IS the Pope a communist? To judge by the backlash to his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ (in which he makes clear his position on global warming and the exploitation of the planet’s resources) commentators in the United States, Poland, Australia and Britain seemed to consider the Pontiff to be some sort of Red agitator.
The argument he makes in the encyclical is straightforward: climate crisis and poverty can be attributed to unequal economic, social and political systems. But his point of view was considered so radical that it infuriated the global elites. An incandescent Jeb Bush, US presidential candidate and scion of the infamous warmongering family, warned the Vicar of Christ to butt out of the climate debate. ‘I don’t get my economic policy from the bishops, the cardinals or the pope,’ he snarled.
Lobbyists on behalf of Shell, ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies backed the presidential wannabe, as did the Heartland Institute, a prominent Chicago-based think tank. The latter deemed any move to fight climate change to be a threat to the American economy, and that Pope Francis’s encyclical was no more than a ‘left-wing communist conspiracy’!
Another think tank with the ear of the US government, the pro-business and free market Washington Heritage Foundation, announced that the Pope clearly had Marxist leanings: ‘It’s unquestionable that he has a very vocal scepticism about capitalism and free enterprise,’ it declared.
A foaming-at-the-mouth Fox News was unable to contain its fury. ‘The Pope wants to shame people into distributing wealth based on alleged global warming … He’s the most dangerous person on the planet,’ it shrieked.
Even the prestigious ‘Wall Street Journal’ got in on the act: ‘Can the Church be making a mistake by trying to prevent another Galileo incident?’ it enigmatically asked.
The encyclical was denounced on Rush Limbaugh, the most listened to radio show in America, as a ‘Marxist rant’ that promoted ‘rich countries being asked to keep giving money to the poor until our rich are no longer rich.’
In Poland, a country dependent of the coal industry for jobs and power, the media dismissed the encyclical as anti-Polish. The leading newspaper, ‘Rzeczpospolita’, the equivalent of the dreary ‘Irish Times’, attacked Pope Francis on the basis that his concerns about climate change amounted to a threat to Poland’s coal industry: ‘We can’t turn our backs on coal production, coal mines, or building coal power plants,’ said a very hot and bothered Deputy Andrzej Jaworski.
In Australia, another coal-dependant nation, climate-warming deniers lambasted the Pope on the grounds that he wanted standards of living to drop.
In Britain, the response from the right-wing press was vintage Oliver Cromwell, an anti-papist blast from the past. A lady with a double-barrelled moniker in the ‘Telegraph’ announced that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church had lost their right to hand out moral lectures to the rest of the world. ‘Whether you’re a card-carrying eco-alarmist who worries daily about your carbon footprint or whether you are Jeremy Clarkson, what the Pope has to say about tackling climate change as a moral issue is about as relevant as Kim Kardashian’s views on the future of the euro zone,’ she proclaimed.
The Catholic Church, the newspaper bombastically declared, knew next to nothing about climate science and was out of touch with its own congregations. Indeed, it had such ‘moral culpability’ that it was not fit to lecture anyone on anything.
Almost as nasty as the ‘Telegraph’ was, the London edition of the news network Breitbart. Its editor told the British news show ‘Daily Politics’ that, if the Pope really cared about the poor, the last thing he should be doing was to endorse ‘this (anti-global warming) nonsense.’ The erudite gent attacked the Pope for spouting the sort of ‘dubious science’ that one might expect from a 16-year-old ‘trotting out the bilge required these days to pass an exam paper in Environmental Science.’
The response of the reactionary factions within government, big business and media is interesting, if for no other reason than that such groups perceive a threat to their economic interests should they accept the notion that global warming is a man-made problem that hurts the poor most.
In the opinion of the Pope, the situation now is so serious that a new ‘true world political authority’ is needed to implement the ‘reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions’.
The encyclical goes beyond the matter of climate change. It focuses attention on the need to ‘tackle the structural, root causes of inequality, injustice, poverty and environmental degradation’ and it states unequivocally that people have a fundamental right to water, food and housing.
In a paragraph that has some resonance in this country, it questions the morality of privatising water and transforming it into a commodity that’s subject to market forces – ‘the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.’
Intriguingly, Pope Francis does not have confidence in the markets to solve the world’s social and environmental problems. In fact, he reserves particular scorn for the offshoot of the market economy, consumerism. ‘This obsessive consumerism makes everyone believe that they are free when in fact those with the freedom are those that are part of the minority who holds the economic and financial power,’ he said.
It is also clear that the hostile reaction to the encyclical came from the proponents of an unimpeded capitalism that seeks to delay environmental action or strategies for renewable energy. They are the people who put profit before the common good and who are guilty of what Pope Francis termed the ‘myopia of power politics’.
As far as this country is concerned, it is too much to expect a coherent response to the encyclical from a government that has exhibited a manic aversion to papal matters. Let’s not forget that Kenny inexplicably closed the Irish embassy to the Vatican and showed such disdain of the then Pope that, like a recalcitrant schoolboy, he preferred to fiddle with his iPhone rather than listen to what the man had to say.
As for global warming, forget it! Just as news was breaking of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Ming Flanagan MEP informed us of a meeting he attended with the EU Commission. Topics under discussion included an interconnector to France and the UK, and wind-farms in the Midlands. Not one member of the government was present.
According to Ming Flanagan, this was ‘beyond shameful’ and was symptomatic of a government washing its hands of issues that have major implications for everyone.
It was an example of what the Pope might call ‘the myopia of politics’!