There Is Nothing Remotely 'Christian' About Climate Denial

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Photo credit: Mondadori Portfolio - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mondadori Portfolio - Getty Images

The right-wing members of the Clan of the Red Beanie and their fans in the conservative Catholic press went a bit agog when the president told the press that Papa Francesco had called him “a good Catholic” and that he would continue to receive the Eucharist with a clear conscience. Personally, I thought it was a bit of a gaffe to share with the world a private conversation with the pope. (Remember when John Paul II had a private viewing of Mel Gibson’s little sacred snuff film, and conservatives boasted that JPII had said how much he loved the movie? That was fairly classless.) But, to be fair, Biden’s remarks got up all the right noses, so there’s that.

What’s more concerning is that, once Biden left Rome for the climate summit in Scotland, a strong strain of pure climate denial evinced itself among the same conservative Catholic circles as had pronounced their disappointment with Papa Francesco’s remarks about the president’s faith. This has the potential to do far more serious damage in the long-term than does what the pope said to the president. Papa Francesco has been one of the clear, clarion voices calling for radical action to combat the climate crisis. His case is based on both a Christian call for environmental stewardship and on the outsized effect the climate crisis is already having on the world’s poor. In a 2015 encyclical, the pope called for what he termed “integral ecology.” This call went remarkably unremarked upon in the American church. From the National Catholic Reporter:

Overall, American Catholic bishops have been overwhelmingly silent about climate change. Of the 12,077 columns we studied, only 93 (0.8%) mention climate change, global warming or their equivalent at all. Those 93 columns come from just 53 of the 201 bishops in our data set. The other 148 (74%) never mentioned climate change in their columns.

Secondly, when the bishops did mention climate change, they distanced themselves from church teaching on this issue: 44 of the 93 columns (47%) that mention climate change do not refer to church teaching on the issue. Of the 49 columns that do, many fail to substantively communicate the contents of church climate change teaching. In six columns, the bishop downplayed the pope's authority to teach about climate change. In nine columns, the bishop minimized focus on climate change within the church's broader ecological teachings. Additionally, 29 columns do not clearly convey the bishop's personal view about the teaching. Since silence can be a form of climate change denial, readers could interpret their bishop's silence as disagreement — and license for dissent.

And there also is a feeling abroad in conservative circles that behind all this concern about the Earth’s becoming an uninhabitable cinder lurks an atheistic, pantheistic desire for us all to go back to worshipping trees or something. Here’s Father Paul Haffner in the National Catholic Register:

So the U.N. view, we know, is arrived at by a rather fragile consensus, whereas our Christian view, Eastern and Western, is arrived at by Revelation. So it’s two different pictures. Climate change is something not all scientists are agreed upon anyway. There are people, for example, who would say climate change always occurred because the climate is never exactly the same, but for the Church to buy into a particular vision of climate change, embraced by the U.N. and several world governments worldwide, is a bit dangerous. Like the Galileo affair — you buy into one position and then the science can wrong-foot you. So we should steer very, very attentively in such troubled waters.

Somehow, I don’t think the climate crisis will come to be dismissed as thoroughly as was the concept of an Earth-centered solar system, but do carry on. It’s time to make the real case for faith-based batshittery.

It’s a new age religion, basically cosmo-centricism whereby the cosmos is placed at the center, the human being is a nuisance, and you want to push him or her aside. Therefore abortion, euthanasia, and depopulation of course, are all a part of this wicked agenda, which obviously wants the person put in second and third place and the exaltation of animals, putting them on the same level of human beings. The biblical and traditional teaching is that men and women are at the apex of the created world. Hierarchy in creation exists and this is forgotten because what is being promoted is basically ecologism, as we call it — a socialistic or communistic ideology which wants to level everything out and forget there is a hierarchy in which the human person is the apex, under God, under Christ, with dominion over creation.

These are the kinds of bizarre word-collisions that you get in a lot of hardline Catholic intellectual panhandling. Ecologism is socialistic and communistic? The “exaltation of animals.” I’m not sure if Father Haffner is aware of this, but, if the climate crisis is not addressed, his gig at the Gregorian Institute in Rome is going to be lost because the Gregorian Institute will be underwater in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea will not care how biblically correct Father Haffner was.

The Church … says we should look after creation as “priests” and stewards and leaves it to our initiative. We don’t give too many details and that’s the genius of the Eastern tradition. Then we won’t get caught by these socialist, communist pressure groups and ideologies. We remember also that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. This creation will not last forever. We have no permanent home in this current world, so to try and deify or permanentize this world as if it’s something we’ve got to preserve forever, is effectively adoring it. We’re adoring a false God.

I’m sure this will come as a great comfort to the millions of people starving from drought and dying of thirst, or the peoples of the South Pacific whose countries are beginning to sink forever beneath the waves. There is absolutely nothing remotely “Christian” about this viewpoint. I wish Father Haffner well with his swimming lessons.

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