- - Thursday, June 18, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Not so long ago the global-warming fanatics got their backs up if someone accused them of preaching religious doctrine disguised as science, even as they defended their scientific “evidence” as if it were Scripture. Global warming was “settled science,” they insisted, and the skeptics of the doctrine that the warming was the irresponsible work of man were dismissed as ignorant “deniers” of holy writ.

But now that Pope Francis is an eager recruit in the war on fossil fuels, it’s OK to embrace Roman Catholic fervor in the propagation of the green gospel. The fanatics are postulates of a religion after all. They’ve got the pope, if not necessarily God, on their side.

Francis even issued an encyclical, a papal letter to bishops on a point of theology meant to conclude debate. This encyclical is about the pope’s views on a “God-given responsibility” of man to act as steward of the divine gifts of the planet. The pope warns of “unprecedented destruction of the eco-system,” and in a not-so-subtle reference to “climate deniers,” he argues that “the attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”

This is ironic, or “weird,” as one critic of the encyclical describes it, for a man — and he is only a man, though no doubt a good and decent man — who demands belief and blind faith from his followers in instruction in some of the most intimate corners of their lives. But he is not a scientist, and it’s perfectly appropriate to consider this in determining the correct weight of his opinion. He’s entitled to his opinion, but it’s only his opinion. He’s taking the word of climate scientists on belief and blind faith.

The Roman Catholic Church, as its critics point out, has not always rushed to the embrace of science. Not until 1992, only two decades ago, would the Vatican formally apologize for persecuting Galileo in the 17th century for proving that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not the sun spinning around the Earth. Pope Benedict XVI told Africans that condoms would not protect them from AIDS, despite scientific evidence otherwise, in 2009.

Could similar hubris feed the global-warming fanatics who insist that the cycle of warming is the work of man, on which there is wide agreement, and not the natural order that many believe was established by the Creator?

The church of Christ in its many divisions has a responsibility to guide the millions of believers in matters of faith and morals, and rightly resists when the state tries to muscle in and muscle the church out. The church, including the pope, is most persuasive when it speaks to matters moral and leaves matters temporal, such as science, to science.

The pope is certainly entitled to speak about anything he chooses, but on the politics of global warming — and politics is precisely what the debate over global warming is about — he is not likely to persuade. He dilutes his moral authority when he tries.

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