Many feel Francis has gone beyond his remit in taking a radical political stanceby John Cornwell / June 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment—a formal church document, released yesterday, in which he calls for action on climate change and pollution—has been greeted with enthusiasm by an impressive array of the “people of good will” to whom he addresses it.
But in the long run, the reception of the Pope’s pronouncements may tell us more about the state of the Catholic Church and of the papacy than about how to solve the degradation of the planet.
The document has been praised by the many secular institutions that blame the actions of humans for climate change. Representatives of the United Nations (UN) have enthusiastically endorsed it, as has Greenpeace—institutions that have no brief for Christianity, let alone Catholicism. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday noted that the encyclical expressed “a very solid scientific consensus” showing that most global warming in recent decades is “mainly a result of human activity.”
At the same time, though, there is a subterranean theme within the encyclical’s 184 pages that has prompted strong reactions inside the Catholic Church. It has been harshly criticised by some leading Catholics who believe that it goes beyond the papal remit by expressing uncompromising views on politics and economics.
Francis is not just reminding the world that we have a moral obligation to preserve the planet. Nor is he simply backing those scientists who blame the usual culprits, mainly fossil fuels. He is drawing severe criticism from within his Church for expressing opinions which place him squarely on the radical left.
The issue of the environment as seen by the Pope Francis is not a matter of purely scientific, or indeed theological, debate: it involves, economic and political views on how the world’s poor can be brought out of poverty while protecting the environment. “Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain,” he writes. “As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of the deified market, which become the only rule.”
Some of his economic prescriptions are highly specific. For example: “Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing…