Climate Change: Media vs. Pope

The Earth, as seen from Apollo 17

A shorter version of this essay first appeared on ChurchMilitant.Com.
'We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests.'
Do you find these words provocative? There were spoken by the pope. Does a pope have no business delving into the subject of environmentalism? You might be inclined to think these words came from Pope Francis, but they did not. They were actually uttered by Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, on January 1, 2010.

His Holiness didn't stop there. In the same message, he said:
'Without entering into the merit of specific technical solutions, the Church is nonetheless concerned, as an "expert in humanity", to call attention to the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the "urgent moral need for a new solidarity". His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of "environmental refugees", people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.'
What was this 'ecological crisis' the Holy Father spoke of? He was speaking of what is commonly referred to as climate change. The title of this message was 'If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation', and you can view the whole message on the Vatican website here.

Judging by these quotes, it appears Pope Benedict XVI was not only a believer in climate change, but also an advocate for economic corrections to the problem. Such quotes may come as a shock to many Catholics in the United States, particularly faithful and orthodox Catholics, some of whom are inclined to the notion that environmental protection is a 'liberal idea' and has no place in the teaching authority of the Church.

The point of this commentary is not to champion climate change, or the alleged science behind it. Frankly, I could care less. As an asthmatic, I've always opposed air pollution, of any type, and so whether or not carbon emissions are raising global temperatures is of little consequence to me. My opposition to carbon emissions, and all the air pollution that usually goes along with it, began over forty years ago, long before it was trendy. It began as a child, when I found myself literally unable to breathe in my childhood home of Los Angeles county. Climate change means very little to a person who is struggling for air. In a very real sense, I am one of those 'environmental refugees' Pope Benedict XVI spoke of in 2010. I was forced to leave my childhood home as a young man back in 1993, to seek refuge in the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, where the air is much less polluted, and the worst thing I have to worry about is pollens that irritate my allergies. That can be remedied with a simple pill, called an antihistamine, unlike the smog of Southern California from which there was no remedy, and no easy escape, except to flee the region entirely. I am however, one of the lucky 'environmental refugees', because I live in America, where work is relatively plentiful, and over the course of a decade, I was able to secure a whole new life in my new Midwestern home that is much better than the one I left in Southern California.

The real point I want to address here has nothing to do with the environment, air pollution, climate change, or the pope's teaching on it. The real issue I want to address here is how the words of our Holy Father are being played by the media, and political hacks, to create artificial division between Catholics. You see, there are forces who have a vested interest in getting Catholics to stop listening to our leaders, and it's a mistake to think these forces are just of the liberal-modernist persuasion. Some are of the libertarian persuasion, others are of the neoconservative persuasion. There are many forces, and each has its own ideology, but in all cases their goal, when it comes to Catholics, is the same. They wish to decouple our thoughts, words and votes from our Church leadership, and that my friends is a very serious problem. In the last major address before his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI warned us about the influence of the media over society during and after the Second Vatican Council. He cited the mainstream media for creating an artificial council, that bore little resemblance to the actual council that took place in Rome. Because of this, he lamented, the 'hermeneutic of rupture' was born, which resulted in great upheavals within the Church, upheavals that the Church still has yet to recover from. This 'council of the media' (a term he coined in that speech) has had the effect of corrupting the minds of Catholics, and turning them against the intentions of Catholic leaders. You can read the entire address on the Vatican website here. I'll take His Holiness' words a step further by insisting that this 'council of the media' never ended, but that it continues on today, and just as the media has changed in recent years to incorporate libertarian and neoconservative voices, so too the 'council of the media' has changed as well to reflect this. Today we not only have media voices pulling on Catholics toward the liberal-modernist agenda, but we also have media voices pulling on Catholics toward the libertarian-neoconservative agenda. In many ways, the ideological world we live in today is far more treacherous than that of the 1960s, and Catholics are now being pulled in multiple heterodox directions, instead of just one.

Ever since Rush Limbaugh publicly accused Pope Francis of teaching Marxism on his November 27, 2013 radio show, the libertarian and neoconservative side of the media has been pounding on the Holy Father, and unfortunately, many faithful and orthodox Catholics are taking the bait. How is this any different from the way the 'council of the media' duped many Catholics in the 1960s? It's no different at all, and so we have in our time a continuation of the 'council of the media', that may seek to pull Catholics in a different direction than that of the 1960s, but in the end, the result is the same. Catholics no longer listen to the pope or the leadership of the Catholic Church.

I started this commentary with Pope Benedict XVI's words on the environment and climate change. So now I come full circle with Pope Francis' much anticipated upcoming encyclical on the same subject. I obviously can't comment on an encyclical that hasn't been released to the public yet, but again, that's not the point of this commentary. The point of this commentary is to warn my fellow Catholics about what is going on in the 'council of the media' right now, even as you are reading this. Media and political forces, ideologically opposed to the theory of man-made climate change, are already undermining the moral authority of our Holy Father, and they are poised to attack just as soon as the encyclical is released, regardless of what it says. Likewise, traditional media and political forces, in favour of man-made climate change theories, are likely to use the upcoming encyclical as a license to advocate whatever socialist and/or population-control schemes they think they can get away with. The 'council of the media' will report this encyclical to be 'groundbreaking' and 'revolutionary' even if it isn't. They will make Pope Francis out to be the 'first environmental pope' even though history clearly shows that he's not. Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II had much to say about climate change as well.

My warning here is to beware the 'council of the media' and ignore much of what the press has to say about Pope Francis in regards to this. Surely the press will attempt to pull Catholics in many directions on this issue, but the greatest thing they could accomplish, indeed the one thing they would desire more than anything else, is to incite a schism in the Catholic Church, pitting faithful and orthodox Catholics against our pope. No prize would be greater to them. As for the environment and climate change, popes have made it their business for quite some time now. Francis is no different. We should listen to our Holy Father, not media outlets and political hacks. The popes have been trying to tell us something important for a while now, and it's a message that transcends scientific theories and controversial methods of data collection. As I said above, I have no vested interest in climate change models, because the environment I grew up in was already polluted decades ago, forcing me to leave, seeking a better life elsewhere. What three popes have said about the environment already played out in my own life. I could care less what the media (any media) has to say about the issue. When the pope's latest encyclical is released, I will consider his words with docility and obedience. For my faith in the petrine ministry is not dependent upon him agreeing with certain political ideologies and worldviews. My only concern is that the pope is Catholic, and as we've seen from two previous popes, talking about the moral implications of man's influence on the environment appears to be a very Catholic thing to do. These things do have an impact on people, and that in turn has an impact on souls.



Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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