Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives June 17 for his general audience at St Peter's square at the Vatican.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives June 17 for his general audience at St Peter's square at the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical, released early Thursday, marked the first time a pope has used this prominent platform to warn of the dangers of climate change. Addressed to all of humanity, the pope’s teaching document places most of the blame for environmental damage on humans, saying every person has a moral responsibility to take action against it. Pope Francis’ widespread popularity gives him a unique voice in this conversation; some observers say he could provide vital momentum to the fight against climate change. But many — including a handful of U.S. presidential candidates — feel religion has no place in what is a scientific and political debate. We look at how the Roman Catholic Church could influence global climate change policy.


  • Father Thomas Reese Senior analyst, National Catholic Reporter; author of "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church"
  • Robert Destro Professor of law and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion, Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America
  • Rev. Canon Sally Bingham Founder and president, Interfaith Power & Light
  • Amy Harder Reporter covering energy and climate policy, The Wall Street Journal


  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Climate change has long been a highly partisan issue, but which his newly released encyclical, Pope Francis reframes it as a moral one, a hopeful moment for some, but not everyone in the Catholic community is onboard. Here to discuss the encyclical and what it could mean for the global conversation on climate change, Robert Destro of The Catholic University of America, Amy Harder of The Wall Street Journal. Joining us by phone from Dana Point, California, Father Thomas Reese of the National Catholic Reporter. On the line from San Francisco, the Reverend Canon Sally Bingham of Interfaith Power & Light.

  • 10:07:45

    MS. DIANE REHMI'm sure many of you will want to weigh in. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thanks to all of you for being with us.

  • 10:08:05

    MS. AMY HARDERIt's great to be here.

  • 10:08:05

    MR. ROBERT DESTROThank you.

  • 10:08:05


  • 10:08:08


  • 10:08:09

    REHMAnd Father Tom Reese, I'll start with you. Give us the key points from this document. Tell us the message that the Pope is trying to get across.

  • 10:08:23

    REESEWell, the first thing that the pope does is look at the facts. What is the state of the environment? What is the scientific consensus, for example, on issues like climate change? And from that he then responds and asks, well, what are the moral implications of that? What does that call us to do? Because the environment has an impact on people all over the world, and therefore it's a moral issue. It's not just a political issue, it's not just an economic issue, and as a moral issue, we are called to respond to it, to deal with it so that people don't suffer because of environmental crises.

  • 10:09:10

    REHMAnd why do you believe that this encyclical is so important on this issue?

  • 10:09:17

    REESEOh, I think it's extremely important because this encyclical will inspire people all over the world, not just I mean Catholics. I mean, non-Catholics are extremely interested in this. The pope is calling us to a dialogue, a conversation on how to respond to environmental issues. And this -- I think this is really important because, I mean frankly, people are not going to change their lifestyles just because the polar bears are in trouble, but there is one thing we know religion does, and that is can motivate people to do extraordinary things, to make self-sacrifices, to change their attitudes and their actions in extraordinary ways. And this is what's it's going to require to respond to the environmental crisis.

  • 10:10:12

    REHMAnd to you, Bob Destro. Explain to us what is the role of an encyclical.

  • 10:10:22

    DESTROWell, an encyclical is a teaching document, and basically it lays out, as Father Reese said, it lays out a moral framework for discussion. And the pope's very clear at the very beginning of it, I'm going to lay out the science, I'm going to lay out the morals, I'm going to lay out some suggestions, and it's actually very well put together. Of course, none of had a chance to read a lot of it, it came out at 6 o'clock this morning...

  • 10:10:50


  • 10:10:50

    DESTROYou know, but what's really clear to me is that if you begin with his orientation, in Paragraph 67, he says we are not God. He says we are creatures, and we are a part of this creation. And that settles, in one respect it kind of roots the conversation.

  • 10:11:13

    REHMIs this the first time a pope has taken on the climate?

  • 10:11:20

    DESTRONo, no, no, actually he refers to several of his predecessors, and this question of responsibility for God's creation runs through hundreds of years' worth of documents. So this is just -- this is not new. This is the current pope's add-in.

  • 10:11:40

    REHMAnd to you, Reverend Sally Bingham. To whom is this document directed? Who is it meant for?

  • 10:11:50

    BINGHAMWell, from my perspective, it's meant for all creatures, particularly the human race because we are the ones who have been given or charged with the caretaking of the planet, and we have been the ones that have exploited the natural resources. And I believe, and just like my two colleagues I haven't read the entire thing all the way through, I've only seen the bits and pieces of it, but that the pop is calling on individual responsibility for the Earth and for each other, that we have a moral obligation to take care of each other and take care of the planet.

  • 10:12:31

    REHMSo he is not simply directing this to members of the Roman Catholic faith.

  • 10:12:39

    BINGHAMI think it's for every human on the planet, and I think because he's such a popular pope that it will -- this message will go far beyond the Catholic Church.

  • 10:12:49

    REHMAnd to you, Amy Harder. How important do you see this document in the ongoing discussion about climate change on the larger scale, not only in religious, moral terms but in terms of politics?

  • 10:13:08

    HARDERI think it's significant. We've been seeing some political reaction out of Washington all week, ever since the -- an early version of the encyclical was leaked earlier this week. And the reaction, the political reaction, has been interesting. You see a lot of Democrats and environmental groups talking about how this is significant for the United Nations climate talks and President Obama's climate agenda. You're hearing very little out of the Republicans and industry groups.

  • 10:13:34

    HARDERI reached out to several Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. Neither of them are offering statements via email. I understand that Speaker Boehner is going to perhaps address it today at his press conference. The American Petroleum Institute, the trade association representing the U.S. oil and gas industry, their statement is simply we are reviewing it. It's very rare that you see these Republicans and industry groups not commenting preemptively on something about climate change and something that affects the energy industry. So I think that says a lot, that there's silence from -- mostly silence from the right side of the ledger on this issue.

  • 10:14:13

    HARDERAnd so I think it's not going to change anybody's minds overnight, but I think it gives pause to some of these people. I would like to add, though, that for the people who are commenting, Jeb Bush, presidential Republican nominee, said earlier this week that he doesn't go to mass for, quote, economic policy or for things in politics.

  • 10:14:32

    REHMLet me correct you just a tiny bit. He's not a nominee, he's a candidate.

  • 10:14:36

    HARDERPresumptive, right, candidate, correct, correct.

  • 10:14:40

    DESTROHe hopes.

  • 10:14:42

    HARDERBut on that point, I think that's significant because I think Republicans and the industry see this as an economic and political issue, and the pope is trying to reframe that as a moral issue, and I think that's going to be where the discussion gets a little bit divided.

  • 10:14:55

    REHMAnd Father Reese, what about within the Roman Catholic Church? What about the fact that there had been leaks that some bishops are standing against this encyclical?

  • 10:15:16

    REESEWell, I don't think that any bishops are going to come out publicly against this encyclical. I think we'll see a lot of bishops get on board supporting it, supporting the pope's agenda here in responding to the environmental crisis. Those who don't like this and have other priorities, they're simply going to be silent and not get involved. So it's -- I think with the bishops it's going to be a question of how strongly they come out for it and support it.

  • 10:15:53

    REHMAnd Bob Destro, what do you think about that? What about the bishops who may not be fully onboard?

  • 10:16:01

    DESTROWell, you know, just from the short amount of time I've been able to look at it, it's going to be pretty hard for any of the bishops to avoid this discussion because he really does lay out -- you know, he doesn't really focus on the environment, as such, he focuses on human beings as a part of the environment. And there really is a - there really is, even for the most conservative side of the spectrum, there's a lot to sink your teeth into here, and I think that the longer people are silent actually the better it is because we really want people to engage the issues that he's suggesting that we engage.

  • 10:16:38


  • 10:16:38

    HARDERSenator James Inhofe, one of the most vocal critics of climate change and someone who doubts the science of climate change, his office is also not releasing an official statement, but he spoke to one of my colleagues in the Capitol the other day, and Senator Inhofe said that his phone is ringing off the hook with Catholics who are very angry about what the pope is doing. So of course I can't verify that.

  • 10:16:58

    REHMConfirm that.

  • 10:17:00

    HARDERBecause I'm not the one sitting there in his office answering the phones, but I think that might be -- that could be significant, and I think over time you might see some deeply conservative Catholics upset with this. Now whether or not they're going to vocalize that I think remains to be seen.

  • 10:17:15

    REHMNow do we have any idea whether it's because those Roman Catholics do not want to see the pope get into politics, or is it because they totally disagree with his stance?

  • 10:17:32

    HARDERI think it's a little bit of both. Some new polling out of the Pew Research Center shows that the issue of climate change falls on political lines and not religious lines. So I think conservative people often don't accept the science on climate change, and so when the leader of their faith is, in the case if they're Catholic, I think if the leader of their faith is wading into this issue, it confuses them and upsets them.

  • 10:17:56

    REHMAmy Harder, she's a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We'll take a short break here, and when we come back, I see many of you are on the line. We'll be right back.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the Pope's just issued encyclical on climate change and the moral responsibility he believes each and every one of us has to work toward making our climate healthier and more livable for the entire world. He does talk -- and I gather, Father Reese, you've read most of this encyclical, if not all of it -- he talks about the people who are the most vulnerable on climate change.

  • 10:20:47

    REESEYes, absolutely. You know, Pope Francis, from the very beginning of his papacy has had a great concern for the poor. And he points out that the people who suffer from climate change, the people who suffer from environmental degradation, this is the poor. And he criticizes that. And he also doesn’t want them to be the ones who have to bear the burdens of the changes that are going to be required to respond to climate change and to clean up the environment.

  • 10:21:23

    REESEHis argument is that those who have prospered most from the carbon-based economy, people in the first world, the rich and the powerful, they are the ones who are called to make the sacrifice -- the greatest sacrifices, in order to respond to climate change. Because he does not want the poor to suffer anymore.

  • 10:21:47

    REHMCanon Bingham, you are an Episcopalian. How do you think other denominations will view the pope's encyclical. Do you see the Episcopal Church coming out supporting him or simply making their own statement regarding climate change.

  • 10:22:12

    BINGHAMWell, as you say, I am an Episcopalian. I certainly support this document and I believe that, I can't speak for our presiding bishop, but she has actually done a testimony to Congress connecting climate change and poverty. So I would say that we, as an institution, are in line with every individual's moral responsibility for caring for creation. And I believe that this is one of the pope's -- and as Father Reese was saying this -- one of his messages is that the people who have contributed the least to this problem are the folks that are suffering worst -- first and worst.

  • 10:22:52

    BINGHAMBut I want to disagree with one thing Father Reese said, which is that the poor are suffering. The poor are suffering, but so is everybody else. I mean, we -- you can be rich and famous. But if, for instance, we're having a long-term -- we're into our fourth year of a drought in California -- and that affects everybody, not just poor people. And the poor people are affected, as I said, first and worst and nor do they have the ability or the resources to get themselves out of this trouble the way the wealthier countries and wealthier people do. So -- but I do think that everybody's suffering from the climate -- from the pollution, I mean, air moves. Air doesn't stay -- it doesn't just hang over certain areas.

  • 10:23:41

    BINGHAMSo we're -- we all can be healthier and safer if we clean up the climate. But that the biggest responsibility lies on those of us who have done the pollution.

  • 10:23:54

    REHMAll right. And we have several emails along this line. This from Matthew in Concord, N.H. "Please ask your guests if this pope will do or say anything to modify the long-standing injunction to newlyweds to be fruitful and multiply. Population control will be crucial to any attempt to avert climatological and ecological disaster." Bob Destro.

  • 10:24:32

    DESTROI don't think you're going to see that. The same scriptures that contain the words, be fruitful and multiply, are the same scriptures that he's basing this encyclical on. And one of the things that we talk about in the context of climate change is just how human-centered is this discussion? You know, are we -- are humans the problem or are humans the solution? And certainly this pope is going to take the position that the respectful treatment of human people around the world -- the poor in particular -- is the solution to the problem. We have to engage the poor and say, Look, how do we solve this problem together?

  • 10:25:09

    DESTROBut unfortunately, many of the discussions about climate change treat the poor just as much as objects as they treat the rain forest as an object. You know, so what we need to be careful about here is the poor are not the problem. And they are usually the focus of the population control types.

  • 10:25:26

    REHMAmy Harder.

  • 10:25:27

    HARDERI think from a political perspective, talking about population control is just a third rail and not something that any politician will discuss in a serious matter. I think -- I had spoke with Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, which has the biggest footprint in the oil field in North Dakota. He actually broached the topic of population control as one way to address climate change. And I thought that was interesting. But he's not as much of a politician as some of the folks here in Washington.

  • 10:25:56

    HARDERBut the points on poverty, I think, are important. Because I think when you talk about poverty, the pope is framing as climate change is hurting the poor the worst. And then you talk to some in the energy and some in the Republican Party, who see access to fossil fuels, cheap fossil fuels as a way to get people out of poverty. And so I think you see a little bit of the two sides talking past each other. Can fossil fuels help the poor get out of poverty or can -- or will fossil fuels' impact on the climate change make the poor even worse off. And so I think you're seeing a little bit of the debate on that point not really matching up with each other.

  • 10:26:33

    REHMFather Reese, how do you see it?

  • 10:26:37

    REESEWell, the pope, himself, got in a little bit of trouble recently by telling Catholics they don't have to reproduce like rabbits. And the church has been in favor of responsible parenthood. Now, clearly, there have been disagreements in the past between environmental groups and the Catholic Church on birth control. I think both sides are just simply going to work together in solving this problem without getting into a lot of brick throwing on this issue. I agree with what was said by the -- our companions here. This, you know, this is not a problem caused by the poor. We know, in fact, that the more educated people are, the fewer children they have, the richer they become, the fewer children they have. For a lot of poor people, having children is their social security. You know, and so, if we deal with the question of poverty, then I think we can see some of these other issues being dealt with.

  • 10:27:52

    REHMAll right. We've got lots of callers. I'll open the phones now. First, to Marney in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.

  • 10:28:03

    MARNEYOh, thank you for taking my call. You had -- you read an email a few minutes ago that was very similar to what I have to say. And I was so pleased to hear that the pope had spoken of individual moral responsibility with respect to the environment. But, you know, I noticed some time back that the pope reaffirmed the Catholic Church's official position against birth control. And isn't population growth an enormous negative in trying to improve the environment? I mean, the world population, no matter the natural disasters, it just continues to grow and grow.

  • 10:28:39

    REHMCanon Bingham, do you want to weigh-in on this?

  • 10:28:43

    BINGHAMWell, yes, because I really think that so much of the problem with climate and environmental degradation is not so much the population as it is the way we use our resources. And the fact that -- do you remember the old statement that I think Gandhi made, with it: There is plenty here for our need but not for our greed.

  • 10:29:07


  • 10:29:08

    BINGHAMAnd we have an enormous amount of waste. And particularly in the wealthy countries, we throw out food, we leave lights on when we don't need them. And it just seems to me that it isn't that -- of course, there -- the population is a problem. But we can deal with that, if we were a little more careful about our behavior. If one remembers that every single thing we do affects another person somewhere in the world -- all of our behaviors.

  • 10:29:35

    REHMAmy Harder.

  • 10:29:36

    HARDERI often view the concept about population control could help climate change through a similar lens than say, a carbon tax. So in theory and on paper, it would make sense that controlling our population could help control climate change. Just like, on paper, academics -- a lot of academics and economists love the idea of a carbon tax to address climate change because it's simple, it's fair across the board and it, in theory, can solve their problem. But, in reality and in the reality of politics, neither idea can gain any sort of foothold. So I think that's important, that even though, in our heads, it makes sense. In reality, neither of them will gain much support.

  • 10:30:14

    REHMAmy, you talked earlier about conservative Catholics who may be totally against any climate control legislation or action and who are disappointed that the pope came out this way. How does this break down? How much division is there among Roman Catholics?

  • 10:30:44

    HARDERWell, I think, in -- the divisions among Catholics are similar to the divisions among the U.S. public at large. I think, they largely fall along partisan lines. You see, I think, around 85 percent of Democratic Catholics saying that climate change is real, that it's an urgent problem, that it's something that we need to address. You see much lower levels among Republican Catholics. So I think it's less a religious issue and more a political issue whether -- in terms of -- whether or not we should do something on climate change.

  • 10:31:13

    REHMAnd Father Reese, would you expect that the pope's encyclical might change the minds of even conservative Catholics on this issue?

  • 10:31:27

    REESEWell, Pope Francis is a great man but he's not a miracle worker. I think the problem here is that so many issues in the United States have become so partisan. The pope is calling all of us together to a conversation, to a dialog, to address these things. Now, will these Republican Catholics listen to the pope? Well, one of the things we know is conservative Catholics like the pope. Republican Catholics like the pope. It's a lot easier to listen to someone that you like than it is to listen to somebody you don't like. I mean, clearly, I think they will be more receptive to something that the pope says than anything that Obama or Hillary might say. So I think there is a possibility that the fact that the pope is talking about these issues may make people pause and say, Well maybe I should take another look at this.

  • 10:32:32

    REHMAnd how do you think his just issued encyclical could affect, Father Reese, his visit here to the United States?

  • 10:32:46

    REESEWell, that is going to be fascinating to watch. You know, for example, we know that he is going to address a joint session of Congress.

  • 10:32:55


  • 10:32:55

    REESEAnd you've watched those shows before where the (word?) ...

  • 10:32:59

    REHMOf course.

  • 10:32:59

    REESE...comes in and he says something that the Democrats like and they all jump up and applaud and the Republicans sit on their hands. Well, what's going to happen when the pope says, you know, We have to take care of the poor. We have to welcome immigrants. We have to be concerned about the environment. The Democrats are going to jump up and, you know, and applaud. And are the Republicans going to sit on their hands? And likewise, if the pope says something like, We should respect life. Or that every child deserves a father and mother. Are the Republicans going to jump up and applaud and, you know, and the -- what are the Democrats going to do? He's going to challenge both parties.

  • 10:33:41

    REHMEverybody. Yeah. Everybody.

  • 10:33:44

    REESEThat's his job.

  • 10:33:45

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Terry in Brewstertown, Tenn. You're on the air.

  • 10:33:58

    TERRYThank you, Diana. The climate deniers -- the people that say that man is not affecting the climate, need to walk the 5 million miles of paved road. And it is a moral issue because the people that are making the most money from the pollution don't live in the worst pollution they create.

  • 10:34:21


  • 10:34:21

    HARDERI think a lot of the climate denialism that you see among the conservative party and in the Republican Party in Congress stems not necessarily from the science itself. I think in the last year or two, you've seen some shift in the Republican Party from outright denying the science to instead talking about how they're not a scientist, but we don't like the solutions that President Obama is putting on the table to address climate change. And so I think when we talk about how to address climate change and the significance of this encyclical, I think it's an indication of a changing sentiment. And I think it will help change the Republican's Party mindset overall, over time.

  • 10:35:01

    HARDERBut right now, I think you will still see comments from the Republican Party about how they don't want taxes on the economy. They don't want this to hurt the economy. And that's what they'll come back to, absent a compelling response directly to the encyclical, they will come back to how this could hurt the economy, instead of the direct points on the science itself.

  • 10:35:18

    REHMBob Destro.

  • 10:35:19

    DESTROWell, I think the pope has done the Republicans a favor here, that he's given them a moral framework in which to address these questions. And his predecessor, Benedict XVI wrote eloquently about the relationship for -- with -- between faith and reason. Basically, God gave you a brain. Use it. And so the question of how do you address these questions, how do we engage the core -- I mean, I can imagine the left will get very upset if a Republican says, so let's go back to nuclear power. You know, because that will certainly affect, you know, carbon pollution. So, I mean, the solutions here are not any easier. But there's a different language. He's given us a good language here.

  • 10:36:00

    REHMAnd I want to talk about or hear about that language, Father Reese. Because he, himself -- the pope, himself, has a scientific background and is able to communicate in very clear language to all of us exactly what he has in mind. Isn't that something that is totally a plus in terms of this particular encyclical?

  • 10:36:39

    REESEYou're absolutely right. The pope did have a scientific training before he entered the seminary. And he was trained as a chemist and he actually worked as a chemist before he entered the seminary. And you're absolutely right, also, in his ability to communicate. While it's true that earlier popes talked about environmental issues. The problem with the way that earlier popes spoke and wrote was that it often came across like academic dissertations. They were not user friendly. They were not -- it was not prose that really sang. This pope knows how to write almost like a journalist. He's a very, very good communicator and that makes a big difference.

  • 10:37:29

    REHMFather Thomas Reese, he's senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. We'll take a short break, more of your calls, your emails, when we come back. Stay with us.

  • 10:40:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about the Pope's encyclical on climate change, urging us all to recognize this as a moral issue facing each and every single person on the planet. Let's go to David in Columbia, Missouri. You're on the air.

  • 10:40:29

    DAVIDHi Diane. Thank you very much for your relevant show and topic.

  • 10:40:33

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:40:33

    DAVIDThe comment that I was going to make has been covered already. Basically that I'm glad that the Pope has put the Catholic Church on the right side of history. I myself am not Catholic, but I've been very interested in this conversation and have translated some of the leaked document earlier this week. To me, the status of women is another important and relevant topic for the Pope to address. Because it will help elevate people out of poverty. And some of those comments have been made quite a lot. So, just thank you for having this discussion today.

  • 10:41:25

    REHMAnd thanks for your call, David. Amy Harder, I want to ask you about the meeting in Paris later this year to attack climate change. What will the encyclical mean for those talks?

  • 10:41:48

    HARDERWell, we've talked a lot today about how previous Popes have talked about the environment. I think the significance of Pope Francis's focus is it's not only because he's doing it so aggressively, but also because of the timing. President Obama has made climate change a legacy of his Presidency and of course, you mention the UN climate talks are coming up in December, so I think the context is incredibly important for that. I think this adds, the encyclical adds momentum and political support for those talks.

  • 10:42:17

    HARDERWhen December comes and it's the 11th hour of these negotiations, and world leaders are discussing, you know, the nitty gritty of these details, of how to address climate change and cut carbon emissions, I don't think the Pope's message will really be a deciding factor at that point in time. I don't think the Pope's message is -- helps to change things overnight, but over the long term, it will add momentum to these talks. That, no matter the outcome, which are already being downplayed by a lot of the supporters of the climate talks, I think it will add the needed basis for the world to come together and to understand the significance of why the talks, the climate talks, are important.

  • 10:42:56

    REHMAnd Canon Bingham, what about the people, what about the leaders of India and China and how they might weigh in on the issues of climate change at the end of the year, including the encyclical?

  • 10:43:16

    BINGHAMWell, it's hard for me to say how the folks in India and China are going to respond to the Pope's encyclical, but I do think that there's six months between now and the climate talks and that Ban Ki-Moon has called for countries and corporations to make deep cuts in their carbon emissions and to bring, to announce those cuts ahead of the conferences, a conference, so that they can actually negotiate when they get there. And I think that that gives this particular UN climate conference a whole jump start on actually getting something done.

  • 10:44:00

    BINGHAMBecause these cuts have been announced ahead of time and I think that in the next six months, this Pope's message will have resonated with lots of people all over the world. Again, because of this moral dimension that we all have individual responsibility for taking care of each other and the planet. So, over time, when hearts and minds are changed, the politics follow. And I think that's what the Pope is hoping for, that individual people that have to look at themselves in the mirror and say, what does my conscience tell me? That that will make a difference when we get to Paris in December.

  • 10:44:41


  • 10:44:42

    HARDERI think one other development that, perhaps could even be a larger catalyst for change in the UN talks than what the Pope has said, is the last couple of weeks, six or so major European oil and natural gas companies signed on to a letter supporting a carbon tax, some sort of price on carbon. That's significant. It also reflects how different the US oil and natural gas industry is compared to its counterparts. The US oil and gas industry is not signing on to that letter, but I think that's significant.

  • 10:45:09

    HARDERThat the industry that will be hurt, perhaps the most by these climate talks, are getting on board and getting to the table. And I think that's very significant.

  • 10:45:17

    REHMAnd Father Reese. Here's an email from Rudy, who says only in America is the environment a political issue. The weather is not controlled by Congress. It has to be dealt with all over the world. Is our duty to protect our environment so that the next generation will have a proper place to live in? It is not a political byline. How do you see it?

  • 10:45:51

    REESEI think he's absolutely right. You know, one of the central questions in the encyclical is what kind of an Earth do we want to leave to our children and our grandchildren? An Earth that's polluted and in a disastrous state? The Pope talks about the Earth as a gift that's on loan to us. That we have for a time, but then we have to pass on to future generations. It's not ours to simply exploit and to destroy for our own short term self-interest. It's a gift for all of human kind.

  • 10:46:30

    REESEAnd it's also -- has value, intrinsic value in its own self. The animals, the plants, the biodiversity. These are all things that are God's creation and for us to just willy-nilly destroy it is a sacrilege against God.

  • 10:46:51

    REHMAll right, let's go now to Birmingham, Alabama. Ali, you're on the air.

  • 10:46:58

    ALIThank you. I love your show. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:47:00

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:47:02

    ALIJust from a Muslim perspective on Pakistani Muslim living in America, we find resonance in what the Pope has said. Giving it sort of a moral perspective and it is a common thing that I hope it sort of jumpstarts a conversation about climate change from a moral and religious perspective in our mosques. So, I'm glad that the Pope has generated this conversation, and I hope that the world's Muslim, a lot of which are living in countries that are directly affected by climate change can contribute to this conversation from moral and religious perspectives. Thank you.

  • 10:47:38

    REHMAnd thanks for your call. Bob Destro, what about this? Do you believe we could truly see change as a result of this encyclical?

  • 10:47:54

    DESTROWell, I certainly think you're going to see change in the debate. And one of the things that the -- we haven't touched on here is some of the other issues the Pope has talked about. He's talked about other forms of energy. He's talked about the coming wars over water. I mean, these are -- you know, if you look at the situation in the Middle East, for example, a lot of that is a fight over oil and a lot of it's a fight over water. And if you take the -- one of the current, hot issues, like the Iran/Saudi Arabia problem.

  • 10:48:26

    DESTROI mean, do we want both of those countries to have access to the nuclear fuel cycle so that they can generate electricity with nuclear power? I mean, these are the kinds of issues, it's not just let's beat our breast and say, we need to take a moral stand. The question is, okay, use your brain. What do you want to do now?

  • 10:48:46

    REHMAll right. And here's a technical question from Joe in Fort Meyers, Florida. Bob Destro, he says, I know there is a hierarchy of papal proclamation. Where does the encyclical fit in? Is it merely opinion, or is it something Catholics are directed to follow?

  • 10:49:12

    DESTROWell, this is not a dogma, by any stretch of the imagination. But he's giving you a moral framework, and there's nothing in this moral framework that anybody who's, at least remotely acquainted with Catholic moral teaching, is not going to -- they're not going to fight with the framework. The framework is just what we learned in grade school.

  • 10:49:33

    REHMBut what about the climate deniers, Father Reese, who may be among the Roman Catholics. How will they see this?

  • 10:49:45

    REESEWell, I think that, you know, an encyclical like this is presenting moral values that, I mean, it gets back to the simple Gospel message that do unto others as you want them to do unto you. And love one another as I have loved you. That's pretty basic Christian teaching. Now, the more specific the Pope gets, for example, he has a discussion of credit, carbon credits. And he is, you know, he has questions about whether that's going to work and whether it's a good idea or not. The more specific he becomes, the less authoritative he becomes in terms of church teaching.

  • 10:50:31

    REESEAnd, you know, and he acknowledges, he's not the answer man. He doesn't have all the answers. He's inviting all of us into a conversation, into a dialogue to work together to find solutions to the climate crisis, and also to other environmental issues, like clean water, chemical pollutions and the desecration. And the decline of fishing in our oceans and the disaster that's going on there. There's all of these things that we have to put our heads together to deal with.

  • 10:51:12

    REESEAnd not just as individuals. This is not just a call for individuals. This is a call for community action, because he sees the climate as a common good. The Earth is a common good that's the responsibility of the community to protect.

  • 10:51:28


  • 10:51:28

    HARDERI think one thing that we all need to be humble about is the fact that a lot of the impacts of climate change are already happening. And I don't know if the Pope gets into this in much detail in his encyclical, and I'm sure Father Reese would know better than I, but the UN and its climate assessment says that the impacts of climate change are baked into the equation, no pun intended, for the next couple of centuries. So, I think a greater discussion on adapting to the warmer planet that we're living on now is something that should not be overshadowed about the urgent need to cut emissions for impacts to be less bad in the future. Whether that's two or three centuries out.

  • 10:52:06

    REHMAnd what do you think we may see coming from Republican candidates for the Presidency?

  • 10:52:15

    HARDERI think many Republican candidates will try to just not comment too extensively on this. Because it's complicated. Religion has been a big part of the Republican party's platform over the years, and so I think they're being -- they're taking their time to respond. I think Jeb Bush's comments this week is one way that they'll try to get around this. They're not criticizing what the Pope has said, but they're also trying to reframe this as an economic and political issue. Which is something that appeals to them more on the campaign trail than any sort of moral issue.

  • 10:52:47

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Canon Bingham, I know you've dedicated your life to the intersection of environment and religion. Why do you believe that religion belongs in this particular conversation?

  • 10:53:11

    BINGHAMWell, I think that history will play out that no big major cultural change in this country, and our ministry has been focused on the United States, no major cultural change has happened without the moral voice of religion. Whether it was abolition of slavery, women's rights to vote and educate children, and most recently, the civil rights movement, all led by really scripture. I mean, Martin Luther King was a religious man. And I believe that when the moral voice of religion gets into the dialogue about solutions for climate change, that it will be the game changer.

  • 10:53:54

    BINGHAMAnd I truly believe that this encyclical from Pope Francis is going to be a game changer, because up until now, money and politics have been trumping faith. But when a Pope as popular as this one talks and reaches, which I think he will, the hearts and minds of politicians, the politics will change, and it might even be -- it might be the notion that can get it out of politics. And into what he's calling for, which is serious, deep discussions about how is this affecting the poor people? So, I just am very -- I hope it's not naïve, but I'm very, very optimistic that this is, will be the game changer.

  • 10:54:38

    BINGHAMI think this Pope is a pastor more than a ruler, and I think he talks and writes (unintelligible) normal people can understand. So, I'm very hopeful that this will be the game changer.

  • 10:54:53

    REHMAnd Father Tom Reese, what do you think? How big a role should religion play in the environment and climate change issue?

  • 10:55:05

    REESEI think it's going to be absolutely essential. You know, religion has the power to motivate people to do extraordinary things. Sometimes bad.

  • 10:55:17


  • 10:55:18

    REESEOften times, good. And, you know, if, and this encyclical is an invitation to all religious leaders to get together, not just a Catholic thing, but Muslims and Hindus and Jews and all people to get together and talk about this and how we can protect God's creation. Because I think that's one thing that we all share in common. And this is extremely important, because religion can motivate people to self-sacrifice. Religion can motivate people to communal action, working together. And, you know, we're not going to deal with this crisis without that kind of religious motivation involved.

  • 10:56:14

    REHMThis morning, I had an email from Michael Lerner, the publisher of Tikkun Magazine, saying that that group is totally in support of the Pope's encyclical. I want to thank you all so much for this discussion this morning. Robert Destro of the Catholic University. Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal. Father Thomas Reese of the National Catholic Reporter. And the Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, founder and President of Interfaith Power and Light. It was a grand discussion. Thank you all.

  • 10:57:04

    REESEThank you.

  • 10:57:05

    HARDERThank you.

  • 10:57:05

    DESTROThank you.

  • 10:57:07

    REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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