Pope Francis is to be commended for his new encyclical “Laudato Si,” issued May 24. It lines up with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. It calls for cutbacks in fossil fuel use and for richer nations to help poorer ones. It was met with negative reactions from conservatives and Republican presidential aspirants, though it is expected to advance efforts to deal with climate change.
The encyclical was disappointing, however, because it reiterated the Vatican’s irrational, patriarchalist, and damaging ban on contraception and abortion: it is a ban widely ignored and opposed by Catholics worldwide but intimidating to many politicians in the United States and elsewhere. While Francis said in January that Catholics do not need to “breed like rabbits,” he refused to back down on the Church’s contraception ban. Interestingly, when he visited the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines in January, public opinion there strongly supported the country’s Supreme Court, which had recently approved a national law providing free contraceptive care for women, which the Filipino Church hierarchy had bitterly opposed.
Here is how I put it in the influential National Catholic Reporter in February: