The Pope and Climate Change

Perhaps you missed the Vatican-sponsored international symposium on climate change held in Rome on April 28. It was a busy news day. The horrific earthquake killed thousands in Nepal and riots broke out in Baltimore.

Or, maybe, you just didn’t care to tune in. In Crisis magazine, which bills itself as “a voice for the faithful laity,” William M. Briggs writes: “Used to be in the West when the Catholic Church spoke, people listened…. The church was an influence. And it liked being one.” Briggs continues: “Not so now. The West has these past fifty or so years assumed an adversarial stance towards our ancient and venerable institution.”

The one-day “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity” conference, according to BloombergBusiness, “brought together more than 150 accomplished scientists and spiritual leaders from more than a dozen faiths.” The summit served as a teaser of what to expect next month when it is predicted that the Vatican will release a papal encyclical on the “human ecology”—the first time a Catholic leader has dedicated an entire encyclical to environmental issues.

In its reporting on the day-long event, The Financial Times (FT) cites Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who the newspaper calls “a member of the pope’s inner circle” and who wrote an early draft of the encyclical, as saying: “Today, the ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth’s delicate ecological balance on an almost unfathomable scale.” The FT refers to Turkson’s statement as “a sign that Pope Francis will aggressively push for climate action.” Turkson also “suggested it was a sin for ‘humans to degrade the integrity of earth by causing changes in its climate.’”

But there is concern that Pope Francis is focused too much on politics and not enough on faith, as those who are shaping his views veer from widely accepted biblical truths. Addressing the dilemma, Bloomberg Business states: “The Encyclical is expected to insert the pope into an American political problem.”

Following the summit, the PAS released a declaration that states: “The Catholic Church working with the leadership of other religions…” The listed authors include known abortion advocate Jeffrey Sachs. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General and a supporter of abortion, also addressed the Vatican conference.

Genesis 2:15 states: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (NIV).” In the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn addresses this passage: “Plainly this imposes on mankind an obligation of stewardship. …Still, the first part of that Genesis passage means something too: that the earth is to be worked, and that this work and the fruit it bears are also blessed. After all, what is work but the application of human ingenuity and labor to God’s creation to increase God’s bounty?”

While the Catholic Church, and all of Christianity in general, support life, one has to wonder why the Vatican would invite “darkness” in to advise it on climate change. While the abortion issue is one point of obvious conflict, others involved in the one-day event likely endorse a variety of views that disagree with a biblical perspective. When the advisers’ beliefs are the antithesis of the church’s, why should their opinions be invited and accepted as fact on one narrow topic? Why would the pope join himself with those who are not Christ followers?

One cannot help but admire Pope Francis’ concern for the poor—a totally biblical view. However, the proposed fix for perceived manmade catastrophic climate change (climate change is real and has been happening long before humans burned fossil fuels), the elimination of fossil fuels will create more poor people, not fewer.

“An open letter to Pope Francis on Climate Change” from the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation states: “Today many prominent voices call humanity a scourge on our planet, saying that man is the problem, not the solution. …these voices demand that people surrender their God-given dominium, even if doing so means remaining in or returning to poverty.” The letter continues: “Severe poverty, widespread hunger, rampant disease, and short life spans were the ordinary condition of humankind until the last two-and-a-half centuries. These tragedies are normal when—as much of the environmental movement prefers—human beings, bearing the imago Dei, live, and are treated, as if they were mere animals, which need to submit to nature rather than exercising the dominium God gave them in the beginning (Genesis 1:28). Such dominion should express not the abusive rule of a tyrant but the loving and purposeful rule of our Heavenly King. It should thus express itself by enhancing the fruitfulness, beauty, and safety of the earth, to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbors.”

Pope Francis is not the first pope to opine about the environment. The Economist points out that Pope Benedict XVI’s statements often linked to his belief “in the ‘respect for the human person.’” To which The Economist adds: “to the ears of secular greens, that sort of talk can appear too focused on the welfare of homo sapiens at the expense of all other forms of life.”

And here is the problem, articulated by a commenter in response to Judith Curry’s post: “Pope Francis, climate change and mortality.” Ticketstopper wrote: “The Church is concerned about souls. Animals and plants don’t have souls. I would be very interested to see how a Pope can reconcile the demotion of emphasis on human souls with an emphasis on environmental friendliness.”

The forthcoming encyclical will be on human ecology. As McGurn suggests, it is time we put “the human back in human ecology.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.


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