A reader writes:
Hey, Mark, what happened to your former climate-change skepticism (or perhaps suspension of belief)? Frankly, the less the Church says about things like climate change, the better. It’s way outside the competence of the Magisterium, and way outside the deposit of faith. It is now an article of the Catholic Faith that there *is* anthropogenic global warming and that Catholics are bound in conscience to support the Paris Accord?
For me, it is what it has always been: technical inexpertise that assumes experts know what they are talking about and I don’t. When I wrote about it in 2011, I was a skeptic, but emphasized my inexpertise because hey!, what do I know about climate science? Most of what I saw about it came from media that gave conflicting accounts through my lifetime of global cooling followed by global warming, so I remained agnostic and waited to see how things shook out and what the Church thought of the whole business.
What primarily interested me as a non-expert during that period was not the scientific stuff (which I understand no more than I understand quantum physics) but the faith aspect: that people tend to talk about it in faith language on both sides of the question (“I do/don’t *believe* in climate change.”) I’ve always found that interesting. But at the end of the day, I left the matter to experts as I leave quantum physics to experts and I waited for guidance from the Church.
The guidance came in the form of Laudato Si and in the initiatives of both Benedict and Francis which took the testimony of the sciences seriously and did not regard the thing as mere media hype. Still functioning under the basic working model of “Hey! What do I know about climate science?” I followed the Church’s lead and not that of by then self-evidently and massively wrong Right Wing Noise Machine that had by that time proven itself an almost infallibly awful guide on a host of issues and reasoned, “If the Church takes it seriously, then I’m likely wrong.”
It’s not complex. When 97% of climate scientists and the Holy Father say there’s a problem and only oil oligarchs, Right Wing Noise Machine liars, their audience of reliably gullible suckers who have been so wrong so many times about so much for so long, and an absolute moron like Trump chalk it up to conspiracy theories, my money is on listening to the experts and the Church. It is not an article of faith, it is prudence and common sense. My doctor is not infallible either. But when he tells me I am diabetic and says “You had better start treating it or you will die”, I believe it because I’m not a fool, not because it is an article of faith.
As I remarked the other day, while right wing dissenting Catholics keep a white hot focus on the question of whether the pope speaks infallibly here (of course not), and appeal to “prudential judgment” as the rationale for ignoring him, what goes unasked is why on earth anybody should trust the prudence of an absolute moron like Trump who knows nothing but conspiracy theory BS over over the prudential judgment of the Holy Father, who has consulted closely with experts (and who does speak within his competence when remarking on our responsibility for and relationship with Creation).
The argument “The pope is not a climate expert so he should shut up” seems to me to be the same as that of the pro-abort Catholic who says that the pope and the bishops have no expertise or competence in embryology or gynecology and therefore should shut up. The Magisterium is doing what the Church has always done: making use of the best the sciences can offer and reflecting on that with the light of the Tradition. We blow them off at our peril.
In the end, it comes down to docility to the Church instead of the massive waste of time to which Right Wing Dissent is now thoroughly committed: fighting the Church on almost every aspect of its social teaching. Almost every aspect.
Here is the reality of the Trumpified Church in the US now, not merely with regard to the Church’s teaching on respect for the earth, but with virtually all of the Church’s social teaching. With the exception of abortion and a couple of pelvic issues, plus a radically distorted scrap of her teaching on subsidiarity, virtually the entirety of the Church’s teaching on the second greatest commandment is now mortally hated and opposed by the Party of Trump and postmodern conservatives (and their court prophets on the Christian Right, both Catholic and Protestant). And it is that hatred that now animates them, not the concern about abortion. The principal response of the Right to Trump Paris’ withdrawal has been gloating revanchism and the gleeful boast, “This will make the liberals cry.” Whatever that is, it is not the mind of Christ nor a sober appreciation of the Church’s guidance. It is spite. It is malice. It is not wisdom and it sure as hell is not docility.
Meanwhile, the unborn are increasingly merely human shields for that real animating hatred for the Church’s teaching on the second greatest commandment. The proof? “Prolifers” who are ecstatic over moves that will certainly endanger and kill more unborn children such as trashing the environment and denying maternity benefits to poor women. As long as some spiteful act of mindless revanchism “makes liberal cry”, they don’t give a rat’s ass if somebody dies.
That’s why I say the anti-abortion-but-not-prolife movement has become a heresy–a monomania swollen and engorged like a cancer and attacking the rest of the Faith. Cancers mutate and heresies tend to mutate into their opposites. The “prolife” movement has become a cult of death in the slavish service of the Party of Trump. If it were really about saving the unborn it would focus its energies there, not on battling Laudato Si and virtually everything else the Church’s social teaching has to say.