Winter 2017, 47.5, pages 463-482
On Care for Our Common Discourse: Pope Francis’s Nonmodern Epideictic
Abstract: Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has attracted worldwide attention for his break with the public style of his immediate predecessors. This seeming rupture has often incited controversy, particularly between liberals and conservatives in American Catholicism. This division was exacerbated by the 2015 publication of Laudato Si’, Francis’s encyclical letter on the environment. Yet the apparent divergence of opinion masked a more fundamental agreement that popes should normally steer clear of scientific matters. The belief that science is one thing and religion another rests on what Bruno Latour has called “the Modern Constitution,” which draws sharp divisions between science and politics and relegates religion to the private sphere. Laudato Si’ rejects this framework in favor of a more holistic analysis articulated through epideictic rhetoric. I name this approach “nonmodern epideictic” and argue that it both confirms and supplements Latour’s understanding of religious rhetoric.