Lecture explores environmentalism in ‘Laudato si’’
Devon Chenelle | Thursday, October 29, 2015
While Earth Day only has a history of 45 years, the Catholic Church’s value of environmentalism grounded in Genesis extends back 3,400 years, Dan Misleh said in his lecture titled, “Praised Be, USA: Embracing and Acting on ‘Laudato si’.’”
The lecture, given Wednesday night in Geddes Hall, was presented by the Center for Social Concerns as part of a series of talks on “Laudato si'” The talk explored Pope Francis’ recent encyclical and the work Misleh’s organization is doing to spread awareness about the pope’s message. Misleh is the founding executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant, a group he developed out of his own house.
There are a number of national Catholic organizations that work to serve the environment, and Catholic Climate Covenant strives to collaborate with and help organize the efforts of these bodies and the bishops’ conference, Misleh said.
“When we first started the organization, we thought, ‘It doesn’t make sense for us to try to build a whole new infrastructure when we can work through the existing infrastructure to implement climate change activities,’” Misleh said.
Among the activities of the Catholic Climate Covenant is the St. Francis Pledge, Misleh said, which calls for prayer, action and advocacy from those who take it. Misleh said the pledge has already had substantial success in the Catholic educational community.
“I think we have about 22,000 Catholic individuals [and] … 25, 26 or 27 Catholic colleges and universities, including Notre Dame, that have taken the St. Francis Pledge,” he said.
“Laudato si’,” the Papal encyclical released in May 2015 that calls for stewardship of the Earth, echoes many things said about the importance of the environment by Pope Francis’ predecessors in a blunter language, Misleh said.
“It’s for everybody,” Misleh said about “Laudato si’.” “It’s meant to be a teaching document for everyone. Not just Catholics, not just bishops.”
Misleh said Pope Francis used strong language in the encyclical when describing the effects of pollution on the Earth, including phrases such as “immense pile of filth.” Such strong language, Misleh said, is rarely seen in papal encyclicals.
In spreading the message of the encyclical, Catholic Climate Covenant focused on raising public awareness of the document by working with several major stakeholders, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Military and fellow environmental groups, many of which were not faith-centered, Misleh said. Between the time of the encyclical’s release and the pope’s visit in September, Catholic Climate Covenant did a series of press events surrounding “Laudato si’.”
Misleh said it is key to convey the message of“Laudato si’” and the goals of environmentalism through persuasion and conversion of viewpoints, highlighting the importance of nature in the lives of individuals.
“There are places that we can go back to that we all probably remember. Perhaps it was even a profound experience of meeting God in that sacred place,” Misleh said. “Oftentimes, those places are outdoors.”