Upon the release of Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical, Catholics are describing it as a call to action.
A June 18 panel hosted by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state’s bishops, included perspectives of public policy, the local Church, theology and family farming that articulated why “Laudato Si: on Care for Our Common Home” is important.
The major theme of the encyclical — addressed to “all people of good will” — centers on what the pope calls “integral ecology,” said Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud, explaining that there is a fundamental relationship of every human being with God, others, oneself and creation.
Pope Francis’ understanding of creation goes back to his namesake of St. Francis, who “saw the earth and everything and everybody in it as a gift and not as a possession, something that we use up,” Bishop Kettler said. “Rather, [the earth] is to be used well. The creation of God is to be continuing through us and then handed on better to those coming after us.”
In “Laudato Si” — meaning “praised be,” the first words of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Creatures — Pope Francis emphasizes the need for open and honest dialogue in “building a network of respect for all people and for nature,” Bishop Kettler said.
Christopher Thompson, dean of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, described the encyclical as “a moral and spiritual document” that intends to convoke a “profound conversion.”
“This is not an encyclical on climate change,” Thompson said, noting that only four of the document’s roughly 190 pages address the topic. “This is a call to a profound examination of conscience on the part of [people] . . . to look deeply at their attitudes towards nature and creation in matters of their habits of consumption and especially in matters of technology.”
Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said that because public policy serves the common good, it’s an important part of the discussion surrounding the encyclical.
“When the Church talks about politics and participates in the public arena, our goal is to be principled, but not ideological; to be politically engaged, but not partisan,” he said. “So we need to discern how to act.”