Pope Calls Earth “An Immense Pile of Filth”

Francis takes on climate change in a new encyclical.

Pope Francis, everyone’s favorite cool pope, released an encyclical today, Laudato si. The encyclical is in English, fortunately, and it’s all about the environment and how rich people are greedy.

Two years ago, I wrote about how strange it was the Catholic Church actually elected a Jesuit as pope. What would the papacy of a priest from “the smart-aleck wise-asses of the priesthood” be like? I must admit, Pope Francis has exceeded all expectations.

Here’s how Pope Francis’ encyclical (an encyclical is basically a letter about how to be a good Catholic) begins:

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”

Uhhh… okay, it gets better from there. The next line is, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” This pope is a badass environmentalist! Not even Captain Planet would use language that strong.

I just read Francis’ encyclical. It’s the first one I’ve read since that Pope Pius XI one about birth control (I wanted to see if there really was a loophole that let married couples use condoms, which is how some Catholics read it). Here are some phrases Pope Francis uses in it:

  • global environmental deterioration
  • “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity
  • our present situation, which is in many ways unprecedented in the history of humanity
  • a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish
  • The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth
  • THE GAZE OF JESUS (section header)
  • the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products

There are sections about saving the animals. The pope talks about biodiversity, clean drinking water, pollution in cities, debt, economic inequality, the dangers of anthropocentrism (the idea that humans are the center of the universe) and also a bunch of stuff praising God.

The pope also praises St. Francis of Assisi, reminding us that that particular saint was super weird:

Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”

The pope reps his namesake by saying he talked to flowers! At heart, the pope is basically a liberal, Mother Earth-loving hippie. Which is, obviously, the best part about this encyclical: The Catholic Church’s stances that get the most attention are its conservative ones (abortion, sex), but at heart the Roman church is run by a bunch of empathetic socialists.


Watching the reaction to it is already fun. There was even a bit of espionage regarding the release. “Vatican officials were infuriated after an Italian magazine on Monday posted a leaked draft of the encyclical online — one that almost exactly matched the final document,” The New York Times reported. “The breach led to speculation that opponents of Francis inside the Vatican wanted to embarrass him by undermining the planned rollout.”

The Pope will be in Philadelphia on September 26th and 27th. Hopefully, the World Meeting of Families will be carbon neutral.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.