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Chad Pecknold, associate professor of religion, published a reflection on Laudato Si in ABC Religion. See below.

'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis

From: ABC Religion
Date: June 19, 2015

The Saint and the Shire
Chad C. Pecknold, Catholic University of America

Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' could have been written by J.R.R. Tolkien. There are no Ents, but images of the Shire are evoked on every page. The first encyclical on the environment is not about climate change per se, but something more fundamental: "our common home." Largely the images are of a darkening world, Hobbiton under threat from Orc-like chimneys, but there are also images of the Shire as it was originally intended, as it once was, and as it could be again.

To speak of "our common home" brackets contentious political policy debates, and draws our imagination back to something intimate, something personal - something pre-political, if you will. "Home" calls to mind a family gathered round the hearth, children and parents around a dinner table, perhaps a yard with a swing, or a vegetable garden. Pope Francis evokes these very personal and intimate images to talk about an ecological crisis that threatens all of us.

As so often with this pope, his images are as powerful as the substance of his argument. And the pope's argument is simply this: Our turn away from God is at the root of our self-destructive path. We must return to God.

Pope Francis acknowledges a scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and that a large number of human factors are contributing to a self-destructive path. But he explains that science only gives us part of the picture, and the pope is anti-modern enough to say that only a return to harmony between God and creatures can save us.

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