This past week the momentum to the much-anticipated release of Pope Francis’ new encyclical Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home took an interesting turn with the leak of an advanced draft in Italian. Suddenly, Google translate was bombarded with requests by fans and critics of Francis to translate this massive text (with over 246 paragraphs) from Italian. What would it say? How might it impact the US elections?
The Vatican quickly responded by announcing that the embargo was still in effect and requested media not to report on the draft. Theologians, church officials, and journalists debated meaning of “embargo.” The leaker, Sandro Magister (who is not seen as a supporter of Francis’ agenda) even lost his credentials from the Holy See Press office. Daily Theology generally followed other Catholic media outlets and websites in not reporting on the content of the draft.
While the leak must have increased the sales of antacids near the Vatican this past week, it has thankfully not taken away too much of the thunder from the official release which is scheduled for June 18th. To be honest I initially feared that this would be the case and worried that this may have been intentional. The fact that more reporting has not been done on the radical statements within the encyclical is amazing. Catholic social justice groups and bishops’ conferences have been diligently planning for months how they would roll out the news of the encyclical’s release. A leaked version of the text, many of us feared, might take away the power of a coordinated release.
If you think about it, it is rather impressive that more copies were not leaked. Thousands of advance versions (in multiple languages) have been distributed around the world to bishops, Catholic organizations, and select Catholic media. So in many ways, the real story not the leak, but the impressive lid that the Catholic church maintained on this highly sensitive text.
In addition to facilitating a coordinated response to the encyclical, the release date is also symbolically significant. Dates of official documents are important in the Catholic tradition. Generally, they often reflect church feast dates. For example, I was expecting this document to be released on the feast day of St. Francis in October or another date linked to a church feast.
Al Gore and Pharrell Williams’s impact on Catholic Social Teaching
In the lead up to this most important international meeting on climate change, Al Gore (who has said he could become Catholic because of this pope) and Pharrell Williams at the World Economic Forum announced June 18th as the launch of a mobilizing campaign in the tradition of other social justice mega concerts, such as Live Aid (1985) and Live 8 (2005). This year’s effort is the second round of the #Live Earth campaign. The first took place in 2007.
While many of us may not have heard of Live Earth, the promoters hope that this series of concerts leading up to the Paris will be the largest global “media event” with a billion voices calling for climate action with music concerts in cities around the planet. Whether or not this proposed music action actually has an impact is yet to be seen. What is for sure is that June 18th will be marked as an important day in the struggle to address climate change as it marks a new phase in the Catholic Church’s commitment to heal a broken planet and serve the needs of the poor who are disproportionally impacted by climate change.
As with any social encyclical or church teaching, Laudato Si’ will only have an impact if we organize for it. We have several months to go to Paris. Pressure needs to be placed on governments to take effective action, because the future of our planet, and especially the poor, depends on what we do now.
Watch the video announcement of Live Earth here: