October 13, 2023

Director of global Laudato Si’ Action Platform reflects on ‘Laudate Deum’

By Natalie Hoefer

As global director of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform and as a member of the archdiocese’s Creation Care Ministry, John Mundell anxiously awaited the publication of the Pope Francis’ Oct. 4 apostolic exhortation “Laudate Deum” (“Praise God”).

The document is a follow-up to the pope’s 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”

“The document, as we expected, concludes that things are getting worse [regarding the climate crisis], and we haven’t been doing enough to fix it,” said Mundell, president and senior environmental consultant for Mundell & Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting services organization in Indianapolis.

The text of “Laudate Deum” is not long, 15 pages with six chapters totaling 73 paragraphs.

“The first chapter stresses the technological paradigm, that nature is not a resource to be exploited without end, and recognizing our current use of those resources is not sustainable and technology is not the solution,” explained Mundell, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.

He described the other chapters as “addressing the weakness of current international policies, the pope’s thoughts on the progress and failures of past [United Nations’ Conference of Parties—COP] climate conferences,” and the pope’s thoughts on the upcoming COP conference in Dubai on Nov. 30-Dec. 12.

The pope is asking participants of that conference “to do something significant to avoid doom and gloom to humanity,” said Mundell. “It’s a warning shot.”

He called the document’s last chapter, “Spiritual Motivations,” the “most intense chapter.”

“The pope really sets out the reasons why faith is the motivation in this crisis: Faith gives the strength to our human hearts and allows us to transform our lives and transform our goals and shed new light on our relationship with creation as a whole,” Mundell said.

“He talks about how we are not separate from creatures, that we are interconnected. Human life is not sustainable without other creatures. We need them as much as they need us. We have a special family bond, like St. Francis of Assisi’s [canticle of] ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon.’ ”

What Mundell found “most significant” about “Laudate Deum” were the last two paragraphs, in which Pope Francis states:

“If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact. As a result, along with indispensable political decisions, we would be making progress along the way to genuine care for one another.

“ ‘Praise God’ is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies” (#72-73).

“Leaving that part to the end really makes us from the U.S. and the U.S Catholic Church aware that the pope is aware that we have a real responsibility to make a lifestyle change,” said Mundell. “He points out that we make some of the most significant impact on climate change in the world.

“That last line reminds us that we are not God, that only God is God. I think that’s another shot across the bow in remembering the humble spirit we need.” †


Related story: Archdiocese is one of 10 in the U.S. to submit Laudato Si’ Action Platform plan

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