American Catholic Schools Embrace Pope’s Climate Change Encyclical

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Pope Francis released his encyclical last Thursday condemning consumerism for turning the planet into a “pile of filth,” and Catholic archdioceses around the nation are now planning to include his message in their curriculum.

“I think [the encyclical] charges every human being with protecting and caring for the physical environment and that’s long overdue,” Margaret Dames, superintendent for the Archdiocese of Newark, told National Journal.

Diane Starkovish, superintendent of Catholic schools in Atlanta, said, “As teachers plan for the fall, particularly in high schools, I can see our theology faculty reading this and looking to make sure we are covering this in all our curricula.”

Almost 2 million students, pre-K through grade 12 attend Catholic schools in the United States.

This push to add climate change related education isn’t only in Catholic Schools. The Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison, which assists low-income and immigrant populations, offers environment education programs, and welcomes the encyclical as affirming the importance of taking care of the environment.

The pope’s encyclical states that, “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

“We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that the problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.”

The archdiocese of Atlanta, home to 25 private schools and 12,000 students, seeks to incorporate these teachings into its curriculum, trying to create a culture that will encourage students to look look critically at the impact of consumer choices.

While the concept of environmental education is not new to Catholic schools, with four schools earning Green Ribbons from the EPA in 2014. This encyclical has caused a sense of urgency in Catholic encyclicals.

Archbishop Wilton D.Gregory, of Atlanta’s archdiocese, said, “The Holy Father wants us all to take seriously the issues that face our planet,” he has asked for scientists at the University of Georgia to help parishes reduce their carbon footprint

It isn’t only Catholic primary and secondary schools that are heeding to Pope Francis’ writings,” The encyclical is notable for its detail — The scientific language and specific of information allows Francis to head off at the pass accusations that he should stay out of science. The underlying message is that the chemist knows his stuff,” said Candida R. Moss professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame University.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, less than half of Catholics believe that humans are behind global warming. From the same survey, a minority of Catholics thought that global warming was a serious problem.