Ten Things to Know About the Politics of the New Encyclical

CAGLIARI, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with young people on September 22, 2013 in Cagliari, Italy. Pope Francis heads to Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia for a pastoral visit that includes celebrating mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria. The Pope announced in May that he wished to visit the Marian Shrine of Bonaria or 'Good Air' because it gave his hometown of Buenos Aires its name. During his 10-hour visit to the city of Cagliari, the Pope will also meet workers, business representatives, prisoners, the poor, young people, leading representatives from the world of culture and the island's Catholic bishops. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Deal W. Hudson

June 25, 2015

The new papal encyclical, Laudato si’, is already a factor in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats are thrilled at having the “appearance” of support from Pope Francis. The Republican Party, which needs Catholic voters to win elections, should pay close attention to the impact of the encyclical on attitudes of Catholics previously skeptical of climate change enthusiasts.

Below, I attempt to describe the political dynamics set in play from now until election day that are primarily an attempt to distract Catholic voters from the importance of settled, non-negotiable Catholic moral teachings about life, marriage, and the family.

1. It should always be kept in mind that there are two encyclicals, the one written by the pope, and the other being reported by the media — they are not the same, not even close.

2. The media version of the encyclical is designed to benefit Democrats and hurt Republicans, specifically to drive a wedge between Catholic voters and the GOP and offset the 50-year migration of Catholic voters to the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan (as described in my 2010 book on religion and politics).

3. The media version of the encyclical was a hook set for GOP presidential candidates, especially those who are Catholic, enticing them to criticize the encyclical and thereby appear at odds with Pope Francis and “Church teaching.”

4. Several GOP candidates have already swallowed the hook, blasting the encyclical before its release, before even reading it, leading to headlines about their rejection of “Catholic teaching” on “climate change.”

5. GOP candidates should have refused comment until reading the actual encyclical. They could have said after reading it, “I applaud Pope Francis for reminding all of us of our need and responsibility as stewards of God’s creation.”

6. When pressed on the specifics of climate change in the encyclical, the GOP candidates should simply quote the encyclical:

“There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” (Laudato si’, Part 188; emphasis added)


7. The media will press and badger GOP candidate for specifics, but the candidates can reiterate that the encyclical itself calls for “open debate” and does not “settle scientific questions.”

8. Catholic candidates should point out that banging the drum on climate change is just another tactic for Democrats to draw attention away from their support for abortion on demand, federal funding for abortion, and gay marriage. A candidate’s public policy position on climate change is not the moral equivalent of positions on abortion, marriage, euthanasia, and fetal stem cell research.

9. The political use of the encyclical will be a battle staged in the media, among Catholic associations, and in parishes. It’s the responsibility of all Catholics to challenge misrepresentations of Laudato si’, particularly when they are used to bash a political party or candidate.

10. Apart from challenging the deliberate misrepresentations of the encyclical, the best political response for Catholics is to have read Laudato si’, enabling themselves to speak positively about its spiritual vision of a creation protected and restored by those human persons to whom God has entrusted it.

One final word: Catholic voters should realize that the media and the Catholic Left, with a few exceptions, will make no attempt at fairness in discussing this encyclical — there will be and already has been deliberate, strategic misrepresentation and dishonesty.


By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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