"Laudato Si’," Pope Francis’ much anticipated second encyclical published Thursday, has predictably been praised and criticized, generating a copious amount of opinion that is likely to further boost the Pope’s profile on the global stage.
Commentators have valued the lengthy letter’s calls for increased social awareness on a wide range of problems affecting the world today; others have criticized the Pope for serious omissions and venturing into areas beyond his competence.
Christopher Ferrara, writing in LifeSite news and The Remnant newspaper, said the good parts of the document are “not inconsiderable,” and cited among others its condemnations of abortion (albeit in the context of a “throwaway” culture as opposed to the murder of an innocent), its rejection of gender theory, its defense of the family as “the primary cell of society,”and its clear rejection of the population control agenda and radical environmentalism.
But he said he “searched in vain” for a reference to as “the soul” except for a passing reference in what he called a kind of “Catholic supplement” at the end of the document.
The rest of the document, Ferrara wrote, was a “thoroughly humanistic presentation of the ‘ecological crisis.’” The encyclical’s approach, he said, was in “stark contrast” to the social encyclicals of past popes who always affirmed the “indispensable role of the Church and the Gospel in preserving civilization.”
Ferrara, like many others, was disappointed that "Laudato Si’" gave such overt support for climate change science, as well as the U.N.’s crucial climate change conference in Paris later this year.
Lord Monckton of Brenchley, author of several peer reviewed papers on climate change, told me the encyclical is “scientifically illiterate” and gets “every material climatological fact wrong.”
“The encyclical says a strong scientific consensus finds recent warming mostly manmade, but only 0.3 percent of 11,944 climate papers published from 1991-2011 were even willing to go so far as to declare recent warming mostly manmade.” He pointed out seven other errors in the document that, he said, cause “needless alarm.”
“It is not the business of the Holy See to make pronouncements on questions of science,” he said. “No Catholic is bound by this encyclical’s inaccurate and prejudiced presentation of climatology.”
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a key advisor to the Pope on climate change in the encyclical, dismissed such scepticism as “ridiculous” on Thursday, adding that you will never have 100 per cent certainty in science, but that doesn’t mean his scientific findings are incorrect.
Monckton’s main criticism is against the Pontifical Academies, which enrolled Schellnhuber, an atheist, as a member this week. He believes they advised the Pope badly by choosing to exclude climate change sceptics and “uncharitably” describing them “as motivated by profit”. Such an approach, he said, “demeans the papacy, discounts its message and discredits the messenger.”
Kishore Jayabalan, Rome director of the Acton Institute, is concerned that given the encyclical calls on limits to fossil fuel emissions and other forms of pollution, it doesn’t “consider the costs of limiting these sources of energy, especially on the poor.”
Further criticisms of the encyclical were its persistent criticisms of capitalism and business. Although business that serves the common good was lauded in the document, it frequently comes down hard on profit-making, and the effect businesses can have on worsening global warming for the developing world.
Jayabalan said that “unfortunately, the encyclical repeatedly claims that the fault lies with the developed world and its over-consumption, buying into the fallacy of zero-sum economics,” — that the poor are poor because the rich are rich.
“There are many such attacks against market economies,” he added, “but no mention of the environmental destruction caused by centrally-planned economies such as the former Soviet Union and China. It is a very one-sided, if not ideological view of economics.”
Despite some commentators saying the encyclical could have been mistaken for a Democratic Party policy paper, not all conservatives were put off by it. Jayabalan appreciated it’s probable effect of raising social awareness which is “generally a good thing.”
Father Paul Haffner, author of "Towards a Theology of the Environment," said that as a “conservative, scientific and theological expert on ecology, I find it a great encyclical.” Haffner said it followed “quite closely the method and content” of his own book, but without “ferociously” attacking ideology and radical environmentalism as he did.
But that could be problematic in the future. Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-life groups, warned that the document’s surprising omission of any reference to church teaching on the use of contraception “leaves Catholics ill-prepared to resist the international population control agenda.”
Still, the encyclical has undoubtedly further increased the Pope’s global influence. Many Catholics are therefore hoping he will at least use this greater standing to vigorously promote the church’s teaching when he visits the United Nations in September.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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