John-Henry Westen

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Bishop who helped in first draft of Laudato Si’: Pope didn’t intend to pronounce on the science

The pope's emphatic tone does convey that he holds a rather clear stance on climate change though.
Wed Jun 24, 2015 - 8:24 pm EST
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June 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the first drafters of the pope’s new encyclical on the environment has stressed that Francis did not intend to pronounce on the scientific questions related to climate change.

In an interview with Inside the Vatican’s Giuseppe Rusconi, to be released in English tomorrow, Bishop Mario Toso said, “I must insist; It is not the intention of Pope Francis” to pronounce on scientific debates, “but to reflect on the anthropological and ethical issues that arise from them.”

Whatever the pope’s intentions, however, his emphatic tone in raising these moral issues does convey that he holds a rather clear stance on the matter.

He says, for example, that:

  • there’s “an urgent need” to “drastically reduce” emission of “carbon dioxide” (26);
  • a very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” resulting from “greenhouse gasses” released “mainly as a result of human activity (23);
  • In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events (23)
  • Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. (23);
  • Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity.(24);
  • We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. (165);
  • climate change is “a global problem with grave implications” (25).
  • See more in #24-26, #52, #169-170, #172, #175, #181 #188.

Despite Bishop Toso’s assertions and even similar reflections in the encyclical itself where the pope says he does not mean to “settle scientific questions” but to open debate (188), world leaders have nonetheless taken Laudato Si’ as the pope’s push for action on global warming as a moral imperative.

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U.S. President Obama, for instance, said, “I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis's encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope's decision to make the case -- clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position –- for action on global climate change.

His sentiments were echoed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who said:  “Pope Francis and I agree that climate change is a moral issue that requires collective urgent action. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

Bishop Toso was until January the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and in that capacity was involved with the first draft of Laudato Si’, written in 2014. Currently he is bishop of the Diocese of Faenza-Modigliana in Italy.

  catholic, laudato si, pope francis

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