Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
I have written two previous articles here at the National Catholic Register expressing my serious concerns about the working document (instrumentum laboris) of the Amazon Synod. The first article focused on the document’s near-deification of the environment. The second article dealt with the demonization of the Western and modern world.
At this point I am laying aside my original plan for more articles. In the first place, other authors have done admirable work exposing the grave errors, and the sometimes-silly aspects of the instrumentum laboris. I have also picked up grand jury duty for 32 days, which limits my time to write.
But finally, it seems clearer to me that I should share a new concern that the near panic over “global climate change” is sure to interact with the Synod, already noted for its heavy environmental focus. It seems quite certain to me that the Synod will add to and be affected by what many regard as an excessive fervor — even an invented crisis.
Concern for the environment is part of the wise stewardship expected of Christians. Waste and pollution reduction, resource conservation, proper forest management, wise agricultural policies and so on are all good and to be encouraged. But the kind of extremism that has been growing over the years has reached a fever pitch that should alarm reasonable people.
Fearsome reports abound that there are only 12 years left before global warming becomes irreversible. Frightened predictions of climate catastrophe proliferate, as do highly unrealistic calls for the banning of fossil fuels, coal and even natural gas. Many activists speak of not having children since the world they would have to live in would be too awful. The fearmongering has gotten bad enough that psychologists now say they are having to treat rising numbers of children for anxiety and depression over “eco-anxiety.”
The hurricane of eco-panic has reached Category 3 and is sure to grow during the Amazon Synod. I predict a Category 4 by the end of October. Add a coming U.S. election year to the mix and we’ll be at Category 5 for the foreseeable future. Any legitimate climate concerns that may have existed have been hijacked to become a global political movement. Politics poisons everything and both sides are going to harden positions.
My own experience and disposition make me dubious of all the warnings and fearmongering. The fact is, I have been hearing catastrophic predictions all my life. Back in my teens, scientists were warning of a coming ice age by the year 2000. Then there were predictions of coming droughts, agricultural collapse, overpopulation, ozone holes, dying oceans, failing water supplies, and so forth. And now horrifying predictions abound about global warming and climate change. (Here is a list of over 50 failed predictions of eco-catastrophe from the past 50 years: Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions.)
I puzzle at the hyper-focus on climate change since the climate has undergone many changes, globally and locally. Long before man, there were ice ages and other warmer periods. Even in our historical memory there has been the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age — not to mention expanding and contracting deserts, ice sheets, beaches, etc. The sun also goes through cycles. And then there are my questions that no one seems to be able or willing to answer:
- What is the ideal or normal temperature of the planet?
- What is too much ice at the poles and what is not enough?
- How do you explain the rather dramatic shifts in climate long before man could have any real influence?
- Why is a warmer planet necessarily a worse planet? Even if sea levels rise a bit, would arable land in Siberia and northern Canada be a good offset?
- How do you really know that all the terrible things you predict will happen and that they will happen suddenly and all at once within 12 years?
I generally find, when asking these questions, that I don’t get answers. Instead, I’m rebuked with a kind of religious fervor that regards me not merely as stupid, but even as dangerous and morally evil. How dare I have any doubts or questions? It is a kind of forbidden debate and I should be ashamed of myself (I’m told) for even suggesting that there could be uncertainty in any of the predictions. This is going to happen, and you need to get with the program.
But getting with the program might just be the problem. And this brings us back to the Amazon Synod. If one analyzes “the program” one will find many things problematic and even inimical to Catholic teaching. The proposed program of the environmental movements includes some or all of the following elements:
- Population control to include mandated contraception, sterilization, abortion and euthanasia
- Ideological imposition of policies that heavily favor nature over man and collectivist, globalist notions over the family.
- The program will also surely feature higher taxes, growing intrusion of secular government into every aspect of life, and draconian limits on world economies that will stunt their growth and disproportionately affect the poor.
The concern I wish to express here is that, with all the other unmoored ideological currents running through this Synod, there is a great risk of the Synod’s excessive environmental streams merging with the raging river of radical environmentalism. The Synod fathers and participants would do well to remember that there should be no compromising of our Catholic values to join in what has become an increasingly godless, anti-life and anti-human movement. It is also a movement that brooks no compromise and sees much of Catholic teaching as an evil to be vanquished and removed from the scene. It is a movement that has become extreme and that shames — even savages — its opponents and will never be satisfied until we utterly forsake our pro-life views.
Where will the Synod’s loyalties lie? Will the Synod participants align with the perennial teachings of Christ and his Church? Or will they align with a movement that has become a religion of its own?
We Catholics, while having proper concern for the environment that is truly Catholic, must become more sober about the ideological and political extremism that has set up inside the climate change movement and that is increasingly inimical to some of our most precious teachings concerning the dignity of the human person. Unqualified acceptance of this movement is no longer an option. I pray the synod participants will recognize this. But frankly, I am not optimistic.
Keep the prayers and fasts going, my friends!