Vincent Mastromatteo

Encyclical for the election season

By  Vincent Mastromatteo, Youth Speak News
  • July 31, 2015

Pope Francis’ unprecedented encyclical on climate change was forceful. Many Catholics, myself included, were pleased to see the Pope address this complex but increasingly important issue.

During the Canadian election season, Catholic voters should keep the Pope’s message in mind, especially young voters.

Pope Francis urges governments to protect the environment, despite political reluctance to do so. He writes, “a politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth. In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment.”

It is true that some activities like the burning of fossil fuels are necessary to the economy. As well, the economy and job creation are very frequently heard on the campaign trail. However, given the grave consequences of climate change, a balance must be struck between these interests.

Pope Francis met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper shortly before the encyclical was released, where they discussed the environment among other topics.

Although Canada has recently faltered in its efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, political leaders will hopefully address the environment in their upcoming election campaigns. The NDP’s Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau both identify as Catholic, so it will be interesting to see if they heed the Pope’s call for change.

All major party leaders have at least acknowledged the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions, given their impact on the environment. None have resorted to the criticism of some American politicians however, and from what I’ve read, only Elizabeth May of the Green Party has directly praised the Pope for his encyclical.

When the encyclical was first released in June, it was met with a mixed response from political leaders. Some considered the Pope to be overstepping his mandate, wading into a political or economic debate.

Jeb Bush, a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has been criticized for saying, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my Pope.” Bush, who is Catholic, also stated that religion “ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

These criticisms miss the point of the Pope’s encyclical, which calls us to protect creation. Furthermore, Pope Francis highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on the poor.

When describing the beauty of nature, Pope Francis quotes a Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter. He writes “The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: ‘From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine.’ ”

Canada has been particularly blessed with its breathtaking wilderness and natural resources. It is up to political leaders to use these resources wisely while considering climate change.

(Mastromatteo, 17, is a graduate of Brebeuf College School in Toronto.)

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