Skip to main content

Saint Vincent College theology professor’s book takes a deeper look at Laudato Si’

Saint Vincent College theology professor’s book takes a deeper look at Laudato Si’

by Public Relations | January 25, 2024

LATROBE, PA — To many Catholics, Laudato Si’, the 2015 encyclical written by Pope Francis, is merely the “climate change encyclical.” Yet, that description, according to Saint Vincent assistant professor of theology Dr. Lucas Briola, is too simplistic and shortchanges the scope of the Pope’s work.

Protecting the environment is an important theme of the encyclical, but Pope Francis is pointing toward much more. In his book, “The Eucharistic Visio of Laudato Si’: Praise, Conversion, and Integral Ecology,” which was released in 2023, Briola argues the encyclical is about more than policy — there’s a deeper theological heart to its message, which is centered on the Eucharist and touches on things of interest to conservatives as well as progressives.

Dr. Lucas Briola

“Our various belongings — whether they be national, ideological or socio-economic — sometimes can override our Catholic belongings,” Briola said. “If you read Laudato Si’ charitably and in its full breadth, you see it challenges all those other belongings. That makes it hard to classify. I think Pope Francis is more complicated than [people on] the left and the right think, but we don’t live in a culture that wants to take the time to deal with that sort of complexity.”

Briola got his Master of theological studies degree at Boston College and earned his Ph.D. in theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “Those schools are kind of on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in the Church,” he said. “It ensured I was exposed to sources from both sides, so to speak.”

In his book, Briola is searching for common ground. For Catholics, the key to finding common ground is the Eucharist. “That’s what everyone, regardless of their partisan stripe, shares,” Briola said. “And of all the encyclicals that have been written, none talks about the Eucharist as much as Laudato Si’.”

Briola notes that Laudato Si’ links environmental concerns and pro-life issues. “Pope Francis talks a lot about listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, and under the poor he includes the unborn,” Briola said. “The stillness of the Eucharistic celebration trains us to be attentive. It’s about having an attitude of listening that helps address all matters of social concern.”

Pope Francis is not the first to take this approach, Briola noted. In their writings, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI connected environment concerns with attacks on human life. “Pope Francis is developing that [line of thought] by giving it an Eucharistic twist,” Briola said. “It was really exciting for me to discover that this didn’t just begin with Francis.”

About Dr. Briola

Briola laid the foundation for his book with his essay, “Praise Rather Than Solving Problems: Understanding the Doxological Turn of Laudato Si’ Through Lonergan.” That article won the 2021 Award for Best Essay from the College Theology Society. His essays have also appeared in New Blackfriars, Horizons, The Lonergan Review, the Journal of Moral Theology, and the Downside Review. 



PHOTO: Dr. Lucas Briola