See the first part of this article.
Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins. —St. Thomas Aquinas. III Quodlibet 27.
Everyone has a political bias, on the basis of which he or she evaluates propositions. Mine is best illustrated by this story:
Wife (answering daughter’s call for a donation to her radical Community Organization)–
“No, no donation for such an organization”
“Let me ask Dad”
“When I married your father, he was a Jew, a liberal and a Democrat; he is now a Catholic, a conservative and a Republican; you’ll not get a donation from him either.”
I am wary of “I’m here from the Government and I’m here to help you.” Government bureaucracies, whatever may be their nominally altruistic purpose, suffer from the lack of competition, are beset by red tape, and are motivated primarily to increase their next appropriation. They are, in effect, dinosaurs that have not been eliminated by evolution. I’m wary of rules that might be set by international bureaucrats, who have no experience of the democratic way of life or what the free market can accomplish.
The Parts I Find Difficult To Swallow
Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid says, “the pope [sic] is not infallible when it comes to science, politics…” Accordingly, as faithful Catholics we are enjoined to consider prayerfully and carefully pronouncements of our Holy Father which are directed to political and economic policies, but we are not obliged to follow them, if they do not directly involve matters of morals or faith or if we honestly believe they will not effect a moral good.
Disentangling moral and faith issues from political and economic policies is not an easy task. I discussed this matter with our priest, and he brought up the question of abortion—certainly government policies on abortion should not violate Catholic moral precepts. Nevertheless, many eminent Catholics (for example the famed Catholic legal scholar, Douglas Kmiec, and the Jesuit Editor of America) supported pro-abortion candidates for president. Can their example be followed, so that one selects which Catholic precepts enter into one’s policy choices, presumably justifying choices by some sort of “Double Effect Doctrine“? I think not.
Well, let’s see what Pope Francis has to say about desired political and economic means, either national or supra-national, to bring about the goals of the Encyclical.
Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalance…The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. [emphasis added] #51.
Is the emphasized statement verified or verifiable in any sense, either premise or conclusion?
The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development. #52
And which supranational agency is to decide on the amount of the debt, the amount of energy limitation and the amount of support?
The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice. #53
Is this legal framework to be an international code, superseding national laws?
The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order”. #93
What does “universal” mean? In the Acts of the Apostles, private property was subordinated to the community. In monastic orders, private property is subordinated to the monastic community.
Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; #157
What might be “distributive justice”?
Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan #164
And who is to make that plan and enforce it?
A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. #164
Again, what if a consensus cannot be reached?
As the bishops of Bolivia have stated, “the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused”. #170 quoting from the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, 2012.
Where is it proven that greenhouse gases have caused a problem?
Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. #173
…because the economic and financial sectors, being transnational, tends [sic] to prevail over the political. Given this situation, it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions. [emphasis added] #175
And again, ipse dixit.
At the same time, on the national and local levels, much still needs to be done, such as promoting ways of conserving energy… [and] removing from the market products which are less energy efficient or more polluting #180
Such as replacing incandescent light bulbs by fluorescent, which are hard on the eyes and hazardous when broken?
In the face of possible risks to the environment which may affect the common good now and in the future, decisions must be made “based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives”.#184 quoting from Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Who is to establish these risks and benefits–the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the UN or…?
The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures” which prevent environmental degradation…Here the burden of proof is effectively reversed, since in such cases objective and conclusive demonstrations will have to be brought forward to demonstrate that the proposed activity will not cause serious harm to the environment or to those who inhabit it. #186
The bold-face statement is that which I find most disturbing.
There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. #188
In the face of all else that is said in the Encyclical, this statement seems to be no more than a token, an ambiguous admission that some parts of the Encyclical may be based on false scientific premises.
Here too, it should always be kept in mind that “environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces”. Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market. #190 Quote from Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Does this not show a bias against capitalism and the free market?
For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change “models of global development”;this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications”. #194 quotes from Message for 2010 World Day of Peace.
The Bias of the Pope
The quotes and other parts of the Encyclical not quoted show a bias against capitalism and a bias for international government control. This bias for state control is, in my opinion, naive. It ignores the fact that the worst pollution and scarring of the earth has occurred in governments which are most authoritarian–the USSR and Russia, China, Zimbabwe—rather than in the free, capitalist nations. Whether Pope Francis’s apparent bias for state and international control is part of the general culture of the South American hierarchy and the Argentinean Jesuit Order, or engendered by Pope Francis’s Argentinean background, is a question I’m not equipped to answer, but it’s clear that it is there. Pope Francis also seems disposed to accept as fact the false assertions of radical environmental organizations.
Editor’s note: Don’t forget to visit Reflections of a Catholic Scientist.