Taking care

Pope Francis has made a powerful call to save the planet.

I'm in the middle of reading Pope Francis' second encyclical, “Laudato Si'”—his treatise on our destruction of the environment and our shared responsibility to address such issues as air pollution, global climate change, the exploitation of natural resources and the poverty that develops as a result. The pontiff's call to action is bold and should be embraced not only throughout the Catholic church and among its adherents, but also by other religious and nonreligious organizations throughout the world.

In the roughly 200-page writeup subtitled “On the care for our common home,” the pope doesn't pull punches. Indeed, he has grit. I wish more people would follow his lead, and that goes for folks right here in Chico.

CN&R contributor Evan Tuchinsky went about the task last week of speaking with local religious leaders to get their take on the pope's letter (see “Praise be to the planet,” Greenways, page 16). But he had to keep dialing, as some of them didn't return his emails and phone calls seeking comments on the subject, and one head of a large nondenominational organization shirked the topic entirely by simply stating that environmentalism doesn't come up at the church.

I'm sure that's no accident.

Obviously, talking about environmentalism from the pulpit, especially in conservative churches, may not go over well at first with the entire congregation. But it's the right thing to do. Jesus certainly wasn't popular among the money changers when he chased them out of Herod's Temple. And I'm sure the thought of turning the other cheek and loving one's enemies didn't sit well with all of his followers.

But it's time for us to face the fact that our planet's deterioration is the result of our gluttonous overconsumption and greed. Any members of the clergy who don't recognize this, and how we have a moral responsibility to lend Mother Earth a helping hand, aren't fit to lead a church.

After all, this is the biggest dilemma of our lifetime.

I'm not a Catholic, mind you. I'm not religious at all, actually. Strangely, however, this isn't the first time I've found myself writing about the pontiff in this space. I've been impressed with his tenure as the Catholic church's chief and his adherence to Jesus' teachings. The guy doesn't just talk the talk. Pope Francis lives modestly at the Vatican guest house, rather than the posh Apostolic Palace, for example. He also is rumored to sneak out of his quarters at night disguised as a priest so that he can give alms to the poor.

In his appeal to the masses, the pope warns about complacency and the temptation to be purposely obtuse in order to carry on with business as usual. He acknowledges that there are obstructionist attitudes, ranging from denial to indifference. He notes the urgency of the situation and that it will require a new dialogue: “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

I hope the world takes those words to heart.

Melissa Daugherty is editor of the CN&R