Few on Capitol Hill didn’t have an opinion on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical today, which urged people to preserve God’s creation instead of turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”
“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress,” the pope wrote. “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.”
“…Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was “concerned that his encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history.”
“We have been innovative with our energy supply, and for generations the United States has lifted people out of poverty through the development of our God-given natural resources, most prominently from fossil fuels. We have worked to make these resources cleaner and more efficient, and natural gas is a perfect example,” Inhofe said. “To unravel this fabric of economic opportunity would create more poverty, not less.”
President Obama said he welcomed 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.”
“I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources,” Obama said, adding that he’s looking forward to talking climate change with the pontiff when he visits Washington in September.
Secretary of State John Kerry eagerly jumped in with praise for Pope Francis, noting “the faith community – in the United States and abroad – has a long history of environmental stewardship and aiding the poor, and Pope Francis has thoughtfully applied those same values to the very real threat our planet is facing today.”
“The devastating impacts of climate change – like heat waves, damaging floods, coastal sea level rise and historic droughts – are already taking place, threatening the habitat all humans and other creatures depend on to survive,” Kerry said.
Catholic Republican lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke carefully on the new document. “Well, one thing we know about this Pope is that he’s not afraid to challenge everyone’s thinking on issues, frankly, one way or another, and I admire his dedication to the poor and his work to protect the sanctity of life,” Boehner said at his press conference today. “And frankly, I respect his right to speak out on these important issues.”
At her press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lauded the pope at length for writing “with beauty, with clarity and with moral force.”
“He quotes St. Francis at the beginning and, of course, for me, that is our patron saint of the city of San Francisco — our namesake, the pope’s namesake — and in our Song of St. Francis, which I quoted the first day I was sworn in as Speaker of the House, I quoted the Song of St. Francis: where there is darkness, may we bring light. And His Holiness is bringing light on this subject,” Pelosi said. “…We really must listen to His Holiness as we go forward.”
Pelosi was asked about another part of Pope Francis’ encyclical, in which he addressed transgender issues: “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” the Pope wrote, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
“I think that he is saying what I hear in church on Sunday,” Pelosi replied after some prodding by the reporter.
“It’s funny. I was going on one of these evangelical — I don’t want to say evangeical, but one of these shows — one of these preachers; you know, I went to see one of them once, and they said to me, but before you go, you better make sure he’s not anti-gay, he’s not anti-women’s rights in terms of a woman’s right to choose, he’s not this and that. And I said well, that’s interesting, because I’ll be going to 9 o’clock Mass where I will hear that and you’re going to think that’s going to block me from going to another religious service, which was, frankly, silent on the subject,” she continued.
“But getting back to encyclicals, one of my favorite encyclicals is Pope Benedict’s — was Benedict’s first encyclical. It was called ‘God is Love.’ And in it, Pope Benedict quotes St. Augustine, who was his favorite saint. And he says in there that Augustine said 17 centuries ago, any government that does not exist to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves. And then he, Benedict — Pope Benedict, His Holiness, goes on to say sometimes, it’s very hard to define what is justice, but you must be — you must be — he cautioned against the blinding glare of money and special interest. Read it. It’s very interesting.”