Pope Francis, Sustainability, Congress

On the heels of his Papal Encyclical about sustainability, due in June ‘15, Pope Francis is scheduled to address Congress this coming September.

Meanwhile, and only four months before the Pope’s scheduled address: “The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology voted Thursday to cut deeply into NASA’s budget for Earth science, in a clear swipe at the study of climate change.”1

The Holy See does not hand out Papal Encyclicals every day. Rather, an encyclical, which may address bishops, as well as all Christendom, is a sacred papal letter that addresses the pressing issues of the times.

The upcoming June ’15 Papal Encyclical will address ecological sustainability. Environmentalists have their fingers crossed, hoping the Pope hits the ball out of the park. Climate change deniers, to a great extent, hope he strikes out at the plate.

In preparation, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Vatican’s research unit, recently hosted a one-day conference, bringing together scientists and spiritual leaders from around the world.

Only the highest-ranking Vatican officials know the contents of the upcoming encyclical. Nevertheless, according to Bloomberg news reporter Eric Roston, The Pope Is About to Release His Secret Climate Change Plan, Bloomberg Business, May 1, 2015.

According to Bloomberg’s report, “the letter itself is finished.”  Inside the Vatican, theologians and translators are putting together the greatly anticipated letter in the languages of the world. After all, the Pope is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, and certainly one of the most influential people on the planet. It makes perfect sense he address worldly issues.

Clues about contents of the preeminent encyclical may be discerned by reading-between-the-lines the origin behind the recent meeting at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute is one of the key organizers. According to Mr. Sachs, “We’re here today because sustainable development is far off course.”

“Sustainable development is far off course” is a polite way of saying “degradation of the planet sucks.”

Further clues as to the Pope’s position are found on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences web site under the heading: “Statement of the Joint PAS/PASS Workshop on Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility,” wherein it states: “The massive fossil fuel use at the heart of the global energy system deeply disrupts the Earth’s climate and acidifies the world’s oceans.”

Well, well, now.  It is very doubtful much changed with ocean acidification or fossil fuel use since the Joint PAS/PASS affaire in 2014. Those conspicuous clues are likely as valid as a handprint in dried concrete.  Therefore, we know where the Pope is coming from and likely what he’ll say. Namely, fossil fuels have got to go, the sooner the better. How else interpret the statement that fossil fuel “deeply disrupts” the Earth’s climate?

Not only that, but the biggest clue to the contents of the encyclical is this: Why, in the first instance, conduct a meeting about “sustainability” if the planet is already sustainable?  End of story.

But, the story continues as Pope Francis is, after all, scheduled to address Congress this September. Talk about a clash of interests. “Republicans don’t like the idea of addressing climate change head-on.”

It doesn’t get much more “head-on” than an address by the Pope, who commands attention whenever and wherever he speaks, especially on the heels of a Papal Encyclical.

How will America’s climate change pooh-pooh entourage in Congress handle such an affaire?

Will they remain seated politely applauding or will they rousingly stand, whistling and clapping like they did for PM Netanyahu?

“Climate change, the loss of bio-diversity, deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” Pope Francis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 10/28/2014.

The recent dry months, including the driest November in the history of the state, are a warning light to us all that the threat of climate change is no less menacing than the security threats that we face.

— PM Binyamin Netanyahu Address to Cabinet, Ehud Zion Waldoks, Cabinet Okays NIS 2.2B to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Jerusalem Post, 11/29/2010.

With the blessings of PM Netanyahu, the Israeli cabinet approved a bill to spend NIS 2.2 billion over the next ten years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How does Congress decide what to worship?

  1. Michael Hiltzik (The Economy Hub), “The GOP Attack on Climate Change Science Takes a Big Step Forward”, Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2015. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.