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June 18, 2015

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Marlene Mulford: Office:(217) 698-8500
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Statement from Bishop Thomas John Paprocki on Pope Francis' Encyclical, Laudato Si'

Pope Francis has published his encyclical on ecology released today, June 18.  The document is entitled, Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home.  This encyclical is addressed to “every person living on this planet” (§3). Pope Francis is calling on the world to accompany this event with renewed attention to environmental degradation and to remember that “the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” Pope Francis calls this “intergenerational solidarity,” which he says “is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice” (§159). The Holy Father said of his encyclical, “Let us pray that everyone can receive its message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us.”

The Church is being guided by Pope Francis to watchfulness for an urgent “sign of the times,” a new awareness that the human family is being called to a deeper solidarity on behalf of the environment. In doing so, he also reminds us of the beauty of Creation and our own dignity as its stewards. We are entrusted by the Creator to nurture and protect that creation for the sake of our whole human family and for generations to come.

Another great “sign of the times” today which Pope Francis presents is the issue of sustaining both human and environmental ecology. Approaching the environment with greater wisdom is at the heart of our concern, particularly by the emphasis on facing global climate change with the need for economic growth in all nations, especially developing ones.

As the human family strives to adjust its relationship to the environment, the Church has an important role to play. That role is not in judging scientific questions, many of which remain unanswered definitively – including the analysis of the nature and the extent of humanity’s contributions to climate change. Rather, the Church’s role, as in many other complex and practical decisions, is in proposing moral parameters within which any effective solution should be judged.

In reading a papal encyclical, it is important to distinguish between “core Catholic moral teachings,” which Catholics are called to respect, and “prudential judgments,” which Catholics are asked to consider prayerfully, humbly, and with open hearts and minds.  Care for God’s creation is a core Catholic moral teaching woven throughout the Bible and has been emphasized by recent popes (see Introduction, §§ 3-6) and the U.S. bishops. A prudential judgment is “intelligence applied to our actions” (U.S. bishops, 2001) on particular issues in light of those core moral teachings. Invoking the role of prudential judgment doesn’t allow us to dismiss the encyclical out of hand. Even for those who disagree on prudential judgments, such as the cause of climate change, the moral case for acting to protect the created world remains. Disagreement over prudential judgments should not be allowed to distract from the moral case that Pope Francis is making regarding care for God’s creation.

In this regard, Pope Francis himself says, “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views” (§61). Thus, Pope Francis frames his encyclical on ecology as an urgent appeal for dialogue, saying, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (§14).
Pope Francis reminds us that, “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” (§§119-120).  We have then to ask ourselves, what does cultivating and preserving the earth mean and are we truly caring for creation, including the most vulnerable members of God’s creation?

In the coming weeks and months, I ask our parishioners to read and give prayerful consideration to Pope Francis’ Encyclical. Our diocesan communications department will keep the encyclical, Laudato Si’ and related local topics in the public eye with our diocesan newspaper, Catholic Times, on the diocesan website: and diocesan social media.


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