Pope Francis has more epistemological and moral authority than any scientist, philosopher, lawyer, or politician. He has the second most popular twitter feed, and his messages are more likely to be retweeted than anyone else’s. The Pope has the power to order some and to persuade others. Most of all he has the power to affect the global agenda. When the Pope speaks, people listen.
Pope Francis commands respect for many reasons. He sits atop a hierarchy with which 1.2 billion people are affiliated. Organized more like a multinational corporation than a nation-state, the Catholic Church and its members are spread across all the countries of the world. But it is not just Catholics who take his pronouncements seriously. As a man of the South, occupying an office in the North, with no national allegiance except to a country of 110 acres with a population of 842, he is uniquely situated to speak out on global issues. Laudato Si’ also commands respect because it is an astonishingly well-written argument for a powerful point of view, one that in various bits and pieces can be found in the small journals and ignored books of environmental philosophy and theology.