The Pope Thinks Climate Change Is a Major Threat. So Do American Catholics.
A papal letter “is among the highest levels of teaching authority for a pope,” said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. These edicts “always make news, because they are rare and comprehensive,” he added.
Singling out climate change is also significant. “It is the first time ever an encyclical letter has been written just on the environment,” Misleh said. “The faithful, including bishops, and all of us who adhere to the Catholic faith, are supposed to read it and examine our own consciences.”
Mobilizing believers to embrace climate action could be a very big deal, given the sheer number of people who identify as Catholic in the US—around 75 million—he said. “If we had just a fraction of those acting on climate change, it would be bigger than the networks of some of the biggest environmental groups in the US,” he said. “That could help change the way we live our lives, and impact our views on public policy.”
But would America’s Catholics welcome climate advocacy from the pope? Recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion suggests that many would.