Stephen Henderson talks with Fr. John Staudenmaier, Professor of History and Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity at the University of Detroit Mercy, about Pope Francis’ letter about the environment. They talk about the letter, Catholicism in US politics, and the direction Pope Francis is taking the Catholic Church.
- Political and intellectual influence: Staudenmaier says that the Pope’s letter on the environment is engaging the secular intellectual world. He says that he has not seen the Catholic Church do this in the same way since 1983 and 84, with the US Bishops’ letters on warfare and the economy.
- Presidential candidates: Staudenmaier says that this puts Republican presidential candidates who do not believe in climate change any have associated themselves to the Catholic Church in a tricky position. He says that these candidates do not seem to know how to respond.
- Shifting focus: Stephen points out that Pope Francis has begun to shift Catholic doctrinal focus away from abortion, homosexuality, and birth control and more to problems like starvation, inequality, and poverty. Staudenmaier agrees, and says that this is very “Jesuit” of him. Jesuit priests are known for their humanitarian efforts.
- Capitalism controversy: Staudenmaier says that the Pope’s claim that unbridled capitalism is a driving factor of climate change has caused a media controversy, because Americans as a culture are dyed-in-the-wool capitalists. He says that Americans have a belief in progress, technological innovation, and strategy that should not be interrupted for other interests, and the Pope’s letter challenges this belief to some extent.
- Revitalizing Catholic faith: A caller says that he has come back to the Catholic Church because he feels Pope Francis has moved the Church back towards key values like love and service. Staudenmaier tells an anecdote about a friend who has to delay publishing a book about why Americans stay in or leave Catholicism so that he can explore Francis’ influence.
Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.