The Catholic Church and I don’t see eye to eye on the majority of issues most of the time. Their stance on reproductive rights and their shameful legacy of protecting predatory priests were major contributors to the reason I walked away from them nearly 15 years ago. While the Vatican has denied science when it comes to some issues, they’re surprisingly progressive among other Christian religions in accepting that both evolution and climate change are real.
Recently, presidential nopeful (that’s a term I just made up to describe much of the Republican 2016 field) Rick Santorum said that Pope Francis should “leave science to the scientists” when it came to the issue of climate change. Rick Santorum, who is not a scientist but is a right-wing Catholic, made this comment in anticipation of Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical being released.
Pope Francis will this week call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, according to a leaked draft of a papal encyclical. In a document released by an Italian magazine on Monday, the pontiff will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”.
Francis also called for a new global political authority tasked with “tackling … the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions”. His appeal echoed that of his predecessor, pope Benedict XVI, who in a 2009 encyclical proposed a kind of super-UN to deal with the world’s economic problems and injustices.
According to the lengthy draft, which was obtained and published by L’Espresso magazine, the Argentinean pope will align himself with the environmental movement and its objectives. While accepting that there may be some natural causes of global warming, the pope will also state that climate change is mostly a man-made problem. (Source)
I’m not sure how this encyclical will be welcomed by conservative Catholics who wholeheartedly embrace church doctrine on abortion or contraception, but usually ignore it when issues of poverty and climate change come up. They also support and vote for right-wing Republicans like Rick Santorum who have rejected the Vatican’s authority on climate change in order to score political points with wealthy donors like the Koch brothers.
Here’s the kicker: Church teachings also state that the Pope is infallible when it comes to issues of morality. Since this encyclical is saying that climate change is a man-made problem and combating it is a moral issue, Catholic Republicans now find themselves in a bit of a bind. Do they side with Pope Francis, or reject church teachings and go with the talking points of the Republican Party instead?
Here’s what the Catholic Church says when it comes to the issue of infallibility, and this is a conservative Catholic site I’m sourcing.
Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.”
The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 (“Feed my sheep . . . “), Luke 22:32 (“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”), and Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter . . . “) (Source)
Catholic Republicans are now forced to make a choice. They can follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, or the teachings of the Republican Party – but not both. Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are three Republican presidential candidates who are also Roman Catholic. Speaker John Boehner is Catholic as well, and he extended an invitation last year to Pope Francis to speak before a joint session of Congress, which he will do this fall. It’s going to be very interesting to watch them try to stand up to Pope Francis on this issue, and I’ll bet I know which one wins.
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