A few days have lapsed since I posted “Pope Francis and Climate Change.” Between a couple of comments to that post, along with two other discussions which broke out concerning it on Facebook and GChat respectively, it seems important to make a few additional comments which touch not just on the climate-change issue, but where faithful Catholics should stand vis-à-vis ideologically charged issues.
First, while climate-change skepticism supported by arguments and evidence with varying degrees of plausibility is alive and well, the general scientific consensus is that human activity is causing global warming (also referred to as “anthropogenic climate change”). Within that consensus, however, are significant divergences in opinion of how much human beings are contributing to global warming; what, if anything, can be done about it; and what we can expect going forward. Still, given the general consensus, it is neither unreasonable nor necessarily ideological for a Catholic to accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change and, from there, believe that concrete measures ought to be taken to address it.
Second, with respect to those measures, some are simply beyond the pale. For instance, population control, which is part of the political agenda of certain groups concerned with climate change, is unacceptable to Catholics and should not, under any circumstance, be endorsed. However, the fact that there are individuals and groups which support immoral responses to climate change does not mean Catholics ought to step away from the issue altogether. In fact, it likely means that Catholics should raise their voices to ensure that any and all policy responses to climate change are directed in a moral and sensible manner.
Third, even though climate change has become the primary issue for certain individuals and groups which hold any number of troubling opinions, it does not follow that Catholics cannot or should not be concerned with the issue as well. There is no virtue in Catholics surrendering the climate-change discourse to ideologues, which is one reason that Pope Francis’s pending intervention on the matter may prove helpful.
And last, speaking of that intervention, it is entirely fair to question whether or not right now is the appropriate time for the Holy Father to divert his resources toward the climate-change issue when there are so many other pressing matters for the Pope to concern himself with. Moreover, there is also the open question whether or not speaking on such a politically volatile topic, with the power to set so many Catholics against each other, is prudent. Adding to that prudential calculus is the risk that the mainstream media, which has been quite happy to flex its muscles to craft an image of the Pope which may not always correspond to reality, will use the pending climate-change encyclical to further its own secular interests.