“Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore, On the Care of our Common Home”

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountain: everything is, as it were, a caress of God,” writes Pope Francis in his landmark encyclical “Laudato Si’, On the Care of our Common Home.”


The public roll-out of the encyclical letter on Thursday (6/18) at 11AM in Rome, required many of us in the United States – to wait up and listen (via You Tube) to the Vatican Press Office.

The presentations by Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghana), Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, together with a scientist of Nobel rank, and the head of a NGO tell something about the importance of this occasion. Also, in the writing of the document there has been wide collaboration by the pope that better insures the accuracy, an appropriate theological focus for the worldwide audience.


Despite the press leak by L’Espresso three days before the formal publication of the 191-page document, what is most astonishing that in the so-called “age of transparency” and with so much collaboration, there were not substantial leaks long before Monday. Nonetheless, worldwide news organizations covered the publication of the document, its theological and pastoral message, the scientific and historical import, as well as the press performance in the coverage of the news of religion.

Here are points from my own notes about the vast array of topics coming from “Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore,” On the Care of our Common Home.

First, the document itself, requires careful reading in an organized faction, this version from EWTN has the outline followed by the document.


Second, Father James Martin of America, provides the “Top Ten Take Aways” of the key points in the pastoral letter. This short piece may be read to better appreciate the entire encyclical.


Along side, Father Martin’s summary, another of the America editors, Ashley McKinless, has provided an invaluable study-guide, drawing from its own resources of theological and scientific writers, as well as connecting to the very best in the English-speaking world.


Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service provides a helpful article, “A Defining Moment: Here’s a Glossary of Terminology.”


Catholic News Service also posts a video documentary suitable for study groups entitled “Catholicism & the Challenge of Ecology.” The 17-minute video is an overview of key theological opinions and scientific findings.

What’s the political impact of the encyclical here in the United States?

John Allen in the Boston Globe, “Pope’s Manifesto Looks like a Game-changer in the US,” makes the case that all the interest for the pastoral letter, and the pope himself are preludes to the pope’s visit to the Unites States in September.


How do the American media pundits take to the new encyclical?

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post writes: “Pope Encyclical Generates Responses from Over-the-Top Enthusiasm to Harsh Dismissal.”


Here she quotes Jeb Bush, the convert to Catholicism, who appears to take the all too convenient Kennedy-like separation of religion and public policy issues. Well, it’s the presidential election season.

Take note of the comment, at the very bottom of the piece, by John-Henry Westen, editor of the anti-abortion LifeSiteNews. Westen is saying that the pope has allied himself with environmental groups that support abortion policies. What the pope has done, in effect, is to move the global environmental concerns to a top priority for his pontificate. Indeed, the pope has made new alliances, most especially with the United Nations, thereby he is not held hostage by lobbying groups whose one-issue orientation have prevailed for the past thirty-years or so. Needless-to-say, this is the disquieting feature of Pope Francis’s papacy for some.

The dissembling of the American right wing is among the most interesting aspects of the reactions to the encyclical. One example is Peggy Noonan’s column from last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “Scenes from a Young Papacy.”


Frankly, it’s a classic and worth reading. Here, she makes the claim that Pope Francis has “no friends.” Really? He’s acting alone? In my opinion, we live in a real world, it does exist. Frankly, Ms. Noonan, you may be from another planet? What’s so misguided about her opinion piece underlies a reality, however. The Fox-oriented news pundits simply don’t know how to handle this pope.

Either Jorge Bergoglio is a socialist and friend of the Castro brothers and President Obama; or Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict have already said much of what Francis says on the environment.

Could it be that Pope Francis’ personal and moral authority as well as his accessible writing style make for more engaged readers and worldwide followers? Just suggesting.

A second example is EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and his interview with USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. Another  classic from EWTN, recall this is the network that enjoys Catholic nostalgia, and plays their conservative card by “not fully understanding Pope Francis.”

“What is he up to?” Arroyo asks. The Archbishop knows full well the delicate dance they are doing in this conversation.

In a very thoughtful piece, historian and writer Ted Widmer states: “The world may be talking about Francis’ treatise for years to come.” This analysis appears in Politico Magazine, “The Pope’s Political Earthquake.” He begins with the powerful quote from Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”


A contemporary “man of letters,” and writing on behalf of environmental causes, Bill McKibben writes from a deeply felt American perspective and draws from the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Theroux. This commentary appeared in his blog from the New York Review of Books.


Lastly, I was quoted in a column that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, entitled: “Pope Blasts California Cap and Trade System,” by David R. Baker with an interview by Joe Garafoli.


7/4/15 Update

UC Berkeley Professor George Lakoff admits: “I don’t have a pope.” Nonetheless, he has plenty to say about Pope Francis and the encyclical. Lakoff’s book “The Political Mind” considers the merits and perils of “political persuasion,” and employs cognitive psychology to demonstrate how language, metaphor and frames such as “climate change” and “global warming” find their currency in modern politics.

So, in his opinion, Pope Francis has gone after “market fundamentalism” in an effort to bring about greater understanding of our place in the cosmos, and how all humanity is called to a “global empathy.” Lakoff applauds the pope’s efforts and his forwarding a refreshing and new set of social, political and “religious frames.”


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