I pulled up The New York Times last week and saw two key stories side by side. The first is Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, on care for our common home. The second is Dylann Roof.
I need to admit that I know next to nothing about the Catholic Church, encyclicals, and the Church’s teachings. What I do know is that I am not religious and find the Church a backwards-looking institution at best given its views on women’s rights (i.e. abortion) and homosexuality. At worst, the Church is an institution that bred and then tolerated pedophiles for decades. From that lens, for Pope Francis to come out with Laudato Si, an encyclical that not only recognizes climate change, but compels Catholics and the rest of the world to take swift and global action, is nothing short of amazing. The encyclical accepts well-documented science, issues a call to action, and reveals a level of leadership and concern that I personally never would have expected from the Church.
The Church’s encyclical should remind us of the environmental damage already realized. Mass extinction, runaway melting, and extreme heat/floods/droughts, are realities humanity faces not only in the long-term but right now.
Pope Francis’ announcement, unfortunately, did not make the top news story in the United States thanks to Dylann Roof. His antics left nine people dead, for no better reason than outward racism and inner rage. The shooting reminds me yet again of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and countless others that leave us coping for ways to make sense out of utterly senseless acts.
In short, last week’s news offered a profound reminder. That life is extremely fragile. And that in all we do, each person’s capacity to create with great intent, or destroy without thought or care, affects each and every one of us.