A Dominican Theologian on Pope Francis’s Latest Encyclical

June 22, 2015

Pope Francis’s recently released encyclical on the environment has created quite a stir in the media.  Some commentators believe that the pope advances scientific as well as theological claims in the document (for St. Thomas Aquinas’s views on the division of the various branches of inquiry and their methodological distinctiveness, click here).  If Pope Francis makes claims beyond the scope of the doctrine of the faith, this raises an interesting question: to what extent are the contents of the new encyclical binding for Catholics? One theologian from the Province of St. Joseph has already considered the matter.  Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., S.T.D., vice-president and dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, offered his opinion in a recent interview with the Catholic News Agency:

“In the Church’s teaching, even in areas where we are allowed to disagree with the Pope, we are still expected to respect and to give it a fair hearing and to be docile to it. It doesn’t mean blindly accepting it, but it does mean not just outright dismissing it…  Even if it is true that science disproves some of what the Holy Father claims as erroneous, for example, about the causes of climate change, that does not negate from the obligation to be moral with regard to how we treat the climate, how we treat nature, and how we treat the excluded.”

To read the rest of Fr. Petri’s informative interview, click here.

Image: Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in the Desert, c. 1480, Frick Collection, New York.

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