued June 18, just before the Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference and lobby days in Washington, June 21-24.

From the National Catholic Reporter:

The encyclical is reportedly to be given the title “Laudato Sii,” a quotation from a popular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi praising God for the creation of the different creatures and aspects of the Earth.

Translated in English either as “Be Praised” or “Praised Be,” the title was first reported by NCRSaturday after reports from an event with the director of the Vatican’s publishing house in Naples, Italy.

Salesian Fr. Giuseppe Costa, the director of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, mentioned the title to participants at that event and said the encyclical would also have an Italian subtitle: “Sulla cura della casa comune” (“On the care of the common home”).

Vatican observers predict the encyclical will deal more with the moral and ethical aspects of climate change. From Science Magazine:

The letter will express the pope’s concern for the poor, predicts Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, Missouri. “He’s going to be saying that [the poor] should not bear the brunt of the impact of climate change, nor should they bear the brunt of responding,” he says. “The people who have benefited the most from the carbon-based economy are the people whose lifestyles need to change. They’re the ones who’ve had the resources, the wealth, and the expertise and knowledge to figure out what to do.”

The timing of the encyclical’s release couldn’t be better from CCL’s perspective, coming just days before our Congressional Climate Message Day and our lobby days on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23-24.

About one-third of the members of Congress are Catholic, and the Pope’s message is bound to have an impact with many of them. And that’s what the fossil fuel industry and think tanks like the Heartland Institute are afraid of. Long before the encyclical’s release, there’s been considerable pushback. From the New York Times:

But the effort is already angering a number of American conservatives, among them members of the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group partly funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, run by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, who oppose climate policy.

“The Holy Father is being misled by ‘experts’ at the United Nations who have proven unworthy of his trust,” Joseph Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, said in a statement. “Though Pope Francis’ heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate.”

The defiance of the Pope has bordered on the absurd. Former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is a devout Catholic, told a Philadelphia radio show host, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

Over the weekend, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Santorum, “If he’s not a scientist — and in fact, he does have a degree in chemistry — neither are you So, I guess the question would be, if he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?”

“The pope can talk about whatever he wants to talk about,” Santorum said. “I’m just saying, what should the pope use his moral authority for?… I think there are more pressing problems confronting the Earth than climate change.”

Here’s the exchange between Wallace and Santorum:

Given the popularity of Pope Francis, I have a feeling most politicians will try to find a way to align themselves with the Holy Father, and that gets us closer to legislation that prices carbon.

Steve Valk is Communications Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.