Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Pope Shows Hope

Pope Francis took on the subject of climate change, one of those issues the Church has been reluctant to push of late, given its record on handling scientific issues (Galileo, anyone?).  But His Holiness approached the problem not as a scientific or political issue, but rather as a moral one, framed in terms of the Hebraic value placed on human conduct and how we treat one another.
"The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth," Pope Francis wrote in his climate-change encyclical Laudato Si (Praise Be).  He went on to say that many parts of the earth have been spoiled and deflowered in the interest of placing profits ahead of people, which has caused the poor to suffer the brunt of environmental degradation in the form of worsening health, poisoned waters, and wasted resources.  He sternly lectures about the "throwaway culture" that such shortsightedness has wrought.
"A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system, the Pope continues.  "The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it."
The Pope cited an "urgent need to develop policies to curb carbon emissions and improve access to renewable energy.  He warned of the rising sea levels that would displace the poor and the changed of weather partners that would cause the least fortunate to suffer at the hands of drought and pestilence, and how important it is to take care of one another.
Well, conservative Catholics all over the U.S. of A. are livid about all this.  How dare the Pope, they say,  weigh in on such temporal issues, and worse still, try to use his papal authority to direct environmental policy over such fantastic and unsubstantiated theories about global warming when he should be guiding our souls to the hereafter . . . like, who does he think he is?  A scientist?    
Umm, he sort of is.  Back when he was an Argentine priest named Jorge Bergoglio, His Holiness taught chemistry at a Catholic high school.  So his teachings on environmental stewardship ought to carry some weight.  Conservative Catholic resistance in America to the Pope's encyclical would be easy to ignore if so many of them - Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum - weren't running for President.
The American right believes that the Pope has no right to get involved in international politics (forget for a moment the Vatican's sanctification of Charlemagne, its temporal control over central Italy in the Renaissance, and its division of South America between Spain and Portugal - but then, conservatives don't care much about anything that happened before Captain John Smith and some friends of his settled Jamestown), unless he's leading a crusade against communism.  However, even Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were aghast at the environmental degradation in the interest of what John Paul called "predatory capitalism," and I think any reasonable person would agree that while John Paul's eradication of communism from Europe liberated Poland, reunited Germany, and restored the independence of the Baltic States, it's hard to imagine that he would have tolerated the liberated peoples of eastern Europe living under the yoke of extreme storms,  persistent droughts, and excessive heat.  Do you think John Paul - excuse me, Saint John Paul - would have thought the people who founded Solidarity in the shipyard of GdaƄsk deserved to see their port and their city slip into the sea after gaining their freedom?  No!  I don't think so!   
Francis is offering hope that we Earthlings can get our act together and save one another and save the planet.  Meanwhile, right-wing interests in the United States are making sure that this country does not commit to the fight against climate change, doing everything possible to keep President Obama from promoting such efforts.  And right now, I'd bet on an anti-environmentalist Republican administration assuming power in 2017.  People say the United States ought to be leading the fight to combat climate change, but, given the preponderance of climate-change deniers in These States, I don't think this country has any credibility on the issue.  The country that's most qualified to lead that fight is in fact a tiny piece of acreage smaller than Disneyland that's surrounded by Rome.  And its leader is just the fellow to press the point.            

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