Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be You”), has been one of the most widely anticipated papal documents in recent memory. It has also received far more popular commentary than would be expected of a papal encyclical. Yet, while Laudato Si’ has been widely dubbed “the climate change” encyclical, it is far broader than that. It is also a far-reaching analysis of a number of political, economic, social and legal issues, in addition to being an extensive exposition on human duties toward creation.
In the text of this encyclical, there are also some important lessons to be gleaned for attorneys, and that is what these reflections explore: What does Laudato Si’ mean for the legal professional? What does Pope Francis’ reflection on “our common home” have to teach attorneys about their common profession? His encyclical is an invitation for attorneys to reflect anew on their obligations toward each other, to the clients who entrust them with so many things, to the ideals of justice that profession and promise bind them to uphold, and to the passion for what is right and good that drew them to a common vocation a few, or many, years ago.
Woven throughout Laudato Si’ is the theme of stewardship – the obligation to care for all that has been given out of love and respect for the Creator who gave it, and love and respect for those with whom it is to be shared. Laudato Si’ criticizes those who fail to care for that with which they have been entrusted and the consequences that can flow from that failure. Certainly, in a very tangible and obvious sense, all are stewards of the natural, created world and hold and tend it for each other, for the glory of God, and for the generations to come. Viewed more broadly, however, Laudato Si’ presents a more expansive call to responsibility for everything with which attorneys are entrusted.