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Food Thread: Ironworker Edition [CBD] | Main | Overnight Open Thread (6-21-2015)
June 21, 2015

The Pope's Encyclical on AGW; A Different Perspective [Sean Bannion]

When it comes to religion (or history or philosophy or, hell science) people tend to look for evidence to support their pre-existing beliefs in that field. So Pope Francis' Enciclica Laudato Si (aka the weather climate change encyclical) will do the same. If you believe Pope Francis is a card-carrying Commie down with the whole Liberation Theology bit, then you're likely to find that here.

If you believe Pope Frank is a reactionary troglodyte who's only throwing the left an occasional bone to lure them into complacency as he plots to subjugate women, re-install Latin as the lingua franca , and name himself as Holy Roman Emperor as the last pope , well, you'll probably find support for your position here too.

You'll both be wrong. So you have that goin' for ya. Which is nice.

Best line of commentary I’ve read so far:

Shorter encyclical: Pope Francis is dead wrong on the science and still perfectly in line with Catholic doctrine – and that’s ok, because theology isn’t science. Specifically, Francis is well in line with St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI in his theology – both viewed as conservative popes. If you’re only interested in arguing about policy and pointing out why Catholics are Communists, just read chapters 1 and 5. If you’re actually interested in trying to understand where Pope Francis is coming from, or if you want to know more about Catholic teaching, then read the whole thing. There’s a lot of nuance (and theology) packed into this document, and you’re not going to “get it” by reading it only once. (and at 192 pages you’re going to be reading it for a good long while….)

Some people are having rancisull-fledged spittle-flecked nutties today. I suspect that some of them are people who are happy only when they are unhappy.” So, for the Catholic-bashing lofo types, you may now consider yourself well-informed and carry on with the rest of your day. For those people of goodwill who can hold more than one contradictory thought in their head at the same time, continue on…

OK, OK Bannion, enough of that BS. Gimme the bottom line.

Nope. First...the obligatory disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I probably understand Catholic theology a bit better than the next guy, but there are plenty here at AoSHQ who are very (very) good in this area and by that I mean theology in general and not simply Catholic theology (shout out to Christopher Taylor and our own AllenG, who really ought to have a blog or something).

So take this post for what it's worth and get other opinions and analysis on your own. In fact, consider this post nothing more than a guide to decent things to read on the topic. Google is your friend here.

Here are some folks I trust: C.C. Pecknold, Robert Royal, George Weigel, Fr. George Rutler, The Catholic Thing (full disclosure, most of the guys who write here were my professors in my theology program), and the National Catholic Register.

Folks I don't trust: America magazine,National Catholic Reporter, Crux (owned by the Boston Globe and that should tell you all you need to know).

Here are some folks I trust 95% of the time: Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Ethika Politika, and Touchstone.

I am generally a conservative Catholic but I'm not what's known in the trade as a RadTrad (Radical Traditionalist). When it comes to the environment, I'm a Teddy Roosevelt kind of environmentalist, not a Greenpeace kind of environmentalist. Someone wrote about that once. So you need to read this post with that in mind.

Hot take: No, this document does not carry the weight of infallibility and, no, Catholics are not bound to obey this document. This is an encyclical, and therefore not the highest source of Church teaching. This represents Francis' views more than it represents the views of the institutional Catholic Church.

In fact....

"It is noteworthy that Pope Francis would have included in an encyclical, instead of lesser teaching forms such as an apostolic constitution or motu proprio, subjects that still pertain to unsettled science (and to speak of a “consensus” allows that there is not yet a defined absolute). The Second Vatican Council, as does Pope Francis, makes clear that there is no claim to infallibility in such teaching."

Hotter take: Boy is the left going to be pissed when they figure out the Pope is Catholic. But they'll ignore it, like they always have:

Yes, despite the unfortunate fact that many Catholics venerate Saint Francis and are inspired by his teachings on conformity to Jesus, papal authority, sin, fasting, and abstinence, that hasn't totally damaged the image of the saint for non-Christians. His traditional Catholic spirituality can be easily ignored because there is a fun side to him! The alternative-lifestyle Francis, the New Age Francis, the ashram Francis, the eco-warrior Francis: in fact there is whatever Francis you want.

This is really the basic point about this faith -- you can't pick and choose what bits of it you like to believe. Catholicism is a faith that generally takes the middle path. This is why the sophomoric "What would Jesus do?" rejoinder to any political argument is laughable. Jesus wasn't a politician. Jesus would forgive sin...then he would tell you to go forth and sin no more. See? The touchy-feely Jesus co-exists with the judgmental Jesus. It's not like Highlander. People are quite fond of confirmation bias when it comes to Jesus Christ.

That selective hearing will be especially obvious on the political left as they try to bend, fold, twist, spindle and mutilate the Catholic Church into something much more agreeable to them -- like Unitarian Universalist -- a faith so watered down as to not even qualify as a faith. Watch for this dynamic as this conversation unfolds. Lefties will want to talk about how much of a liberal Pope Francis is, as they ignore all that icky teaching about sin and stuff.

So while I'm saying that Pope Francis is wrong on the science -- and he's quite, quite wrong -- he's not wrong on the wider theological points he's trying to make nor is he wrong to comment on what's going on in the world. "A reflective Catholic is always a Catholic rather than something else." Catholics, actual Catholics, not Cafeteria Catholics or Christians who culturally identify as "Catholic", do not fall into either/or thinking on any given point and that includes this encyclical. Faith is usually not a binary proposition. It's quite possible to be a good Catholic (or Christian) and think that Francis has some good points on care for the environment, while pointing out that his science is as dead wrong as the science in the Wells Report.

While all the attention this encyclical gets will be focused politics and the environment, Laudato Si really addresses the relationship of humans to nature, to each other and to God. It discusses the connection between sin and the ruin of the environment, it condemns the overconsumption of natural resources (I said "overconsumption," not consumption"), and -- and here's the really Catholic part of it -- shows a similar disregard for those who would ruin God's creation through abortion and population control.

When you take a step back from the bad science and the left's "OMG the Pope is just like meeeeee eleventy!11!!1!!" response to it, Laudato Si is ultimately about respect for all of God's creation -- and not just the parts the left cares about. It is ultimately about the unique dignity of the human person and the relationship of the human person to God.

(And what, pray tell do you mackerel snappers mean by "person?" Here, read this and call me when you're done.)

Shorter (completely untheological) Bannion: if we trash the environment, we're ultimately trashing ourselves and in turn -- God. You don't really have to look too far to find evidence that caring about the environment is caring about ourselves.


French philosopher Etienne Gilson called this relationship of God to man "the Great Syllogism."

1) Being is innermost in each thing
2) God is very being, by His own essence
3) Therefore God is in all things, and innermostly.

Another way of looking at this is that the world is as a hierarchy of being, and God contains all being in Himself. Here's a relatively short (yet still philosophical) presentation of the point.

None of this is new. It is Thomistic philosophy and it is St. Thomas Aquinas who has been driving the doctrine of the Catholic Church since he died in 1274. The point here is that the Pope is not creating some new twist on Catholic doctrine with this document. He's merely explaining Church teaching about care for God's creation in a new way.

Lefties will (of course) ignore it, but the Pope emphasizes at several points that abortion, "coercive means of population control, experimentation on embryos, and other offenses against the sanctity of life are part of the very same callous stance towards the natural world that the environmentalists deplore." Planned Parenthood hardest hit.

In fact, here are all the things in the encyclical the lefties will ignore, neatly summarized for you.

Would it have been nice if he avoided the bad science? Yes, if for no other reason than it draws attention away from his basic point. Would it have been nice if the policy prescriptions to address man's impact on the environment weren't likely to create more poor? Uh, yeah. Duh. Francis needed to be more media savvy. He wasn't, he's not, and he hasn't been since he's been the Pope. Now he has opened the door to criticism of the Church that will have absolutely nothing to do with the faith. That's ultimately my own personal issue with the document.

If you're interested in a follow-up post after I've read this thing 2-3 more times…email CBD.

So I'll close with one final counterargument to all of your lefty friends who will claim the mantle of papal authority on climate weather and the environment…

When the catholic Left insist that you accept everything in this new encyclical because "the Pope said so", remind them to accept every word of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, St. John Paul's definitive document that affirms the infallible teaching that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. Not only did "the Pope say so", but he was merely repeating what the Church has always taught!

[Editor's note: All errors are mine....the conversion from MS Word to the blog was....interesting. [CBD])

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posted by Open Blogger at 07:38 PM

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