ROME — An Italian magazine on Monday published what it claims to be a leaked copy of Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, including papal backing for the idea that human beings are primarily responsible for climate change, but the Vatican warned the document is a draft and should not be considered official.
Publication of a draft version of the encyclical, days before the official release date on Thursday, drew swift condemnation from Vatican officials, one of whom described it as “heinous.”
The news magazine L’Espresso published online in Italian what it described as the full text of Francis’ 192-page encyclical, which features strong language on global warming and climate change.
“There is a very consistent scientific consensus indicating we’re in the presence of an alarming warming of the climactic system,” the leaked version reads.
“Humanity is called to consciousness of the need for changes in styles of life, of production and consumption, to combat this warming, or, at least, the human causes that produce and exacerbate it,” the draft says.
While the vast majority of scientists agree that the earth’s climate is changing because of human activity, some climate change skeptics say there is no explanation for what is happening, or that changes in climate and temperature are part of a natural cycle.
The leaked document appears to allow room for the idea that natural forces contribute to climate change, but says, “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the major part of global warming in recent decades is due to the high concentration of greenhouse gas … emitted above all because of human activity.”
The leaked draft, divided into six chapters, calls climate change “one of the principal challenges now facing humanity” and laments that “the heaviest impact in the coming decades will probably fall on developing countries.”
“Laudato si,” (“Praised be!”), the name of the encyclical, is said to address the Gospel of creation, human roots of the ecological crisis, integral approaches to ecology, suggestions for action, and two prayers: one for the earth and another called “A Christian Prayer for Creation.”
Citing the 12th- and 13th-century St. Francis of Assisi, who referred to the earth as “sister,” the document published online Monday slams human exploitation of natural resources.
“This sister protests for the evil that we’ve caused due to irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has placed in her. We grew up thinking we were the earth’s owners and dominators, authorized to pillage it. Violence in the human heart wounded by sin shows itself also in the symptoms of disease that we see in the soil, the water, the air, and living creatures,” it says.
“The urgent challenge of protecting our common home includes the importance of uniting all the human family in search of a sustainable and integral form of development, because we know that things can change.”
The document appears to call for changes in how human beings use the earth’s resources and it also identifies as serious problems clean water and water shortages, loss of biodiversity, and general planetary pollution.
The Vatican has been working with the United Nations in recent months to highlight threats posed by climate change, leading critics to question how the Church could partner with an organization that promotes population control methods opposed by Catholic teaching.
The version of the document published by L’Espresso places distance between the Church and those who believe the planet is overpopulated.
It rejects the notion that technological fixes alone will solve the earth’s environmental challenges as well as the idea that human beings themselves are the problem. The answers do not lie in reducing “their presence on the planet,” an apparent jab at population control advocates.
The leaked document says that while there are can be legitimate diversity in approaches and remedies, “It’s enough to look at reality with sincerity to see that there’s a great deterioration in our common home.”
A Vatican official, speaking to Bloomberg News on Monday, called publishing the document before Thursday a “heinous act,” and various clergy urged media organizations to respect the official embargo date.
For example, a Chicago priest who helps the Vatican press office with Spanish-language media tweeted:
An Italian text of a draft of the Pope’s Encyclical “Laudato Si’” has been published. Please note that it is not the final text. (1/3)
— Fr. Manuel Dorantes (@TweetingPriest) June 15, 2015