Pope Francis seems to be advancing the Catholic Church’s march into ideological modernity. The reform Pope, who has famously positioned himself as a champion of the poor, is now preparing a huge campaign to promote awareness of climate change – and he plans to use religious doctrine to make his case.
Francis has been lauded worldwide by Catholics and heathens alike, due to his populist political rhetoric and his progressive, welcoming disposition. In 2013, he shocked the world by responding to an inquiry about gay priests with a notion of tolerance that is uncharacteristic to the Catholic church, suggesting: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
While some have dismissed the Pope’s liberal rhetoric as an attempt to make the antiquated Church more digestible for a new generation of Catholics, it is exciting to consider the tremendous influence the Pope could have in getting the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on board with a new, environmentalist movement founded in theology.
It’s true that Pope Francis’ position regarding gay rights is anything but substantial. He has yet to publicly endorse any political movement for LGBT equality, and he remained silent when Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin called Ireland’s recent referendum to legalize gay marriage “a defeat for humanity.” But when it comes to climate science, the Pope is far from blowing smoke.
As a former chemist, he has more credibility than most theologians with regard to his scientific claims. On top of that, concern about human contributions to climate change is an issue that aligns perfectly with his concern for the world’s destitute. Recent studies indicate that low-income, developing nations will suffer the most damage and population displacement as a result of rising sea levels as the polar ice caps melt over the coming decades.
Whatever his true motivation for promoting awareness of climate science is, it is exciting to see a traditionally retrograde institution accepting basic science for the benefit of humanity – just don’t hold your breath for evangelical, biblical literalists to follow suit.