Irish Priest Says the Environment Should be Top Priority for Pope Francis

Posted by on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Don’t get your hopes too high, pal.

As the shopkeepers in this capital city readied for St. Patrick’s Day under typically intermittent rainy skies, Father Sean McDonagh’s attention was on the new pope’s agenda.

The Columban priest, whose order has a long tradition of missionary work, has been an outspoken critic of Vatican policies. With Pope Francis’ honeymoon period underway he, like many, is waiting to see what issues will be at the center of the new papal agenda.

McDonagh, 69, believes Francis needs to go green, making environmentalism the No. 1 priority for the Catholic Church. And he’s willing to appeal to the sweet tooth to make his point.

“Do you like chocolate? You can almost be sure that in your lifetime…the cacao plant that produces chocolate, will be extinct. It’s a rain forest plant and we are taking over the habitat.” said McDonagh, who sat down this weekend with a group of USC students who are studying international reporting on religion.

But McDonagh said he doubts Pope Francis will embrace environmentalism.

Rome isn’t open to it,” he said. “It’s deaf and blind.”

Aw, isn’t that helpful?

How big a role religion plays in environmental issues is unclear. A September 2010 Pew study found that only 6% of American churchgoers said their religious beliefs are the biggest influence on what they think about tougher environmental laws. Those surveyed said education and the media had more influence in how they formed their opinions.


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