Pope Francis urges action - also in the Church

"Laudate Deum": With reason and renunciation against the climate crisis

Bonn - Pope Francis continues to drive climate protection: The crisis is increasingly urging action, and at the same time egoism and inertia are growing. The Pope relies on facts, reason - and a willingness to turn back. A necessary gamble, comments Felix Neumann.

Published  on 04.10.2023 at 16:58  – by Felix Neumann

Time is running out. Eight years after the encyclical on the environment "Laudato si Pope Francis is making an even more urgent appeal to the global public to finally react appropriately to the climate crisis. The text with the title "Laudate Deum" is is unusual: probably never before has a papal teaching letter described scientific facts so extensively. The Pope spells out in detail what climate research has found out in recent years, in the hope that the facts will catch on. Pope Francis has addressed his letter to all people of good will. The formula, first used by Pope John XXIII for his encyclical on peace "Pacem in terris" (1963) is not quite appropriate in this case: for the Pope explicitly addresses also those who are precisely not of good will. In any case, he addresses them: "In recent years, there has been no lack of people who have tried to play down this observation," he writes about attempts to "deny, hide, conceal or relativise" the climate crisis.

These are not only conservative to far-right populists in politics. "I feel compelled to make these clarifications, which may seem obvious, because of certain disparaging and unreasonable opinions that I find even within the Catholic Church," he writes. Francis does not name names. One does not have to go as far as the former US nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò, who has been fantasising for years about a world conspiracywhich includes measures against climate change. In 2021, a published in the environmental science journal "Environmental Research Letters" found how systematically the US bishops havehow systematically the US bishops have ignored "Laudato si" and papal appeals for climate action - probably because of a one-sided political alliance. "We found that the political conservatism of Catholic bishops in the US correlates with the silence, denial and distorted presentation of the Church's teachings on climate change in their official diocesan publications on Laudato Si'," the researchers noted after analysing episcopal pronouncements.

Fortunately, these positions hardly exist in the Church in Germany. Climate change deniers and small talkers are mainly found in the parties to the right of centre; in church discourse in Germany, this variety of the culture of death is limited to reactionary media. The German bishops have for years spoken out clearly for a consistent climate policy, dioceses and church institutions are making efforts to even efforts to reduce their own ecological footprint.. Francis sees even small, individual steps as helpful. A change in individual lifestyles may not bring immediate quantifiable success, he admits. Such small steps can help on the way to a cultural change in order to "set in motion great transformation processes that work from the depths of society".

"Let's finally stop the irresponsible mockery".

Pope Francis' intimate knowledge of the discourse is evident in his analysis of attempts to delegitimise action against the climate crisis: "Let us finally stop the irresponsible mockery that presents this issue as something merely ecological, 'green', romantic, often ridiculed by economic interests.Let us finally admit that this is in many ways a human and social problem." He sides with activists like. Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer, who are often the target of ridicule and condescension. Francis also proves to be the better economist than supposedly bourgeois politicians who only serve short-term egos: He argues for restrictions on prosperity and consumption now in order to permanently secure the livelihoods of humanity. To the argument that measures against the climate crisis would endanger jobs, he counters the actual consequences if only the status quo is preserved: "The fact is that millions of people are losing their jobs due to the various consequences of climate change" - and already now, and not only their jobs, but also their livelihoods and their homes.

Unusually clearly, the Pope also names culprits. He distances himself from blaming the poor, who are supposedly having too many children. A small percentage of the richest pollute the earth more than the poorest half, he notes: "How can we forget that Africa, where more than half of the world's poorest people live, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of the emissions accumulated throughout history?" He singles out the USA in particular: emissions per person are twice as high there as in China, and seven times as high as the average for poorer countries. Considering this, "we can affirm that a comprehensive change in the irresponsible lifestyle associated with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact."

Pope Francis is relying on the power of reason to win over all people of good will to work for a world worth living in - not least bishops, other Christians and politicians claiming to be Christian, who so far still put questionable political alliances and short-term vested interests above the common good. This is a gamble: sermons on renunciation are out of fashion. Calls for conversion are unpopular. And yet they are necessary.

by Felix Neumann