The Guardian is reporting that Pope Francis plans to issue an edict on climate change in 2015. Pope Francis intends to visit Tacloban in the Philippines in March. Tacloban was hit hard by a disastrous typhoon in 2012. Following his visit to the Philippine city, the pope is expected to issue an encyclical regarding climate change and human ecology. That edict will be distributed to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests to share with their parishioners.
As one of the world’s most prominent religious figures, the pope’s actions will undoubtedly strengthen the movement to address climate change. Conservative Catholics will be tempted to resist the pope’s authority on this issue. However, people of faith may struggle to discredit the pope, given his position atop the Catholic Church hierarchy.
The Pope is no stranger to controversy, given the numerous progressive stances he has taken on a broad range of issues. In October, he minced no words in discussing the dangers of climate change. Pope Francis stated then:
An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it… Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.
American GOP Catholic politicians like House Speaker John Boehner, Congressman Paul Ryan, and potential presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and Marco Rubio, will have to defy the pope if they wish to continue to pander to the climate change deniers that make up the base of the Republican Party. Mocking the pope’s stance on climate change will present a far greater challenge for GOP Catholics than ridiculing Al Gore or ignoring Bill McKibben.
Pope Francis is going all in to battle the dangers of climate change. Whether Catholics and other people of faith will respond to the pope’s edict remains to be seen. For the sake of the world’s future, hopefully they will agree to fight global climate change alongside the pope, rather than choosing instead to fight the rapidly changing climate of the Vatican, that this pope so clearly represents.