For those who worship at the altar of environmentalism, the encyclical is expected to be a "game changer." They're hoping it will generate a more broadly-held consensus about their sacred tenets concerning ecology, environmental destruction, and climate change. At least, that's what the National Catholic Reporter is suggesting.
For those who contest the hypothesis, that's the outcome they fear most. For example, one so-called "climate change denier"--known for his blog that attacks the so-called "scientific consensus"--Marc Morano, is quoted in The Guardian as stating:
I think sceptics have their work cut out for them to overpower the pope’s
influence. The pope being involved in this is a huge coup for promoters
of manmade global warming.
Morano's assessment will prove to be correct if the encyclical's contents veer away from theological matters and steer into political, social, economic, and scientific matters. Consider these potential outcomes:
- Pope Francis will address Congress in September. Even if the Pope advocates the UN's climate change agenda, efforts to discredit his message on the part of those who deny the "scientific consensus" won't work. Why? This Pope appeals to a broad spectrum of people across the globe, not just Catholics. That's why the UN Secretary General used his visit with Pope Francis earlier this year to advocate including the UN's agenda regarding climate change in Laudate Sii.
- Catholic schools and universities will teach to the encyclical's contents, elevating climate change to a moral imperative that, it will be said, rated high on Jesus' agenda and should be high on the agenda of every student graduating from those institutions. (An observation: Would that those institutions were equally assiduous in promoting Humanae Vitae for the past 5 decades.)
- Many priests in the nation's 17k+ Catholic parishes will preach about it--like they did when the USCCB issued pastoral letters about nuclear weapons and the economy in the second half of the 20th century--perhaps drawing undue attention to climate change. Why? These priests will feel more comfortable discussing that more timely and relevant topic, thus avoiding scripture and Church teaching concerning other moral issues--like life, marriage, and family--which these priests view as "divisive" and "unwelcoming."
Contesting the Pope in the particular matter of climate change will position those individuals--labeled "Catholic climate change deniers"--as opposing Church teaching. That's what conservative Catholics fear most.
But that's nothing new. For decades, liberal Catholics have accused conservative Catholics of opposing the left's much-cherised "social justice" agenda. Likewise for conservative Catholics who for decades have accused liberal Catholics for opposing the right's much-cherished "pro-life" agenda.
All of today's rhetoric and potential outcomes are predicated upon the assumption that Pope Francis will stun the world with an encyclical that unconditionally accepts the sacred tenets of those who worship at the altar of environmentalism and have co-opted the United Nations to do their bidding. Having the Pope on their side would definitely be a "game changer."
That won't happen.
What Pope Francis is likely to do is to root his discussion in scripture and tradition. After all, there is no argument when it comes to the notion that God has entrusted the Earth to humanity to "rule over" and to "care for." There also is an expanding body of Church tradition concerning what this biblical mandate means and requires. And it is broader than the single issue of climate change. This tradition begins with scripture--namely, God and the dignity of every human beginning from conception until natural death--and expands into responsible stewardship for God's gifts. St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI both discussed these matters, the latter being dubbed "the Green Pope."
Expect Pope Francis to extend this discussion, perhaps invoking the term "integral ecology" to synthesize human, social, and natural ecology in a way that avoids focusing upon just one or two elements and distorts what God wants, as defined by scripture and Church teaching. After all, the Church already uses the term "integral education" to synthesize the intellectual, physical, psychological, moral, and religious dimensions of forming young people, one that is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person.
Also expect Catholics who believe in climate change to cherry pick the encyclical for quotes that will favor their position. Conservative Catholics who are skeptical will do the same.
In the end, both will demonstrate that they're really not interested in what scripture or tradition teach and mandate for humanity. No, what they're really interested in is vindicating their this-worldly political, social, economic, and scientific viewpoints. And, they're more than willing to use Pope Francis and his encyclical to champion those viewpoints.
Pope Francis knows that. Hopefully, he won't step into that trap.
Let the discussion begin...