Faculty panel on Pope Francis’ encyclical addresses climate change

Faculty panel on Pope Francis’ encyclical addresses climate change

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ is serving as worldwide ammunition for humanity to see that we are the cause of climate change, and that it is our responsibility to change it.

“We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity,” Pope Francis writes in the encyclical, which was released at the Vatican in June. “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us.”

Last Tuesday, Elizabeth Gandolfo, an assistant professor of Catholic and Latin American studies at Wake Forest University, and three other colleagues, addressed nearly 160 people in Kulynych Auditorium to decipher how climate change is related to morals and ethical obligation in the context of the Catholic Church.

“The integral ecology of Laudato Si’ recognizes the interdependence of all things,” Gandolfo said. “The profound dependence of human beings on creation, and the special responsibility of human beings to care for creation rather than exploit it for our own gain.”

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According to a Pew Research Poll, about 71 percent of U.S. Catholics believe that the earth is getting warmer, compared to 68 percent of the general public. With Pope Francis composing the very first papal encyclical dedicated to protecting the environment, many believe that the Pope is a leading activist force on the issue of climate change.

However, not everyone is on board with Pope Francis’s climate agenda. Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, is among them.

“I don’t think we should politicize our faith,” Bush said days before the release of Laudato Si’ at a backyard meet and greet in Washington, Iowa. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

However, to Gandolfo, the teachings of Laudato Si’ are not a political, but moral. In fact, it represents the fundamental themes and principles of Catholic social teaching.

“We should not be surprised that Pope Francis has issued this document on care for our common home,” Gandolfo said. “Yet, I do think that Francis is advancing Catholic social thought in some very helpful and necessary ways given the gravity of our current ecological situation.”

Following Gandolfo’s speech, Miles Silman, professor of biology at Wake Forest and co-founder of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, and Justin Catanoso, the director of the journalism program at Wake Forest, spoke about climate change from their academic fields.

Silman discussed the biological aspects of climate change based on his knowledge of climate systems and carbon transfer, whereas Catanoso addressed its social impact based on his reporting in Peru this past summer.

The three vastly different academic fields of the speakers complemented the idea that the message ofLaudato Si’ is universal.

“[It] cuts across nationality, academic discipline or religious difference,” according to the Divinity School, which organized the event.

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