There has not been this kind of palace intrigue at the Vatican since the 1500s. Foreign potentates are making a power grab, trying to seize the moral authority of the papacy for their own, secular ends. Like modern-day courtiers, lay and clerical aides to Pope Francis are slyly assisting these foreign princes from the United Nations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other such non-friends of Catholicism. In public comments, for months, officials such as Jeffrey Sachs and Ban Ki Moon from the UN, and lay leaders such as Margaret Archer at the Vatican, have been telling the public the pope believes it is time for radical regulatory action on the environment.
The pope’s forthcoming encyclical, they say, will come down hard on the wicked polluters, and his moral clarion call will be further articulated in public addresses to the U.S. Congress and UN General Assembly this fall. Stifling, universal environmental regulations will have the papal imprimatur. If God is with the Left, who can be against them, right?
Wrong. The fa√ßade the coconspirators built so cleverly has been cracking in recent days. The pope last week used his official Catholic News Agency to leak word of the title of his forthcoming encyclical and provide a rough outline of his thinking on the environment, or, as he puts it, ecology. The forthcoming encyclical will be called Laudato Sii, which in Italian means “Praised Be You,” and it borrows the wording of its title from a poem by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, called “Brother Fire, Sister Moon, and Mother Earth.”
The secular Left’s attempted hijacking of the pope’s environmental encyclical is clearly failing. Instead of Pope “Che“Guevara, their hoped-for environmental revolutionary, the Left is being forced to see the real Pope Francis, apparently for the first time. Based on his public statements thus far, the pope comes down on this issue as a fairly standard preacher on ecology and the environment, very much in the tradition of the church and of his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict VXI, or St. Francis of Assisi, his papal namesake, for that matter.
“This is not a simple issue, because the protection of creation, ecology, including human ecology, can be discussed with certainty only up to a certain point,” said Francis in a news dispatch from the Catholic News Agency, released this week.
The pope had made similar remarks earlier, to a gaggle of journalists accompanying him on a flight from Seoul, South Korea. The remarks, in response to questioning by Juergen Erbacher of German TV, were published on the Vatican’s own website. Apparently, the UN, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and his own officials have never read the pope’s comments on the encyclical, as they completely contradict what they’ve been claiming about him. The Heartland Institute last week paid for a translation of the papal text itself and found the pontiff comes off as rather reasonable on the matter of the environmental encyclical, saying there is a limit to what we currently know about climate change and that the Church’s duty is to speak only what is true, not to hypothesize on matters of science. These are positions with which climate skeptics fully agree, and which the UN and U.S. alarmists ordinarily consider anathema.
“An encyclical, which must be magisterial, must proceed only on the basis of certainties, on things that are certain,” said the pope.
His Holiness also said the draft of the document he received from his aides contained much that was uncertain and had to be edited out of the final text of the encyclical. Specifically, the encyclical might mention a hypothesis for informational purposes in footnotes, but unproven claims would not be put in the body of the document, he said. This is because the encyclical is “doctrinal and must be certain,” Francis said.
That sort of careful thinking is the opposite of what the global left has triumphantly been attributing to Francis on this issue.
“Pope Francis is calling on the world to take action on global warming,” wrote Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and UN population-control guru, who was invited to speak at a Vatican workshop in April on the environment by Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. “Many conservatives are up in arms. The pope should stick to morality, they say, and not venture into science. But as the climate debate unfolds this year, most of humanity will find Francis’ message compelling. We need both science and morality to reduce the risk to our planet.”
That is nothing if not a Machiavellian misrepresentation of what the pope has said. The unscrupulous Dr. Sachs may not have moral qualms about that, but the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics surely would. Many are up in arms, not because of what the pope has actually said but because of the misleading misquotes circulated by Sachs, the General Secretary of the UN, and some of their friends on the pope’s staff, and falsely attributed to the pope. As it turns out, the pope never said he wanted global regulatory action on the environment.
The Vatican has not seen this kind of palace intrigue since the days of the Borgias. Niccolo Machiavelli might be proud, but then again his political guide The Prince was banned in 1559 by the Church for promoting an anti-Christian ideology. That’s the kind of ideology in vogue today at the UN, and among many on the radical environmental left, but evidently not in Francis’s apartment at the Palazzo Apostolico at the Vatican.