Where Did Pope Francis’s Extravagant Rant Come From?

Where Did Pope Francis’s Extravagant Rant Come From?

In his new encyclical, Pope Francis has diverted the gospel into a series of ill-supported political pronouncements.
Maureen Mullarkey
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Subversion of Christianity by the spirit of the age has been a hazard down the centuries. The significance of “Laudato Si” lies beyond its stated concern for the climate. Discount obfuscating religious language. The encyclical lays ground to legitimize global government and makes the church an instrument of propaganda—a herald for the upcoming United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Accommodation by church hierarchy to green dogma has been metastasizing since the UN proclaimed Earth Day in 1970. Two decades later, Kevin Costner went dancing with wolves while the Fraser Institute prefaced “Religion, Wealth, and Poverty” (1990) by Jesuit scholar James V. Schall with this:

. . . the relatively sudden appearance of religion not primarily as worship or doctrine, but as social activism, has been not a little perplexing. Numerous sympathetic critics, many of the faithful, and interested observers sense that something is occurring with vast and unsettling implications for the well-being of the public order and for religion itself. They are not at all sure, however, that what is happening is itself in the best interests of religion or of the poor and outcast for whom it is said to be occurring.

Propelled by the cult of feeling and Golden Age nostalgia—enshrined in the myth of indigenous peoples as peaceable ecologists—that elusive something picked up a tincture of Teilhardian gnosticism as it grew. It bursts on us now as “Laudato Si,” a malignant jumble of dubious science, policy prescriptions, doomsday rhetoric, and what students of Wordsworthian poetics call, in Keats’ derisive phrase, “the egotistical sublime.”

Eco-Activists Thrive on Distortions

The document’s catalogue of distortions and factual errors are those of the climate-change establishment swallowed whole. There is no scientific consensus on man-made global warming, no consensus on the role of human activity in any of the environmental phenomena cited.

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore abandoned the organization in 1986, highlighting its abandonment of scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas:

By around the mid-1980s, when I left Greenpeace, the public had accepted most of the reasonable things we had been fighting for: stop the bomb, save the whales, stop toxic waste dumping into the earth, water, and air. Some, like myself, realized the job of creating mass awareness of the importance of the environment had been accomplished and it was time to move on from confrontation to sustainable development, seeking solutions. But others seemed bent on lifelong confrontation, ‘up against the man’ ‘smash capitalism’. . . .

In order to remain confrontational as society adopted all the reasonable demands, it was necessary for these anti-establishment lifers to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in zero-tolerance policies.

That was 30 years ago. Since then, “the ‘green’ movement has not only become more hard line, they have also become irrational and fanatical.”

Climate has fluctuated since the planet formed. Sea levels have been rising for thousands of years with no current increase in the rate. Catastrophic extinctions occurred millions of years before industrialization. Not so long ago in geological time, Arctic islands were covered in sub-tropical forests and no ice covered either pole. Climate temperature has been flat for nearly two decades despite rise in CO2. On it goes.

Enter Jorge Bergolio. Informed objection to the pope’s roster of pending disasters is widely available—but also, at this point, moot. Reducing greenhouse gases has just been deemed a religious obligation. What should concern us now is the ecclesial climate that yielded this extravagant rant.

A Short List of What’s Wrong with ‘Laudato Si’

There is nothing to admire in its assault on market economies, technological progress, and—worse—on rationality itself. Bergolio, whom we know now as Pope Francis, is a limited man. His grasp of economics is straitjacketed by the Peronist culture in which he was raised. “Laudato Si” descends to garish, left-wing boilerplate. The pope is neither a public intellectual, theologian, nor a man of science. Yet he impersonates all three.

The pope is neither a public intellectual, theologian, nor a man of science. Yet he impersonates all three.

The encyclical tells us much about the man who delivers it. Straightaway, it certifies the depth and span of this pope’s megalomania. A breathtaking strut into absolutism, it is addressed not simply to Catholics but, like the “Communist Manifesto,” to the whole world. Tout le monde.

The document is steeped in Third Worldism. The imagined plight of the planet is the work of a rapacious West. Ignoring the role of corruption, mismanagement, and counter-productive ideology in failed or deteriorating states, it gives a ruinous pass to Third World oligarchs and despots. The White Man’s Burden now rises to the ozone layer.

Bergolio’s resentment of First World prosperity is of a piece with his simplistic understanding of the “financial interests” and “financial resources” he condemns. He nurses a Luddite yen to roll back the Industrial Revolution for a fantasy of pre-industrial harmony between man and a virginal Mother Earth. He demonizes the very means that have raised millions out of poverty, and that remain crucial in continuing to raise standards of living among the poor.

Authority Given to Population Controllers

Take no comfort from “Laudato Si’s” restatements of the Catholic Church’s traditional positions on the sanctity of life, the primacy of the family, and rejection of abortion. In this context, orthodoxy and pious expression serve a rancid purpose. They are a Trojan horse, a vehicle for insinuating surrender to pseudo-science and the eco-fascism that requires it.

The ‘global regulatory frameworks’ the pope hankers for will, without scruple, crush orthodoxy when it suits.

Promiscuous papal embrace of the climate-change narrative includes a chilling call for the creation of global overseers to manage the Progressive dream: abolition of fossil fuels. The twentieth century gave us stark lessons in the applications of compulsory benevolence. The “global regulatory frameworks” the pope hankers for will, without scruple, crush orthodoxy when it suits.

Or might Bergolio welcome that? His appointment of Hans Schellnhuber to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences raises the question. Schellnhuber is a zealous promoter of the theory of man-made climate change and advocate of population control. He has lobbied for an Earth Constitution, a Global Council, and establishment of a Planetary Court, a transnational legal body with enforcement powers on environmental and population issues. In short, Schellnhuber is the Vatican’s advance man for bureaucratic tyranny on a global scale. It is a telling appointment.

Romanticizing Poverty

“Laudato Si” leans heavily on Romantic personification (“our Sister, Mother Earth . . . cries out to us”) and nature poetry. These are arational devices that evade logical argument. They are employed here to justify left-wing ideology and more concentrated power. The document hands a bouquet to all statists, collectivists, crackpot world-improvers, antagonists to free enterprise, and to freedom itself. Every authoritarian jackal and central planner on the planet can pluck a bloom from it.

Papal suspicion of private property and infatuation with a “theology of poverty” lend sanctimony to the class antagonism hibernating in the church’s “preferential option for the poor,” a problematic concept derived from Liberation Theology. (Problematic because the promise of the resurrection, the ineradicable core of Christianity, is not directed to a class, but to individuals.)

It is reasonable to think that Bergolio is a greater friend to poverty than to the poor.

Trivializing the Gospel

A strain of inadvertent comedy runs through “Laudato Si.” Il Papa assumes the posture of governess to the world—Mary Poppins on the Throne of Peter. Who else could align the magisterium of the Catholic Church with exhortation to turn off the air conditioner, shut the lights, and be sure to recycle? For this Christ died: to atone for petroleum products. And for carbon emissions from private cars carrying only one or two people.

For this Christ died: to atone for petroleum products. And for carbon emissions from private cars carrying only one or two people.

While Christians in the birthplaces of Christianity are crucified and beheaded for their faith, young girls are kidnapped and sold for the price of a pack of cigarettes, our encyclical whines: “In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

There is more in that letter-to-the-editor vein: “Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.”

Of course not. We were meant to live in a beautiful, walled-in enclave like Vatican City with splendid gardens, a throng of world-class museums, its own armed gendarmerie aligned with Interpol, and an impenetrable immigration policy.

Gospel quotations are bent to serve. In the chapter “The Gaze of Jesus,” we read this: “98. Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed: ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’ (Mt 8:27).”

That passage from Matthew has not a thing to do with harmony. Rather, it tells of Jesus’ dominion over nature. It is a statement of authority, of lordship over the natural order. The verse complements one from John: “He that cometh from above is above all.” By abolishing the scriptural intuition of power and might, the truncated quotation makes Jesus a screen on which to project a chimera of cosmic equality.

Intellectual and Moral Confusion

Luke is similarly falsified by omission: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” Jesus’ intention lies in the sweetness of the verse that follows—his assurance that man is more than the sparrows. But “Laudato Si” suggests otherwise by leaving out the fulfillment of its own quotation.

Resurgent Islam and the spread of Sharia are the church’s enemies, not oil, coal, and gas.

Replete with cooing reference to Francis of Assisi, “Laudato Si” ignores the single aspect of Assisi’s “Il Poverello” most relevant to our time. It is not the fey proto-hippie of high-fructose legend that speaks best to us now. It is the would-be martyr who sailed to Egypt alongside Crusaders to preach the gospel to a Muslim sultan.

Resurgent Islam and the spread of Sharia are the church’s enemies, not oil, coal, and gas. None are poorer than those who live, despised, in the path of ISIS. Where, then, is the encyclical calling for the conversion of Islam away from its murderous climate of hatred? Instead, the Vicar of Christ calls all the world—intending primarily the West—to “ecological conversion.”

Intellectual and moral confusion of such magnitude is a judgment on the ecclesial culture that produced it and the popular culture that consents to it.

Maureen Mullarkey is an artist who writes on art and culture. She keeps the weblog Studio Matters. Follow her on Twitter, @mmletters.

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