Spoiler alert, Pope Francis’ radically groundbreaking, wildly left-leaning, seismic shift in Catholic teaching encyclical Laudato Si: On the Care of the Common Home has been “leaked” by the Italian newspaper L’Espresso, and it’s none of the things described above. The draft was leaked in Italian and isn’t the “official” version which will be released Thursday. The official version is under embargo, meaning the Vatican has asked journalists and newspapers not to release anything until the official version comes out. To honor that (unlike L’Espresso) I won’t be quoting from it here—I’ll only comment generally. But based on the unofficial Italian draft, it looks like we can already say “see, told you so!” My Italian isn’t great, but it’s good enough to be able to say that the encyclical breaks little new ground (at least not theologically or morally) it doesn’t lean left (or right, for that matter), nor is it a shift in Catholic teaching. It’s pretty much what most reliable Catholic sources have been suggesting it would be.
I anticipated 7 themes to emerge from the encyclical—they’re all there in the draft and I don’t expect Thursday to change anything. The draft quotes heavily from Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II and even includes the phrase “As my predecessor said…” verbatim (that’s the only quote I’ll give here). Called it. Even St. Thomas Aquinas is referenced, which is always a good sign. The draft also focuses on the effects of a distorted view of creation on the poor in particular, reiterates that the family is the fundamental “cell” of society, and links the care for creation to other aspects of human ecology. In other words, it’s not just about “the environment”, but about creation and more specifically, man’s unique role as its care-taker.
One welcomed point of relief is that the draft is critical of mistaken views of creation, especially those that do not include the special place of man in creation or worse, pit man against creation. And yes, it does discuss climate change and even attributes some of it to human activity. But to refer to the encyclical as a “climate change encyclical” as some outlets have done is way off the mark and at worst, intentionally misleading. It’s about much, much more, as we knew it would be.
Again, the leaked version is unofficial and Thursday’s release may include some additions or alterations, but it’s unlikely to be wildly different and could very well be identical. The encyclical will definitely surprise people and no doubt remain the cause of some controversy, even if only because secular news rarely gets it right when commenting on anything related to the Catholic faith. We’re called to evangelise the culture and I for one am hopeful for the discussion this encyclical will generate and glad that the Church is contributing her wisdom and voice to topics that desperately need Her clarity and vision.