Thursday, June 18, 2015

Right-Wingers Look Askance at Pope Francis' Environmentalism

On June 18th, the Vatican officially released Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, which called for heightened environmental consciousness. Before the release of the encyclical, several right-leaning voices in politics and entertainment criticized Pope Francis, accusing him of Marxism and of meddling in matters beyond his authority.

Republican presidential contender and Catholic convert Jeb Bush looked askance at the Pope's environmentalist sympathies at a town hall gathering in New Hampshire. "I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope,” Bush said, according to the Guardian. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum told WPHT-AM 1210 that the Catholic Church is jeopardizing its credibility by talking about science. “The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we’re probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good on, which is theology and morality. When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, then I think the Church is probably not as forceful and credible," Santorum told WPHT radio host Dom Giordano.

At a recent Heartland Institute conference on climate change, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) delivered a talk on "the myth of global warming", according to the Guardian. During the conference, he sneered at the Pope's call for environmental consciousness. The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours," Inhofe said.

Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld was far harsher. "He is a Malthusian. He is in bed with Malthusians ... He believes that the earth is overpopulated," Gutfeld said during the June 16th edition of The Five. Gutfeld mocked the pope as a hippie seeking respect from liberals. (Hat tip to Media Matters.)
"The most dangerous person on the planet is somebody who's seeking strange new respect from their adversaries, and that is what the Pope is doing. He doesn't want to be your grandfather's pope. He wants to be a modern pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandanna, and he could be on Occupy Wall Street."
Rush Limbaugh was unkind as well, calling the pontiff a "Marxist". During the June 16th edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, he had this to say. (Hat tip to Media Matters.)
"Early on, he started attacking capitalism using Democrat Party language like "unfettered capitalism." I said this guy sounds like a Marxist, and remember the ruckus that that caused? ... But he doesn't even disguise it, folks, in this encyclical. Doesn't even disguise it. Every other word seems to be about how unfettered capitalism is destroying the world, and how the rich countries have to give more money to the poor countries to make amends."
Right-wing commentators seem to be stunned that Pope Francis, the head of a rigidly conservative religious institution, would adopt a sane position on the environment. Could it be that all this global attention to environmental issues is making them uncomfortable and challenging their assumptions? The realities of climate change have grown too big to ignore, forcing some right-wingers out of their comfort zone.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

What Would JT Do? Catholic Channel at Patheos: Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra ... but not on global warming!

Media Matters: How Fox News Covered Pope Francis' Action On Climate Change

Mother Jones: The Pope Says Climate Change Is Real. Catholic GOP Candidates Disagree.

New York Times: Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates


  1. and uber conservative Catholics are supposed to follow the pope regardless of their own opinions no? Only I guess if it coincides with what they "believe" or at least desire to be true to support their own interests. Sigh....

    1. Peyton -- For that matter, right-wingers (including some Catholics) support religion in the public square, UNTIL a religious leader says something that makes them uncomfortable. Then their attitude is, "Stay in your lane, Francis!"

  2. This is indeed a conundrum for conservative Catholics!

    1. Donna -- It certainly is. Will they obey the Pope on this matter? We'll see.

  3. "Could it be that all this global attention to environmental issues is making them uncomfortable and challenging their assumptions?"

    Though some are genuinely off-kilter ideologues, I would bet a lot of money that for most of them it has nothing to do with their assumptions and everything to do with conflicts of interest and a related need to control the climate change narrative.

    1. Agi Tater -- It wouldn't surprise me at all. The day will come, though, when they can't deny environmental realities anymore.


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