The limited visibility and silence of Christian clergy might be due, in part, to how U.S. citizens categorize the issue of global warming. (Photo: Chuck Summers/Contemplative Images)
Thirty-one percent of all U.S. citizens and 40 percent of U.S. Roman Catholics have heard about Pope Francis' encyclical on ecology.
Released in mid-June, "Laudato Si" was largely overshadowed by the tragic church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, which took place the night before the document's release and was followed by debates regarding Confederate flag displays in front of government buildings.
The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago sought to measure the encyclical's reception and impact one month after its release through a nationwide poll, publishing the results last week.
In March 2015, only 6 percent had heard about the soon-to-be-released encyclical, AP-NORC explained.
Despite the 25 percent increase in awareness by mid-July, 61 percent of U.S. citizens still indicated that they had never heard of the encyclical.
The report offered some insight regarding the continued lack of visibility. "The papal encyclical on global warming has not been widely disseminated through religious services, as just 22 percent of those who had attended religious services in the past month report having heard it discussed by the service leader or another speaker."
In a series of Baptist responses to the encyclical appearing on EthicsDaily.com, executive editor Robert Parham lamented the silence of Baptists with regard to the pope's teaching document.
The AP-NORC survey reveals a broader, pervasive silence that transcends Baptists and permeates the U.S. Christian landscape, including Catholics.
The limited visibility and silence of Christian clergy might be due, in part, to how U.S. citizens categorize the issue of global warming.
Most survey respondents said it was an environmental (82 percent), scientific (76 percent) or political (56 percent) issue.
Only 39 percent saw it as a moral concern, while 25 percent categorized it as a matter of social justice, 18 percent as a poverty issue, and 9 percent as a religious topic.
"Catholics do not differ from other Americans in their perceptions of global warming as any of these types of issues," the survey noted, adding that the percentages of each categorization have not changed significantly since the encyclical's release.
Even with the limited reach and impact of the encyclical, the survey noted a 6 percent increase between March and July in respondents who affirmed that global warming is taking place.
Yet, as AP-NORC clarified, "Even as most Americans believe global warming is happening, few express a great deal of worry about its effects. Twenty-six percent say they are extremely or very worried about global warming, 37 percent say they are moderately worried, and 34 percent say they are not too or not at all worried."
The full report on the survey is available here.