- - Sunday, January 4, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Pope Francis — and I say this as a Catholic — is a complete disaster when it comes to his policy pronouncements. On the economy, and now on the environment, the pope has allied himself with the far left and has embraced an ideology that would make people poorer and less free.

Pope Francis is reportedly preparing a lengthy encyclical message to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on the need for decisive action on climate change and will speak before the United Nations General Assembly on this subject this year. The pope recently declared: “The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

This is the language of the radical green movement that is at its core anti-Christian, anti-human being and anti-progress. He has aligned himself with a secular movement that is antithetical to the fundamental theological underpinning of Catholicism — the sanctity of human life and the value of all souls.

The modern pagan green religion in developed nations needs to be denounced by the Vatican. These are the people and organizations that have come to believe that an excessive number of human beings is destroying Mother Earth.

Some of the great atrocities of the past half-century have been borne of this belief that the world is overpopulated. Has the Vatican forgotten the detestable and immoral population-control policies, including, eugenics, tens of millions of forced abortions and forced sterilizations, and one-child policies — all in the name of greens trying to save the planet? It was Pope John Paul II who heroically denounced this theology and reminded Catholics and all other Christians that human beings are resource creators, not resource destroyers.

The Vatican’s warning that we are witnessing “great cataclysms” of weather events is contradicted by scientific evidence. The numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, typhoons, monsoons, earthquakes, floods, freezes and so on are not on the rise, as even the U.S. government’s own numbers confirm. The pope has been snookered. The best way to counteract death and destruction from severe acts of Mother Nature is through economic development.

This is why the pope’s missives on capitalism and income inequality are so misguided as well. Catholics, of course, have a moral responsibility to care for the poor and disadvantaged. However, the greatest vehicle for alleviating poverty and deprivation is the very institution of free market capitalism that he now denounces.

Consider this recent statement by Pope Francis, which sounds much a Marxist view of economics:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. … This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

But wait: The people who believe with a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power” are the socialists who centralize economic power in the hands of statist leaders. Again, Pope John Paul II, who aligned himself with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to help win the Cold War and defeat the evils of a communist economic system, helped topple the socialists. The pope wants to put more power into the hands of the statist oppressors, who always promise that they stand with the working class.

This embrace of governmental action that underlies many of the pope’s statements would not lift up the poor, but condemn them to more poverty and less freedom. Consider the climate change fanatics’ agenda. They seek cap-and-trade policies, carbon taxes and regulations against the use of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. These are all regressive forms of taxation that hurt the poor among us the most.

What is the theological case for telling those in the poorest villages of the planet, where people still live at a subsistence level, that they have a moral obligation to save the planet by staying poor and using fewer fossil fuels, less energy and electricity? Cheap and affordable electric power is the most basic antidote to fighting extreme poverty, disease, malnutrition and human deprivation — and should by celebrated by all humanitarians.

As a Catholic, it is so unsettling to see the head of my church endorsing policies that would make the poor poorer, and thereby exacerbate income inequality.

What the pope should tell the world’s Catholics is this: If climate change is a threat, the best antidote is not to empower heavy-handed and incompetent command-and-control governments to try to combat it, but rather allow free people to employ their wealth, technology, ingenuity and creativity — to find ways to head off catastrophe. If, God forbid, the United Nations or Greenpeace is to be our salvation, than we are doomed.

Pope Francis should be a saver of souls. Free people and free enterprise should be left to save whatever ails the planet.

Stephen Moore is chief economist at The Heritage Foundation and a Fox News contributor.

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