Notes on the Vatican Climate

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
                                                                        —Daniel J. Boorstin

“Religions die.” Those two words open Philip Jenkins’ The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died. It is a stark beginning. We prefer to keep our eyes on the West’s relics of a not-so-distant Christendom and avoid the sweep of Christian history filled with reminders of the transience of human affairs.

Jenkins’ book turns attention back to the catastrophes and extinctions that brought ruin to ancient Christian communities. For those who believe, as Christians do, that God speaks through history, these annihilations are tidings. But of what? Remembrance is the axis of discernment:

Losing the ancient churches is one thing, but losing their memory and experience so utterly is a disaster scarcely less damaging. To break the silence [of God], we need to recover those memories, to restore that history.

Mazarine Master. Sassanian King Shapur II Persecuting Christians (15th C.) Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
Mazarine Master. Sassanian King Shapur II Persecuting Christians (15th C.) Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

On the face of it, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber’s appointment to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is incomprehensible. We can only make sense of it if we ask ourselves an unwelcome question: Is the Academy risking—if not engaged in—guerilla war against the pro-life movement?

The sole scientist participating in the unveiling of Laudato Si, Schellnhuber is a member of the Club of Rome, an international clique of Malthusian alarmists. (Obama’s advisor John Holdren is a former member.) Acolyte of Gaia and a darling of George Soros, Schellnhuber is a zealous promoter of the theory of man-made climate change and advocate of population control.

He has lobbied for an Earth Constitution to replace national constitutions and the UN Charter. He seeks creation of a Global Council, and establishment of a Planetary Court. This last would be a transnational legal body with enforcement powers on environmental and population issues. Everywhere. [Not without cause does Czech physicist Lubos Motl label him “a doomsday crackpot who calls himself a physicist.”] In short, as I wrote for The Federalist, Schellnhuber is the Vatican’s advance man for bureaucratic tyranny on a global scale. His appointment is as contradictory as it is ominous. The “global regulatory frameworks” desired by Laudato Si will crush orthodoxy without scruple when it suits.

Notwithstanding the encyclical’s affirmation of the Church’s traditional position on abortion, elevation of Schellnhuber saps—subverts—the pro-life movement. Vatican confederacy with highly placed population control sages and bureaucrats negates the very thing that Laudato Si affirms. Joel Kotkin, writing on The Daily Beast, put it well:

It is dubious that the Church’s credibility will be well served by a neo-feudal alliance dominated by those who abhor the Church’s other core values.

Add Vatican courtship of Canadian journalist Naomi Klein and we are through the looking glass. Klein is a pro-abortion, anti-corporate, anti-free enterprise agitator with no expertise in science or economics. Her credential is the ideological bias that brought her to Liberty Plaza in 2011 to address her soul mates in Occupy Wall Street. “I love you,” she shouted to the crowd. “Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is the most important thing in the world.” Now she is a Vatican-ordained evangelist for our evolving green Church and its vision of a this-time-sustainable Eden.


This changes everythingAmong several cherished mottoes at my house is a venerable bit of street wisdom: “Lie down with dirty dogs, you get up with fleas.” Usually attributed to Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, it is also believed, in some corners, to date back to Seneca who might have said it this way, if he said it at all: Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent. Pick the English vernacular or the Latin. Either way, the dictum is eternally applicable to machine politics, whether in Vatican City or Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Green ambition aligns the Vatican with such eco-thinkers as Jonathan Porritt, environmental advisor to Prince Charles. Porritt recommends that Britain work to halve its population as a means of emissions reduction. Having more than one child—if that—is irresponsible. Also among the Vatican’s new friends will be Peter Kareiva, head scientist for the Nature Conservatory. He caps Francis’ caution against breeding like rabbits with an insistence that the best way for those in the First World to reduce emissions is not to have children at all.

Whether the smoke of Satan or the ghost of Deng Xiaoping, something dark hovers.

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. Gambling Dogs (early 1900's). Private Collection.
Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. Gambling Dogs (early 1900’s). Private Collection.

Catholics are neither accustomed nor disposed to resisting their pope. We incline toward a code of obeisance that permits criticism aimed in all directions but one. It is permissible to fire at advisors, courtiers, and apologists—the attendant lot of ambitious retainers that buffer the crowned head from challenge. But toward the sovereign himself, politesse is mandatory. And comfortable.

For some, this is a practical matter. Careers are at stake within the Church bureaucracy, its corresponding network of lay satellites, and the Catholic commentariat. Nevertheless, the greater part of reluctance to demur, let alone oppose papal behavior and utterance, is respect for office. But if a man strays from the contours of his office—bends magisterial capacity to purposes for which it is not intended—what then is tact?

How do we distinguish between the office and the office holder? Is it wise to try? Might effort at distinction be little more than a shield against the inadmissible? William Butler Yeats offered an answer posed as another question. “Among School Children” closes with the words: How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Hans Holbein the Younger. Danse Macabre (16th C).
Hans Holbein the Younger. Danse Macabre (16th C).

Note: It is Poor Richard’s Almanack, as every school child knows. All fixed now.