Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pope's Climate-Change Directive Challenges Catholics in 2016 Race

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pope's Climate-Change Directive Challenges Catholics in 2016 Race

Article excerpt

Pope Francis issued his long-anticipated directive on the environment Thursday with a firm eye on the United Nations' summit on climate change this December in Paris.

The controversial encyclical calls for a global revolution aimed at addressing climate change, environmental degradation, and the policies and personal practices throughout the world that have brought "exploitation of the planet" beyond "acceptable limits."

But the pope has also inserted himself directly into the 2016 presidential race - presenting a particularly tricky challenge to the Republican Roman Catholics in the race, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. Conservative Republican orthodoxy questions or denies global warming and man's role in it.

Mr. Bush seemed dismissive toward the encyclical earlier this week, after a draft of the document was leaked.

"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 cardinals or my pope," said Bush, a devout Catholic convert, at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

Bush said that he wanted to see what the pope says on climate change and "how it connects to broader, deeper issues" before passing judgment. But, he added, "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm."

Still, even as Bush seems to have set himself up for a sharp disconnect with the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics - increasingly known as the "liberal pope" - that doesn't have to happen, analysts say.

For many Catholic Republicans, "even though there are specific disagreements with this encyclical, there's nothing that represents a fundamental rupture," says Joseph Prud'homme, director of the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington College in Chestertown, Md.

"In good faith, a Catholic can say that this is a specific question about which we disagree" - climate change - "but that doesn't mean we don't have profound areas of overlap and agreement," Mr. Prud'homme adds.

He raises the example of President Ronald Reagan, who strived for an economy that lifted all boats.

"President Reagan and the pope in some respects are saying the exact same thing: We want to lift the hundreds of millions of people around the world in wretched poverty out of that poverty. We know one of the things that keeps them down is the environmental degradation that makes their life even harder," says Prud'homme. "The question is, how do we help them?"

For Bush and Rubio, in particular, climate change could be an especially tricky campaign issue, as they both hail from Miami, which is particularly vulnerable to the rise of sea levels.

At time of writing, Bush had not reacted to the encyclical post- release, nor had Senator Rubio or any of the other Republican Catholics running or thinking of running, including former Sen. …

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