“This project critically and constructively explores U.S. Catholic bishops’, priests’, and parishes’ engagement with Pope Francis’s climate change teaching in Laudato Si’. ”
For thirty years, the Catholic Church has recognized climate change as an urgent moral issue. Since Laudato Si’ (LS), however, anecdotal evidence suggests that U.S. Catholic bishops, priests, and parishes have generally not engaged the encyclical’s climate change teaching consistent with the church’s evangelical mission.
The proposed project will conduct three interrelated studies to assess–and help reform if necessary–U.S. Catholic engagement with LS climate change teaching. Findings will be disseminated via scholarly articles, a monograph, and conference proceedings.
The first study will use content analysis to assess U.S. Catholic bishop’s integration of LS climate change teaching into regular diocesan newspaper columns from June 2014 (one year prior to LS) and June 2018. The researchers will compare findings to how bishops addressed abortion, marriage, and immigration, explain engagement discrepancies, and offer reformatory recommendations.
The second study will use a statistical model to examine predictors of U.S. Catholic bishops’ engagement with LS climate change teaching in diocesan columns from June 2015 – June 2018. The dependent variable will be constructed from the first study, and the independent variables will include ecclesial and place-based sociopolitical factors. Findings can guide reform strategies.
The third study will distribute a national survey to assess U.S. Catholic bishops’, priests’ and parishes’ integration of LS climate change teaching into several ministries. In particular, respondents will identify engagement catalysts and barriers. The researcher will identify explanatory patterns and offer reformatory recommendations.
The project is important to U.S. Catholics and North American Christians because it critically-constructively addresses U.S. Catholic leaders’ and communities’ ministry to advance God’s Kingdom. It is important to society because it concerns the church’s effort to mitigate the existential threat of climate change.