As easy as it is to criticize the actions and statements of Pope Francis, especially in light of how popes have traditionally spoken and acted, there is something about his pontificate that is not wholly different than his predecessors’. I hear him speak of his insistence on a moral decay present in the world, often described in apocalyptic tones.
This week, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, dubbed as a sequel or follow-up to his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si. At the risk of seeming like I am downplaying the significance of his most recent document, it should be noted that it was not written as an encyclical, which traditionally has been held to be higher in dogmatic value than an exhortation. That being said, Amoris Laetitia was also written as an exhortation, and we all know how that has turned out. Also, the document was not addressed to the Church or the bishops but instead to “all people of good will.”
Now, I have been accused of being many things, but a theologian is not one of them. However, it seems to me that if the pope addresses a document to “all people of good will,” we shouldn’t take his words as Catholic teaching, beyond whatever bit of doctrine has slipped into the document here or there. Ultimately, Laudate Deum is more like an opinion piece written by a progressive politician for the WEF or UN than a Catholic teaching document. Even Fr. Raymond de Souza said as much in his piece for the Register, which is saying a lot considering de Souza did his best to do an apologetic for Pope Francis’ presence at a veritable witch doctor ceremony during his tragic visit to Canada last year.
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The document itself is apocalyptic in tone. After some niceties in the first paragraph, the pope states in the second: “…while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.” Again, for a pope to insist on the downward spiral of civilization is nothing new, and it is even laudable under certain circumstances.
Take, for example, Pope St. Pius X’s first encyclical, E Supremi, which was released exactly 120 years prior to Laudate Deum, on October 4, 1903. Pius X writes toward the beginning of the encyclical:
We were terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction?
As you can imagine, the malady that Pope Francis is worried about is completely different than that of Pius X. For Pope Francis, it is the “global climate crisis” that threatens to upset the Chardinian quest for Point Omega; for Pius X, the disease is “apostasy from God.” For Francis, it is carbon accumulation that threatens to damn the soul of the world. For Pius X, it was—rightly so—the accumulation of heresy and sin that threatened to damn the soul of each person.
Leaving aside the reigning pontiff’s statements about the ecological state of the natural world—which are hotly contested, even if the pope does spend a considerable portion of the document dealing with climate “denialism”—even if it were true that we faced some sort of climate disaster, it would still be wrong-headed to focus on the natural world as a way to solve the problem.
Let us just imagine for a moment that we really do waste too many resources, that we suck on too many plastic straws, and that cow flatulence is really the greatest threat facing humanity since the Black Plague; even if that were all true, the cause of the problem would be sin and apostasy from God.
Wasting resources, filling lakes with toxic sludge, or any number of sins against Gaia, have their root in human behavior. It is not possible to sin against the earth, as the earth does not have a soul; but we could say that it is possible to sin against our neighbor by exploiting or destroying this or that resource that he depends on for health and wealth. Please do not confuse my meaning here as if I am arguing for some environmentalist outlook. I only mean to say that it is impossible for Francis’ call for climate action to fix the problem even if he is right about the climate!
Ironically, Pope Pius X offers a better solution to caring for our “common home” even though he spent not one single moment talking about carbon or melting ice sheets. This is because Pius X understood that evil—all evil—entered the world through sin, which is what we know as a de fide truth from Scripture.
If the poor are suffering from environmental disasters that are made worse by evil capitalists, then it is the hearts of those who exploit the poor and disregard their well-being for profit that must be changed. If we are killing all the fish by throwing plastic bottles into the sea, then we must consider the moral implications of impacting the livelihood of a fisherman who needs to feed his family. All of these are moral questions, not environmental questions.
Granted, Francis has touched on the moral implications of our activity vis-à-vis the environment and economy, but his solutions always seem to be rooted in material solutions or governmental solutions. Once again, if there were a material solution, if the pope wants us to reject a “throwaway culture,” then we must reject sin, which is the ultimate throwaway culture: we throw our souls into Hell. Man will never change his ways because of fuel emissions; but he will change his ways because of sulfuric emissions from below.
If Pope Francis wants to change the world for the better, then he would do well to simply preach the Faith in and out of seasons and recognize that Pope Pius X’s apocalyptic predictions about the state of our souls are more verifiable and more dangerous than any prediction about rising sea levels.
Again, as easy as it is to criticize Francis here—heaven knows his climate alarmism deserves it—the fact that the world looks to him for validation of their insane climate agenda shows just how much power the pope yields. If we think back to the Covid fiasco, the governments of the world loved to show that the hierarchy of the Church supported lockdowns and jabs and did virtually nothing to advocate for the opening of churches. As rotten as it was to see the world happy with the Church’s actions, it also showed us that the Kingship of Christ still matters, as even the vilest forces of evil need recognition from Rome for their schemes to seem legitimate.
Similarly, the world needs Rome to replace indulgences with carbon credits in order for the climate scam to triumph to the fullest. As lamentable as it is that Pope Francis uses his pulpit on the world stage to parrot Greta Thunberg talking points, we see again the power the Church still has over the world.
If only the pope could preach about the real apocalypse, rather than Al Gore’s.
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