Category: Environmental Stewardship

In The American Spectator today, Ross Kaminsky critiques the economics behind Laudato Si’ and suggests that the pontiff’s ideas may do more harm than good.

Let’s be clear: The pope is no fan of capitalism, of the rich countries of the northern hemisphere, or of economic rationality. His desire to help the poor of the world is undoubtedly sincere but his policy inclinations are so poorly informed — both in terms of science and economics — that if implemented they would harm the very people he cares most about. Beyond economics, however, even the morality of Francis’s siren calls for particular international actions is questionable.

Kaminsky also cites Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg to explain why Pope Francis’s idea of an “ecological debt” has been discredited.
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Met. John of Pergamon

Met. John of Pergamon

At the Vatican press conference on Thursday for the launch of Pope Francis’ enviromental encyclical, a high ranking Greek Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, said the document, titled Laudato Si in Latin or Praise be to You in English, comes at a “critical moment in human history” and will “undoubtedly have a worldwide effect on people’s consciousness.” He thanked the pope for “for raising his authoritative voice to draw the attention of the world to the urgent need to protect God’s creation from the damage we humans inflict on it with our behavior towards nature.”

Zizioulas, an advocate of what he calls “Radical Ecology” (more on that below), was in Rome as the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew whose church for more than three decades  has taken to the bully pulpit of this ancient and oppressed see to advance Christian stewardship of the environment. This is why Bartholomew, who just concluded another environmental conference in Istanbul, is known as the Green Patriarch.

You can read the full text of Zizioulas’ remarks on the Vatican Radio site. How to understand the Orthodox role here? Five things, for starters.

1. Persuasion, not jurisdiction.

Bartholomew’s pronouncements on the environment have been applauded widely by environmental and media elites. Yet his numerous statements and declarations are met with little interest in the self-governed Orthodox churches outside the Greek Orthodox world. Certainly, his statements and endorsements of various United Nations climate treaties are not binding on other churches in any way. In the Orthodox Church, major theological controversies are settled by a council or synod. Debatable environmental stewardship policies and prescriptions don’t rise to this level. When you hear Bartholomew described by his own church or the media as the “spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians” that is true if he were to sit in synod with other Orthodox hierarchs where he is the “first among equals.” An Orthodox Council is in the works for 2016, but there are no momentous theological disputes on the agenda. Bartholomew, while widely revered, would not typically be considered by a Russian or Egyptian or Romanian or Serb or Bulgarian or Syrian as their pastor. They have their own patriarchs and popes. Nor does Bartholomew wield jurisdiction over the self-governed churches in Greece and Cyprus — although closely linked by language and culture and theological tradition to these lands. (more…)

William McGurn claims that Laudato Si’ adopts the environmentalists’ logic, if not their full conclusions, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. He critiques the encyclical’s “bleak” tone and economic pronouncements:

Put it this way. If you were a parent whose family was languishing in soul-crushing poverty in some desperate part of Africa, you’d hear two messages today:

The economist and entrepreneur will tell you that there is no nation so poor that its people cannot lift up themselves if they have the freedom to take advantage of modern technology and participate in the global marketplace. In the process, their neighbors will also be enriched and the environment improved.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis suggests that the impoverished in the developing world can never have better lives or a cleaner environment until the West imposes a much-reduced standard of living on itself.

Which offers the more hopeful and human way forward?

Read the full text of his article here.

In the Washington Times, Nicholas Hahn critiques the scientific and economic arguments of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical and the policies the pontiff proposed.

Despite the pontiff’s best intentions to steer clear of politics, his encyclical too often engages in sophisticated science and partisan policymaking. Francis blames markets and advances in technology without at least admitting that the Industrial Revolution lifted more people out of poverty than ever before.

However, Pope Francis’s “most welcome contribution” is the affirmation that human beings belong in the center of creation, he writes.

Read the full text of Hahn’s “Pope Francis preaches the gospel of global warming” here.

Doug Bandow, advisory board member of the Acton Institute, praises the new encyclical for its understanding of man and religion, but criticizes it for its lack of knowledge of economics and politics in an article for The American Spectator.

Despite his commitment to ecological values, the Holy Father acknowledges that “a return to nature cannot be at the expense of freedom and the responsibility of the human being, that is the part of the world tasked with cultivating its ability to protect and develop their potential.” He also rejects “deification of the earth, which would deprive us of the call to collaborate with it and protect its fragility.”

Nevertheless, humanity’s responsibility for the environment is complex and the Pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor. How to creatively transform but at the same time gently preserve the natural world is not easy. Unfortunately, in its policy prescriptions Laudato Si sounds like it was written by an advocate, largely ignoring countervailing arguments. The resulting factual and philosophical shortcomings undercut the larger and more profound theological discussion.

Read the full article “Praise ‘Be Praised’ for Its Intent, not Execution” at The American Spectator.

 

pope plantThe most common question surrounding the new encyclical from Pope Francis is some variation of: Why is a Church leader talking about politics, economics, and science? Many argue that this encyclical is merely trying to encourage conversation on how best to be stewards of creation. In the past, papal encyclicals have created controversy, but have helped to further debate and discussion and have informed consciences.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, of the National Review, argues that this encyclical on ecology, “presents a fuller vision of creation and our responsibilities toward it than we’re reliable to see on any given Vanity Fair Caitlyn Jenner cover-story reading day.”Lopez assures that the pope, in this encyclical, is “not concerned with settling some scientific dispute, not does he claim competence to do so.” She reiterates this point but actually quoting the encyclical: “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

However, she does raise issues with some specifics of the encyclical, citing Acton’s Samuel Gregg:
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preachDylan Pahman has a bit of an issue with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. It seems the two have written an op-ed for the New York Times in response to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. The only problem is, according to Pahman, the two don’t sound like Christians.

The Patriarch and Archbishop’s op-ed could have been written by a deist like Thomas Jefferson, or a UN bureaucrat versed in God-talk. Sure, they vaguely mention God and creation. But the Gospel message of the Son of God become Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose again to save the world from corruption, sin, and death — a global cause and calling if there ever was one — is missing in action. (more…)

Peter Johnson, external relations officer for the Acton Institute, discusses the muddled economic message in the recent encyclical for The Federalist:

While I don’t doubt for a moment that Pope Francis sincerely wants to help the poor, I think it would be difficult for even the most erudite Catholic scholars to find a coherent message in a passage like this.

For example, he praises business as a “noble vocation” while summarily disparaging “economies of scale.” While he recognizes that poor people need to be connected to the larger economy to rise out of poverty, he also encourages “civil authorities” to constrain those in the larger economy who actually have the capital to invest in new enterprises.

This vacillation between upholding the merits of enterprise and disparaging profits runs throughout the encyclical. If I could sum up his view on commerce in one sentence it would be this: Business is okay, as long as you don’t make too much money.

Read the entire post “Pope Francis’ Incoherent Economics” here at The Federalist.

scientific_methodMy husband and I had a conversation about science on the way home from church yesterday. Since he is a scientist, it drives him a little buggy when people talk about “consensus” as a way to come to a scientific conclusion, or that scientific facts can be “bent” to uphold a particular opinion or viewpoint. As he said, science is about discovery and fact, not about agreement. One hundred people can agree that grass is, in fact, a mammal, but that is not science, nor is there scientific evidence to uphold that claim.

Jay Richards gives us a litmus test for scientific evidence. When should we be skeptical of science?

First, be skeptical when different claims get “bundled” together.

Usually, in scientific disputes, there is more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that human emissions are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we have to transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different assertions with different bases of evidence. Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan, and that wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

Don’t assume that “consensus” equals science. (more…)

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Robert Sirico writes about the encyclical, the role of free markets and the need for continuous conversation about the environment:

Let’s cut to the chase: Much of what is in Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental stewardship, Laudato Si’, poses a major challenge for free-market advocates, those of us who believe that capitalism is a powerful force for caring for the earth and lifting people out of poverty. But one of the most welcome lines is a call for honest, respectful discussion.

Read the full text here.