Pope Francis Is Concerned About Climate Change. Do U.S. Catholics Care?

Pope Francis has frequently spoken about climate change during his decadelong leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2015, he devoted an entire encyclical to the matter, citing scientific consensus that the Earth is warming due to human activity. He predicted “serious consequences for all of us” if current trends continue.

Despite Francis’ outspokenness on the subject, not all Catholics in the United States share his concerns, and their views vary by political affiliation, race and ethnicity, and age.

How we did this

 

While 82% of Catholics who are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party say global climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, just a quarter of Republican or Republican-leaning Catholics say the same, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, 71% of Hispanic Catholics see climate change as an extremely or very serious problem, compared with 49% of White, non-Hispanic Catholics. (There were not enough Black or Asian Catholics in the 2022 survey to analyze separately.)

In addition, Catholics ages 18 to 49 are somewhat more likely than Catholics ages 50 and older to express a high level of concern about climate change (61% vs. 53%).

Broadly speaking, Catholics are no more likely than Americans overall to view climate change as a serious problem. An identical share in each group say global climate change is either an extremely or very serious problem (57%).

But views among Catholics differ, reflecting similar splits in the wider U.S. population. U.S. adults who are 49 or younger, Democratic, or identify as a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White are generally more likely than those who are 50 or older, Republican, or White to express concern about climate change.

Among U.S. adults overall, opinion about climate change is strongly tied to political partisanship. Democrats and Democratic leaners are far more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say that global climate change is an extremely or very serious problem (83% vs. 25%). This gap underlies much of the apparent differences in views among religious groups, including Catholics. Generally speaking, U.S. Catholics are politically evenly divided. But Catholics who are White or older are far more likely than those who are Hispanic or younger to be Republican.

Partisan and demographic differences in Catholics’ views of climate change extend to other environment-related topics, too. For example, just over half of Catholics (54%) say the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity – in line with the pope’s stance. A quarter say it is mostly warming due to natural patterns, while 9% say there is no solid evidence the planet is getting warmer. Catholics who are Democratic, younger or Hispanic are far more likely than those who are Republican, older or White to say the Earth is mostly warming due to human activity.

In addition to asking Americans about their own views on climate change, the 2022 Center survey asked respondents how much they hear about the topic in sermons.

Among those who attend religious services at least monthly, U.S. Catholics indicate that climate change is not discussed frequently from the pulpit. About one-in-ten (8%) say there is a great deal or quite a bit of discussion on climate change in sermons, while 50% say there is either some or a little discussion of it. About four-in-ten (41%) regular Mass attenders say there is no discussion of climate change.

Overall, 58% of Catholic service attenders say there is at least a little discussion of climate change in sermons, similar to the share of mainline Protestant attenders (62%), and much higher than the share of evangelical Protestant attenders who report this (40%).

Among Catholics who attend Mass at least monthly, 36% say they have heard at least a little about climate change in sermons and that those sermons always or often express the view that “we have a duty to care for God’s creation.” Smaller shares say sermons at their congregation always or often express “support for actions to limit the effects of climate change” (23%); “concern that policies aimed at reducing climate change give too much power to the government” (9%); or “the view that we don’t need to worry about climate change” (8%).

Pope Francis Reflects on Threefold Impact of Art at Critical Time in History

Pope Francis pointed to three characteristics of art that can play an important role during this challenging Christmas season in which “the somewhat dimmed Christmas lights invite us to keep in mind and to pray for all those suffering from the pandemic.”

His comments came when he received the musicians who participated in this year’s Vatican Christmas Concert, gather in a meeting room adjacent to the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. Artists everyone would no doubt appreciate his presentation of three artistic impacts:

“A first movement has to do with the senses, which are struck with wonder and amazement.  This initial, outer movement then leads to others, more profound.

“A second movement touches the depths of our heart and soul.  A composition of colors, words, or sounds has the power to evoke within us memories, images, and emotions…

“There is a third movement, in which the perception and contemplation of beauty generates a sense of hope that can light up our world.”

In light of the pandemic, the Holy Father praised the hope that art brings and thanked the musicians for their participation in the concert.

Following are the Holy Father’s full remarks, provided by the Vatican.

Dear artists and dear friends,

I greet all of you most cordially and I thank you for your presence.  This year, the somewhat dimmed Christmas lights invite us to keep in mind and to pray for all those suffering from the pandemic.  In this situation, we have come to realize even more powerfully how dependent we are on one another.  Our gathering today gives me an opportunity to share with you a few thoughts on art and its role at this critical moment in our history.

We can speak of artistic creation in terms of three “movements”.  A first movement has to do with the senses, which are struck with wonder and amazement.  This initial, outer movement then leads to others, more profound.

A second movement touches the depths of our heart and soul.  A composition of colors, words, or sounds has the power to evoke within us memories, images, and emotions…

Yet artistic creation does not stop here.  There is a third movement, in which the perception and contemplation of beauty generates a sense of hope that can light up our world.  The outer and inner movements merge and in turn affect our way of relating to those all around us.  They generate empathy, the ability to understand others, with whom we have so much in common.  We sense a bond with them, a bond no longer vague, but real and shared.

This threefold movement of wonder, personal discovery, and sharing produces a feeling of peace, which – as the example of Saint Francis shows – frees us from the desire to dominate others, makes us sensitive to their difficulties, and prompts us to live in harmony with all.[1]  A harmony deeply associated with beauty and goodness.

That association is very much a part of the Jewish and Christian tradition.  The Book of Genesis – in speaking of God’s creative work – emphasizes that he contemplated his creation and “saw that it was good” (Gen 1:12.18.25).  In Hebrew, that word “good” has a wide range of meanings, and can also be translated as “harmonious”.[2]  Creation amazes us by its magnificence and variety, while at the same time making us realize, in the face of that grandeur, our own place in the world.

Artists know this. As Saint John Paul II wrote, they “perceive in themselves a kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation”, and are called “not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbor and of humanity as a whole”.[3]

In his famous Message to Artists on 8 December 1965, at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Saint Paul VI described them as being “in love with beauty”.[4]  He noted, too, that our world “needs beauty in order not to sink into despair”.[5]  Amid the anxiety provoked by the pandemic, your creativity can be a source of light.  The crisis has made even denser the “dark clouds over a closed world” (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 9-55), and this might seem to obscure the light of the divine, the eternal.  Let us not yield to that illusion, but seek the light of Christmas, which dispels the darkness of sorrow and pain.

Dear artists, in a special way you are “guardians of beauty in our world”.[6]  I thank you for your spirit of solidarity, which is all the more evident in these days.  Yours is a lofty and demanding calling, one that requires “pure and dispassionate hands”[7] capable of transmitting truth and beauty.  For these instill joy in human hearts and are, in fact, “a precious fruit that endures through time, unites generations and makes them share in a sense of wonder”.[8]  Today, as always, that beauty appears to us in the lowliness of the Christmas crèche.  Today, as always, we celebrate that beauty with hearts full of hope.

I am deeply grateful to Don Bosco Missions and Scholas Occurrentes for the commitment and spirit of service with which they are responding to the educational and health emergency through their projects inspired by the Global Compact on Education. Again, thank you, best wishes and enjoy the concert!

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