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Do US Catholics share Pope Francis’ environmental concerns?

Cross with leaves, environment, laudato si

Godongphoto | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 02/12/23

Catholic responses reflected similar differences reflected in the greater US population, and opinions are largely split by political party.

Pope Francis has long provided instruction on care for the environment as a central issue addressed by his papacy. In 2015, the encyclical Laudato Si‘ called on all Catholics and people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to combat environmental degradation. A new study has found that many Catholics in the United States are not as enthusiastic about the matter.

The results of a recent survey from Pew Research Center found that 57% of Catholics consider global climate change to be an extremely or very serious problem. This portion of Catholics fell exactly in line with the total responses of all Americans (57%), and was slightly higher than the total of all US Christian denominations (50%). 

Concerns over climate change are split largely along political party lines. Catholic Democrats, or those who lean towards the Democratic Party, were far more likely to prioritize the environment, with 82% calling climate change a serious problem. Meanwhile, the other side of the aisle places little importance on climate change, with only a quarter (25%) of Catholic Republicans and those leaning to the Republican Party answering in line with their counterparts. 

There were also large gaps to be found when Catholic respondents were examined by race and ethnicity. Hispanic Catholics responded that climate change was an extremely or very serious problem at a rate of 71%. White non-Hispanic Catholics, however, did not share these concerns with less than half (49%) placing great weight on the environmental issues. Pew noted that there were not enough Black or Asian Catholics surveyed to present a suitable analysis.

While there were great differences to be seen between political affiliation and ethnicity, when divided by age the numbers were a bit closer to a consensus. Of those aged 18-49, 61% considered global climate change to be a serious problem, while this figure only dropped to 53% in responses from those aged 50 or greater. 

Overall, Catholics were no more likely than any other group of Americans to cite climate change as an extremely serious problem. The differing opinions of Catholics, however, do reflect similar splits in the wider US population. As for the belief that human activity is responsible for the lion’s share of climate change, only 54% of Catholics agree. A solid quarter of US Catholics, however, believe that recorded climate change is part of a greater natural pattern and 9% say there is no solid evidence that the world is getting warmer. 

Read the full report at Pew Research Center.

CatholicCatholicismPope FrancisUnited States
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