Sunday, January 07, 2007

Global Warming: Where Are All the Catholics?

Over at Commonweal, Eduardo Penalver as a timely post on global warming. He decries the lack of Church leadership on the issue, noting how many conservative Catholics ignore something which is firmly part of the gospel of life, while spending much effort fighting gay marriage and "sodomy". Let's face it. If global warming is real, and we continue to ignore it, we are implicitly engaging in a utilitarian calculus that values future generations less than those alive today, and that is deeply immoral. It is, in a sense, the ultimate moral issue of our time.

The Church is not exactly silent on the issue. Eduardo quotes John Paul discussing the obligation to be responsible stewards of creation. And Pope Benedict mentioned it in his recent World Day of Peace address, condemning the "destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources". Sure, it would be better if Church officials were more vocal on this issue. But the real problem is not the Church leadership, it is those American Catholics who are quite happy to dismiss the notion of global warming altogether. Every time the issue comes on in the Catholic blogosphere, you will observe a predictable cavalcade of conservative voices, parroting the energy shills and pulp fiction writers (Michael Crichton) claiming there is no global warming. I hardly need to point out at this stage that the scientific consensus says otherwise. As I noted in an earlier post, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (in the journal Science) declared that there was "no longer any substantive disagreement in the scientific community" that artificial global warming is real, and of great concern. Moreover, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared unequivocally that the scientific consensus was that climate is being altered by human activities.

The cynical Bush administration has mastered the technique of ignoring inconvenient facts if ideology is on the line. And evangelicals have little stake in defending the environment if they believe a crazy end times scenario suggesting that God will "rapture" the saved to heaven, and damn the rest. The strong voluntarist strain also downplays the rational underpinnings of faith, as the will of God trumps scientific rules and empirical regularities. But Catholics are not supposed to think that way. Faith and reason are supposed to be totally compatible. Facts matter. Science matters. Reality matters. The fact that right-wing Catholics can join in the denial game suggests yet again that the "political marriage of convenience" with the evangelicals continues to yield rotten fruit.


Anonymous said...

why the scare quotes around the word sodomy? is it because you reject the Church's teachings on sexual morality?

Morning's Minion said...

Because it is not an appropriate topic for penal sanctions. The purpose of law is not to promote virtue and prevent vice.