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January 19, 2015

Vatican Lauds Commons in Fight Against Climate Chaos

The coming Encyclical from Pope Francis to emphasize Catholic teachings on protecting future generations

(By Catholic Church of England and Wales under a Creative Commons license)

Understanding the commons is critical for saving us from climate chaos.  The fact that we all depend on the earth’s atmosphere for survival provides a strong foundation for new policies to protect us from polluters who wantonly jeopardize everyone’s future. 

This view is being voiced frequently on the frontlines of green activism. But it’s also being heard in unexpected places too, such as the Vatican.

Pope Francis, who already won the hearts of many commoners with his full-hearted embrace of social equity for the world’s poor, is now invoking the commons in his coming encyclical about climate change, according to Nathan Schneider, a columnist for the influential Jesuit magazine America: The National Catholic Review.

“This is a different way of thinking about economics that’s part of the Catholic tradition,” Schneider said on Democracy Now....“Pope Francis talking about the environment, about creation, is not an innovation.  It’s a response to a contemporary crisis, but it goes way back.  It goes back to the scriptures, to Genesis.”

“[The] concept was integrally part of Catholic legal tradition that all things are the common inheritance of human beings, that property is a kind of subset of that, and that, ultimately, it is incumbent on all people to protect the planet and ensure that it is protected for generations to come,” Schneider continues.

The official teachings of the church articulate a vision of the commons: “The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind.” [Catechism of the  Roman Catholic Church, no. 2403]

Schneider notes that the 10,500-student University of Dayton was among the first American universities to divest their investments from fossil fuel producers, and that a number of other Catholic organizations are looking at similar actions.