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, a Catholic, in a post titled: “Vatican Burns with Global Warming Enthusiasm,” 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 Economistdescribed the event this way: “the Pontifical Academy of Sciences [PAS], an important part of the Vatican’s intellectual armoury, convened a brainstorming session with the UN secretariat and a gaggle of NGOs, including the New-York based Earth Institute, a study centre which advises the UN on sustainable development.”
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. Public Radio International’s reporting explained an encyclical as: “the highest teaching issued by a pope. It is essentially a church policy paper, meant to offer guidance on specific issues for the bishops, priests and faithful that make up the family of about 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.”
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.’”
Regarding the encyclical’s content, the same FT coverage quotes UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, who met privately with Pope Francis before the conference: “It will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience.”
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, BloombergBusiness states: “The Encyclical is expected to insert the pope into an American political problem.”
In teaching his followers how to identify other true believers, Jesus Christ, in Matthew 7:16, states: “You will know them by their fruits.” Then 2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 warns the followers of Christ: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” A more modern version, states: “You are not the same as those who do not believe. So do not join yourselves to them. Good and bad do not belong together. Light and darkness cannot share together.”
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.
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 advisors’ 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? The scriptural admonishment is similar to a parent who worries about the people his children run around with because, if they don’t share the same beliefs, the crowd often becomes the influencer—and not the other way around.
A thorough examination of the Declaration’s authors is bound to reveal a cadre of secular humanists—who place man above God and nature higher than man. Which, once again, is contrary to the biblical view presented in Genesis 2:15: “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 McGurnaddresses 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?”
McGurn continues: “All too often the vision of man here is as the despoiler, speeding the planet along the path to doom and destruction. In this reading, modern technology is almost always an enemy, progress is illusory and more babies mean more carbon footprints melting the ice caps where polar bears live. Indeed, the number of environmentalists who end up embracing population control is astounding.”
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. McGurn posits: “when we measure the costs of fossil fuels, shouldn’t we include the human costs that result when restrictions on fossil fuels would mean denying hundreds of millions of people in the developing world the life-enhancing improvements that come from cheaper energy?” Likewise, Marc Moranosays: “One of the greatest friends of poor people around the world—an estimated 1.3 billion people who lack running water and electricity—is carbon-based fuels.”
“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.”
One closing thought: If you believe that an all-knowing God created the heavens and the earth, that he gave man dominion over it, and called on man to work the earth, why did God put fossil fuels under our feet when he could have made it all dirt? Do you think He knew that the world would have the vast population we have today and that, for such a time as this, we’d need the dense forms of cost-effective energy that coal, oil and natural gas—even uranium—provide? I do.