Interview With Sister Joan Chittister: Climate Change, Social Justice and Hope

BY ON October 21, 2015

 Sister Joan ChittisterThis is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Sister Joan Chittister:

What are your thoughts about Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si: Care of Our Common Home?

I said, “Thanks be to God.” We are finally seeing climate change as a theological issue as well as a scientific or ecological issue. This encyclical has no more to do with Catholicism than it does with Hinduism — it has an equal amount to do with each —  with the way human beings see their place in the universe and the nature of human community, and its implications.

It’s a phenomenal piece – I’m really struck by it. As far as I’m concerned, it will rank as one of the 5 best encyclicals that have ever been written. It is so beautiful. I strongly believe, that this should become a study program for every parish in the country — if they have the courage and the faith to do it. Because this calls into question the nature of capitalist Christianity.

Why would the Pope choose 2015 to address climate change?

Because other things cannot be resolved until this one is: attitudinally and theologically – also, economically and scientifically. Every one of the world’s problems goes right back to the theology of domination – which we have been teaching for centuries. And this raises the moral question: Does the fact that you can do something, give you the moral freedom to do it? With Pope Francis’ encyclical, we are no longer outliners.

Is the encyclical controversial?

It will be more controversial in the future than it is now. Corporations are going to move to squash, squelch, destroy, deflate, and dismiss every bit of the encyclical. Some of our great Catholic presidential candidates — those who are Catholic all over the television and Internet for their own political purposes – now want the Pope to stay in religion and not in science. But they wanted the Pope the way he was four years ago. If it has to do with women’s bodies, these politicians have no problem having the Pope in politics.

Did anything surprise you about the encyclical?

Yes and no. The whole letter surprised me – because of its scope, depth and tone. Its tone is so real – there is no theological jargon. It was as clear as the gospels. As simple as the issues.

What impact will this have on women and families across the globe?

I believe this Pope truly cares about the poor. In caring for the poor, he must care for women. Women are the poorest of the poor. Two-thirds of the poor are women, two-thirds of the hungry are women, two-thirds of the sick are women. Who carries the water? What happens when that water is poisoned? What happens when the water dries up? Who suffers? Women and children.

How do we maintain hope?

That is what we do as humans — we are hope, we embody hope, and we must have hope.


Joan Chittister is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. She is executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality and the founder and animator of Monasteries of the Heart, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers. Joan Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide — and has been one of America’s visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years. She the best-selling author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles, an online column for the National Catholic Reporter, and a blog for the Huffington Post.



TOPICS: Climate Change, Pennsylvania, Religion