Australian media have censured Hobart (Tasmania) Archbishop Julian Porteous for allowing a known skeptic of the climate crisis to speak at a local Catholic thinktank.
In an article titled “Archbishop accused of promoting climate change denier’s views on anniversary of Pope’s landmark letter,” Loretta Lohberger noted in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the archdiocese’s newspaper, The Catholic Standard, recently published an article “Exposing the ‘modern green religion,’” a favorable review of a speech given by geologist Ian Plimer at the Christopher Dawson Centre, a thinktank established by Archbishop Porteous.
Professor Ian Plimer “argues that the movement claiming human activity is responsible for global warming has been transformed into a ‘modern green religion’ filling the void left by the decline of traditional Christianity in first-world Western countries,” wrote Catherine Sheehan, communications coordinator for the Archdiocese of Hobart.
In her article, Ms. Lohberger cites at length from Concerned Catholics Tasmania (CCT), a progressive Catholic group in Tasmania that has been critical of Archbishop Porteous, calling for greater lay participation in Church governance.
CCT sharply criticized the archbishop for granting a platform to Prof. Plimer, insisting that “the article, the event it reported, and the fact that it was given such prominence in the official publication of our Archdiocese have caused widespread concern for Tasmanian Catholics.”
“While he is entitled to his opinion, I do not see why what he says and writes should be given free rein in a Catholic Church publication, especially without qualification,” wrote CCT chairman Kim Chen.
Curiously, in its 2021 annual report, CCT waxes rhapsodic over “a wonderful and challenging encounter” with notorious Catholic dissident Sister Joan Chittister, apparently issued “without qualification.”
In point of fact, however, much of Laudato Sì — Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment — is an appeal to discussion and debate, rather than a definition of doctrine.
Francis himself, in fact, states outright in the text that “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics” and rather insists on “the need for forthright and honest debate,” which presumes openness to opinions that challenge the dominant narrative.
While Francis himself clearly believes climate change to be a serious problem, he knows full well that this is a matter to be debated by experts in the field rather than imposed by diktat, papal or otherwise.