Climate Change Crosses Political Lines: What’s a Bishop to Do?

Climate Change Crosses Political Lines: What’s a Bishop to Do? June 16, 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by USCCB Migration and Refugee Service
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by USCCB Migration and Refugee Service

So, Pope Francis has written a soon-to-be-released encyclical on the environment.

Long before we got this close to actually reading the document itself, we’ve been treated to histrionics and “instructions” to the Holy Father to mind his own pontifical business.

Rush Limbaugh took time away from counting his money to come out against the encyclical he had not read. Predictably, he based his thinking on his own greed-is-good theology. Now, he’s running his jaws, flapping about a “leaked” version of the encyclical, which, for all we know, a Vatican janitor pulled out of the trash. Of course, Mr Limbaugh repeats his slanders about the pope being a “Marxist” while he’s doing this.

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum chimed in a few weeks ago, instructing Pope Francis to “back off” talking about climate change. His logic? The Church should steer away from scientific questions. According to Fox News, an unnamed blogger at First Things “accused the pope of promoting ‘theologized propaganda’ on conservation — a post the journal’s editor later disavowed.”

According to WMAL, the GOP is on the verge of doing battle with Pope Francis over climate change. USA Today has written an article stating what is obvious to anyone who understands politics: The opposition to this encyclical is about money.

In the meantime, environmentalists and liberals are tuning up for their happy dance. I have no doubt that their interpretations of the upcoming encyclical will be as self-serving and inaccurate as those of Mr Limbaugh, et al.

Every pope in recent memory has spoken out about the environment. Every pope in recent memory has taken a strong stand against the evils of corporatism, which is organized greed wedded to government power. Why is Pope Francis any different?

The answer to that is as obvious as the answer to why corporatists oppose him with such venom: People are listening to this pope. They’re paying attention to what he says. For the first time in a long time, ordinary people see the Church as accessible. Pope Francis is a father figure to billions of people who never listened to the Church before.

He has shifted the Church away from the appearance of partisan alliances and given it the old-time Gospel outlook of a Church that is beholden to no political party or faction. That is exactly as it should be. The Church should have one Master, one Lord, and that is Jesus Christ.

Contrary to what the nay-sayers are yapping about, Pope Francis is entirely within his purview when he addresses the environment. Human beings were explicitly told from the beginning that we have “dominion” over this earth. We were commanded to care for it as good husbandmen, to lead it to be fruitful and to bring forth its goodness for all humanity, for all time.

Corporatism is the antithesis of this. Corporatism is evil, and like all evil, it only destroys. Corporatism rapes the environment. Corporatism cuts down the rainforests, and plunders the wealth of the ground, all the while displacing people, shutting them into economic slavery and destroying both their hope and their future. Corporatism destroys life on a global scale; wiping out whole species of beings like mowing down grass.

Of course corporatism’s well-paid mouthpieces fear this pope and his message. Of course, they are enraged by the very thought of this upcoming encyclical.

All this presents the American bishops with an unsettling conundrum, one that, like most of their problems, is at least partly of their own making.

America’s Catholic bishops sit on shaky thrones. Their prophetic voice has been chipped and scarred by the clergy sex abuse scandal. Their authority and ability to teach is compromised by the refusal of priests in the parish to carry the message on critical issues such as the sanctity of marriage.

The bishops were forced to reach over the heads of their priests and go directly to the people in the pews in the matter of the HHS Mandate. It is to the everlasting credit of the pew-sitters that they found loyalty and support there in this critical fight for religious freedom.

Now, with this encyclical, they have to go in y0ur face with their most loyal followers. The civil religion, which worships at the altars of the R and the D, is divided cleanly along party lines. The Ds support abortion, backed the HHS Mandate and have fallen over backwards into gay marriage. The Rs have become the only home that faithful Catholics feel they have in the political sphere.

Given that the level of teaching at many of our parishes tends toward a Hallmark card Christianity that no longer addresses the lived reality of many of those in the pews, serious Catholics have been taking more and more of their “teaching” on theological matters from the Republican Party.

This was frankly encouraged by the original founders of the religious right such as Jerry Falwell. Rev Falwell, and most of his fellows, imposed their own political beliefs on the Gospels. They did this even when those political beliefs ran counter to what the Gospels themselves plainly said.

As a result, the religious right deified corporatism. The Catholic Church did not join in with this heresy. But the bishops and the parish priests did not oppose it in the kind of clear language that is necessary to teach the people in the pews. They failed, at a critical juncture, to effectively teach the constant teachings of the Church. These teachings go back in a straight line, from one pope to the next, for hundreds of years. But the people in the pews never got the message.

This created a vacuum where there should have been legitimate Christian teaching. This vacuum left the people in the pews to make up their own theology. Over time, they were seduced by the civil religion of party politics. Faithful Catholics in the pews came to substitute the civil religion for Christianity in matters concerning economics. They exchanged the teachings of right-wing corporatists for the constant teaching of the Church in economic matters.

Now they are hardened in this heresy. And the bishops stand hapless, unable to figure out how to set things right.

At the same time, “progressive” churches did their part by bastardizing the Gospels on issues life, marriage, gender identity and the sexualizing of women and children. Left and right, they both cut their religion to suit their politics. The political heresy reigned.

Nobody in the religious sphere, other than the popes themselves, was teaching the whole Gospel of Christ.

Now, after decades of this, we are reaping the whirlwind.

Part of the damage of that whirlwind is that the American bishops are now faced with teaching an encyclical in parishes where the most faithful of the parishioners have drunk so deeply of the Republican Kool-Aid that they actually place more trust in the likes of Rush Limbaugh than they do the Vicar of Christ. These are people who are dying for leadership. They want to be led. They’ve settled on following the teachings of their political party rather than the teachings of their Church.

I haven’t read the encyclical Pope Francis has written on the environment. But I do not doubt that it is based on the simple fact that humanity’s dominion over creation is a responsibility, and not just an opportunity for destructive exploitation by the few to the detriment of everyone else.

Pope Francis is Peter. Think carefully before you follow the R or the D instead of the Church created by Christ the Lord.

As for the American bishops, my heart goes out to them. They are in such a mess, and they don’t appear, most of them, to be up to the task in front of them.

One thing I know: We don’t need institutionalized “company” men, at this time. We need men of God.

From The New York Times:

… With Francis expected to make the case that climate change, unchecked development and overconsumption are exacerbating the suffering of the poor, advocates for the environment and the poor are thrilled.

But the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States may be harder to win over. At the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops here last week, bishops from around the country said they were withholding their enthusiasm until they saw the document on Thursday.

Some said they were wary about getting the church enmeshed in the debate over climate change, a contentious issue in the United States. They also expressed concern about allying with environmentalists, some of whom promote population control as a remedy, since the church sees abortion and contraception as great evils.

Some bishops said they had received hate mail from Catholics skeptical of climate change. That has added to the bishops’ hesitation and confusion on the topic.

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37 responses to “Climate Change Crosses Political Lines: What’s a Bishop to Do?”

  1. where to begin?
    such a poorly constructed argument for college freshmen level work sample.
    Corporotism? Evil? There is evil; there is light (Christ the Savior).
    We are cooling; there is data. There is no (unaltered) statistically validated case that demonstrates we are warming. We pray that our stewardship of the resources we are blessed with by God are used wisely. We don’t condone polluting recklessly. seeking Statist answers to all our societal problems is Evil. It denies God’s will for our lives. It denies the faith we have to get us through life’s travails. It crushes the spirit of man to work, put forth effort, reap what he sows.

  2. Of course there is. Both sides are controlled by one imperative: Getting and keeping power. Catholics need to follow the Church, not either “side” in the culture wars. People have made little g gods of their political parties and alliances. That is what is really wrong; the idolatry of political theory.

  3. bd, you’re new here, so I will allow this, with a warning. Personal attacks are not allowed on this blog. Further, a personal attack does not constitute an argument for your position, whatever that position may be.

    You are free to comment here, but any and all further personal jibes will be deleted.

  4. yes, of course that’s true, but what is challenging about following the “Church” is when it seems that our shepherds are also making and following their own political “gods”…

  5. Haven’t seen the leaked encyclical. It doesn’t surprise me it was leaked, but Sandro Magister paid a high price for doing this.
    Pope Francis has a MS in Chemistry, I think, but I am still skeptical about the whole thing.
    I’m confused where you get the corporatist conspiracy, though, Rebecca. Expensive, ineffective green energy is very popular in Europe, which makes me even more suspicious because the green industries are up to their eyebrows in government influence, there.
    I don’t think this whole thing helps the pope’s image, but that isn’t his point.
    We do need to care for natural resources. I don’t have a problem with the Church teaching on all these issues. But it does look like Pope Francis might want to concentrate his efforts more. And, not listen to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga.

  6. My beliefs about corporatism come mostly from two things: 18 years in elected office, and the teachings of St John Paul, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Add to that the long tradition of teaching that goes back centuries but was thoroughly explicated by Pope Leo.

    As to how that applies specifically to the environment, I was thinking more in terms of third world abuses, which was a big part of why our jobs were shipped overseas. I’m also referring to the appalling abuse of people in these countries. Here in the US, corporatism takes the form of controlling the electoral process with money, media, etc; and then using puppet legislators to raid the public treasury and pass laws that cut off competition and put government entirely in the service of the few to the detriment of the many.

    People see the results, but they can’t connect the dots. I see the whole web because I had to live with it so close up for so long.

  7. Jesus promised us that we would have to live in opposition to the world. That implies that there will never be a political party that is truly on our side. We have to work together to make the world a better place as best we can.

  8. I’ll be satisfied if the encyclical also takes a pot shot at those environmentalists who claim the only way to escape climate change is to reduce the population by 6 billion people using mandatory contraceptives for all women for the next 30 years.

  9. What you call corporatism is actually private profit corporatism. There are corporations with non-profit missions which do not negatively impact the environment. Private corporations would be better environmental citizens if they were expected to behave. When they are free to misbehave, we only have ourselves to blame for not regulating them adequately.

  10. I’m actually not speaking of corporations. I am speaking of corporatism, which is the wedding of corporate interests with government. It is and economic system, that is also called fascism.

  11. It’s the MSM’s narrative device for minimizing the harm that the Holy Father can do to their brave new world: the last two were counterrevolutionary conservatives who hated the modern world and this one is wooooonderful, having decided to make peace with the modern world.

    Either way, nobody actually reads or listens to the pope. Even when they think they agree with him, conservatives assumed they knew what JP2 and B16 were saying, and Liberals assume they know what Francis is saying.

  12. The problem with climate change discussions is the fanaticism surrounding it. To raise questions is to find yourself attacked as a Fox News nut, or a raving socialist.

    Warmists have declared the science settled, which is not science, but dogma. Science can say that this is what the data says, and even what the data suggests, but once you quit collecting data, it’s not science.

  13. I’ve read the encyclicals and many of the public statements of all three popes. I found them to be entirely consistent with one another and with the constant teaching of the Church. Pope Francis hasn’t said anything that the other two popes didn’t say. He just says it more informally.

    I do agree that both sides of the political spectrum attempt to re-write whatever the popes says to suit their own biased narrative. That rather proves that they think the papacy — and the Church — have an influence that they want to harness to their own ends.

  14. If Bishops and priests take up the global warming agenda, I’ll be pretty disappointed. I have almost never heard a homily on abortion or same sex marriage or even pre-marital sex. If the bishops and priests fear to go there to not rock the political wagon, then they have no right to go to this nonsense called global warming. I’ll wait for the Holy Father’s encyclical to see what he says.

  15. Good points. The “green energy” is all about government pork and “corporatism.” Also doesn’t the fact that it was leaked sound like politics?

  16. I think you’re right … and wrong … in that statement. The desire to harness the influence of the Pope for vote-getting purposes runs strong in American politics, which can affect policy. You’re right that it doesn’t do this as much as it should. That is probably due to the fact that American Catholics don’t follow the pope as they should. That means their votes don’t turn on politicians heeding the pope. If it did … well … you connect the dots, my Yankee friend.

  17. If you are saying that Catholics are obligated to obey the Pope when it comes to political issues, then you have substantiated the claim that Catholics are not capable of being elected. You have passed on policy to someone outside the country, something that Pres Kennedy had to repudiate to get elected. If that is the case, then no Catholic politician is qualified to be elected. I hope you are not saying that.
    If the Holy Father endorses global warming, I will say thank you and file it appropriately. And not in my file cabinent. 😉

  18. Thank you for a well written and thoughtful analysis. I’m dismayed however by your sub-theme that both left and right mischaracterize the gospels and are guilty of exploiting Jesus for their own cause. I disagree. The right wing, and your example of Jerry Falwell verifies this, have done this and been the successful entity in politicizing the Bible and Jesus for the right wing cause. Perhaps I’m ignorant of the Liberals abuse of this. Could you give some examples that match up to the Falwell level?

  19. Thumbs up to the Pope! Thumbs down to those (mostly Republicans) candidates and several thumbs down to Rush (who is a total waste of air) for their remarks. Why shouldn’t the Pope have his opinions out there on this subject? He is entitled to his opinion, just like anyone else!

  20. Fascism is more than just plutocratic corporatism. In order to oppose fascism, one must understand it more deeply than its surface phenomena.

  21. When I count the reasons the Catholic Church is disintegrating, I can add one more: Rebecca Hamilton. In addition to her ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with her, her unwavering support of the Pope convince me that she is not only a shill for the Vatican, but possesses the mindset of an idolatrous cult member.

  22. To me it sounds like Rome, not the Church, the city. Pretty typical of the way things work there.

  23. ” … a shill for the Vatican.” I can’t be a shill since I assure you the Vatican does not recompense me in any way.

    If you mean that I stand with the pope, you’ve got it right.

    I am deeply gratified that you noticed.

  24. I’m too busy right now Ron. Let’s see if somebody else jumps in. If they don’t ding me in a day or so and I’ll take it.

  25. I never even came close to saying that. I was talking about political power dealers who want to use the pope to deify their actions in order to gain political power.

  26. Manny, I apologize. I misunderstood what you were saying. I can see how you got that from my earlier comment. I’m not saying that we have to agree with the Pope on every particular, but that we should take him very seriously and only disagree when we’ve really thought it through. Global warming studies and which ones we believe is a case in point. If, after studying it thoroughly, we decide that his science is wrong, then that’s what we think. On the other hand, when he teaches that the Gospel requirements are that we must look at everything, including economics and climate, through the prism of the common good, the sanctity of human life, and our responsibility as human to husband, not destroy, the earth, then we’d better do it. So, that means that we can, after serious consideration, disagree on the particulars of how to achieve the common good, support the sanctity of human life and husband the earth, but we may not decide to allow greed to impoverish millions, kill at will and rape the planet. Does that make more sense?

  27. OK. No problem. 🙂 I do believe we have to be good stewards of the ecology, and I do believe it is a moral imperative. I just think there are other places we can spend limited resources on to either improve the environment or bolster the poor than on global warming.

  28. You are right in that Francis is consistent with the popes before him (especially Benedict). Unfortunately Ryan is right in the conservatives misinterpreted them.

  29. Sadly I think you are right. I believe Catholics first drifted over to the GOP as single-issue voters (abortion) and over time people began to think that Catholicism=the GOP when in fact most Catholic social teaching is center-left. (we all know the positions where the church is “conservative”). I’m to the point where I don’t feel I can vote in good faith for either American party.