Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato si’ is considered one of the three most important international, environmental documents of 2015. By using content analysis of the encyclical I explore if it can also be called a first major international degrowth policy recommendation for Catholics around the world. Despite using the mainstream concept of sustainable development, my paper investigates if Pope Francis is in fact promoting ideas put forward by the advocates for degrowth. Such a stance of the Vatican could alter degrowth’s currently marginal position in mainstream discourse. If the connection between the two can indeed be demonstrated, ‘Laudato si’ could play a crucial role in advancing degrowth towards the center of today’s environmental, economic, social, and political debate.
Lending papal legitimacy to degrowth can have far reaching implications for countries where the Catholic Church has a strong voice in public affairs and a significant influence over its congregation. Hence it is important to explore if the encyclical builds a narrative that considers degrowth as a way to resolve present environmental and social crises. My research looks at the encyclical’s position with regard to some of the core principles of the dominant capitalist model focused on unlimited growth. It also studies the underlying values in its foundations and how they relate to both the growth model and the conceptual underpinnings of the degrowth school. ‘Laudato si’, if in fact calling for degrowth, can point us to other ways of ensuring our well-being by pointing out fatal flaws in the present capitalist model and exposing it as inadequate to bring about the change that is needed .
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „'Laudato si' – Is the Vatican Calling for Degrowth?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.