The Vatican released the long awaited papal encyclical on climate change today, Laudato Si. We have known the broad strokes of the encyclical for some time, thanks to the Vatican’s PR work to drum up interest in the months leading up to today. We got an even closer look when a draft was leaked on Monday by l’Espresso. Thanks to this, politicians have had ample time to decide how best to respond to this landmark encyclical.
Jeb Bush and his team, however, seem to have not given more than 2 minutes thought to how to respond to the encyclical, a question they surely anticipated since Bush is Catholic. Being the frontrunner that he is and coming from a dynastic political family, I expected a JFK-esque response from Bush. Instead, we got this:
I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope. I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.
Instead of focusing on the separation of church and state or at least pretending to have found something worthwhile in the encyclical, Bush resorted to defensiveness and belittling. Apparently, taking care of the Earth and working to make it at least inhabitable (if not a better place) for future generations does not fall under the category of “making us better people” for Bush. Religion should stay out of politics, though this separation apparently does not extend to politics staying out of religion.
Bush is not alone in not being in sync with the Catholic church on climate change. Recent data from the Pew Forum shows that the split among Catholics regarding climate change closely mirrors the general electorate. In other words, this is a political issue, with the divides coming along party lines, as the chart below illustrates.
That Bush sees this as political and not religious, is not surprising, as that is largely how the country as a whole views this issue. Whether that changes with the release of Laudato Si is yet to be seen, though that is certainly the hope of Pope Francis.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr