Unpacking Laudato Si with Nicholas Napolitano

Jonathan Jordanides '17, Contributor

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After the inspiring talk from Bryan Stevenson regarding injustice, discrimination, poverty, and inequality—issues the Catholic church addresses frequently—the junior class continued on to Bulger, where they listened to a talk by Mr. Nicholas Napolitano of the Northeast Province of the Jesuits regarding the church’s stance on global climate change. Mr. Napolitano primarily addressed Laudato Si, a document written by Pope Francis, which was published just last year on May 24th. Laudato Si attempts to establish the reality of climate change, to explain the disproportionate immediate and long-term effects of global warming on poor individuals and underdeveloped nations, and to remind followers of the Catholic Church of their responsibility, along with all of humankind, to protect the earth, which, according to church doctrine, is sacred along with all of creation.

Though the presentation could only fit so much information from the lengthy encyclical into a one-hour talk, Mr. Napolitano was able to convey a significant number of details, providing the junior class with resources to further explore the topic by bringing awareness to multiple Catholic groups specifically devoted to the issue of climate change. By the end of the session, it was clear that the church had devoted plenty of time and effort, particularly in the forms of activism and writing, to the topic, though global warming often seems to fall low on the list of social justice-related priorities for members of the Catholic community (especially American Catholics in politics, both leaders and citizens alike).

Unfortunately, although the talk was informative, and despite the fact that the speaker was well-prepared and engaging, the junior class seemed to be less attentive than normal simply because they had trudged directly from Mr. Stevenson’s long speech to the climate change conversation. The talk was scheduled on a Friday, and while Bryan Stevenson had the advantage of speaking to a large audience in a well-lit gymnasium, Mr. Napolitano’s presentation was set in a dimly lit room with comfortable chairs, a combination destined to lure tired juniors to sleep after a long week, regardless of the critical nature of the information the powerpoint relayed. Despite these obstacles, however, the question-and-answer session at the end of the talk was fairly lively, and when Mr. Napolitano asked students how they would individually address the issue of climate change in their own (small or large) way, one student responded by vowing to not vote for a candidate who refuses to acknowledge the reality of man-made global warming in the face of vast amounts of scientific evidence (or one who does accept it, but does not propose a plan to solve it).

Overall, the talk served as a reminder of one of the most critical, yet most frequently overlooked, issues addressed by the Catholic Church. The insidious nature of climate change often allows more immediate and tangible problems, such as poverty, to overshadow it, but global warming, if not properly addressed soon by the leaders of major industrialized nations (with action, not just rhetoric), will directly exacerbate issues the church has been aiming to resolve for years.

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Unpacking Laudato Si with Nicholas Napolitano