On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church worldwide, issued a remarkable encyclical that directly addressed the threat of climate change. His “Laudato Si,” subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home,” clearly stated his belief that climate change is real, that the scientists are right when they say global warming is being caused by human activity, and urged everyone, in no uncertain terms, to take vigorous actions to protect the planet.
The document was full of passionate and powerful messages, many of which can be found here: Laudato Si’ Quotes. Some have even likened his message to a Ten Commandments on Climate Change.
However one characterizes it, the Pope’s message on perhaps the most pressing environmental concern in the world was unprecedented. His statement on anthropogenic climate change to millions of Catholics worldwide was one of the stronger ones to be issued by any public figure, let alone the leader of a religion.
With that in mind, Bakersfield Environmental News reached out to several Bakersfield church leaders, seeking their comments on the encyclical, and what actions, if any, they planned to take to address it with their congregations. To put it mildly, the response was, well, not much of a response at all.
We asked the following, initially on June 22, 2015, four days after the Pope’s message:
“As you know, last week Pope Francis called for radical change in politics, economics, and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’.”
“I’m interested in your comments on what the Pope said and what, if anything, you may do locally to discuss it with your parishioners. As you know, we live in a very conservative area with many who still deny that anthropogenic climate change is even happening. Many feel the Pope’s statement is one of the more significant ones to address this issue and have high hopes for positive actions as a result.”
“Anyway, if you are interested in responding, I hope to publish a short article on how local Catholic leaders plan to respond. Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.”
The above was asked of several Catholic churches in Bakersfield, including the following:
- St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
- St. Philip the Apostle Church
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
- Christ the King Parish
However, we received responses from only two, Christ the King Parish and St. Philips the Apostle Church. A summary of their responses is given below:
Christ the King:
“I have not read the entire encyclical yet but I have read others’ reviews and their quotations from the letter that were pertinent for them. That being said, I don’t yet have a parish project for implementation of some elements of the document. Perhaps you will find some fields that are more ready for harvesting than ours.” – Msgr. S.A. Frost, Christ the King, June 22, 2015
“I apologize for the delayed response. Requests such as this are handled through the Diocese of Fresno.” – July 1, 2015
After immediately contacting the Diocese of Fresno, we received the following response on July 6, 2015:
“Thank you very much, and forgive my late reply. With the holiday weekend I was not in the office each day. I am passing your request to our Chancellor’s office, and she will be the one to reply to you. Have a great day!”
To date, we have received no further replies from anyone.
Perhaps the local church leaders who have not responded are still reviewing the document and planning to address it in the near future. After all, the Pope’s message is less than two months old. However, with all of the national and international media attention given to it, including statements from National church leaders, some would think that such an important matter would be high on their priority lists.
To the readers of Bakersfield Environmental News who are also Catholics, has your church responded in any way to what the Pope has said? Also, what do you think of “Laudato Si’” and what the Pope said about climate change? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.