How to spot the wolf in Catholic sheep’s clothing

The Holy Fathers have written strongly about how we all need to change our lifestyles and mitigate environmental problems, such as global warming.  Nevertheless there are plenty of Catholic people and organizations out there who are openly spouting anti-environmental sentiments and ideas.  And many, striving to stay within the letter of Church teaching on the environmental, if not within its spirit, that also subtly express anti-environmental ideas, using red herrings (as in the main threat is pantheism), strawmen arguments, and damning with faint praise, as in, “Of course we all want clean water and air, but mitigating global warming is not necessary,” or whatever.

So, here is how to spot the anti-environmental (often Exxon-funded) wolf posing as Catholic pro-environmental writings:

You can basically tell if writings are unhelpful toward saving the earth and in violation of the spirit of Catholic environmental teachings (if not in violation of their letter), if they:

  1. Spend a lot of time on knocking environmentalism, and not much on promoting a “save the earth” ethic;
  2. Fail to inspire you to reduce harm to the earth (and life thereupon) and appreciate God’s great gifts to us; and/or
  3. Include global warming denialism, or some cheap shot against Gore (often in a joking fashion), and its not against his pro-choice position or other issue.

If any of these above fit, then you might want to look up the author (or the organization he/she is linked to) on ExxonSecrets.org.  You’d be surprised how many show up there, even though there are other fossil fuel industries also funding climate denialism, such as Koch Industries, and others.

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7 Responses to “How to spot the wolf in Catholic sheep’s clothing”

  1. Henry Karlson Says:

    1., 2., and 3. are all so typical on the Catholic blogosphere, it is sad and pathetic. I find it interesting how they will knock environmentalism, and say anyone who is concerned about the earth is an idolater. Must make God quite the idolater!

  2. lynnvinc Says:

    Yes, God the idolater. (He even said it’s good!)

    What’s also interesting, is when I did a google search for “Catholic pantheism” thinking I’d find more stuff to critique, I found some wacko Protestant sites knocking Catholicism for being pantheistic 🙂

    Well, I guess everyone’s entitled to their views. But just for the record, I’m against burning witches at the stake. That’s very unChristian.

  3. Henry Karlson Says:

    You might want to look at http://www.catholicvoteaction.org/blog/cva/index.php — they often have lots of anti-environmental writings.

  4. lynnvinc Says:

    Thanks for the link. I did a search on that site and some of the usual Catholic denialist suspects in enironmentalist sheeps clothing in cropped up.

    Aside from fossil fuel funded anti-environmentalism, there are other concerns — such as policy implications of what some see as economic ruin or loss of political freedom if we, heaven forbid, start turning off lights not in use…which to them is the slipperly slope to ruin (without any consideration that environmental harms could lead us into even more profound economic ruin and political chaos/autocracy). So for them policy implications, including population control policy implications of environmental problems, determine the science (see my post – https://catholicecology.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/does-being-against-population-control-disprove-global-warming/ ).

    Then there is another issue the CatholicVoteAction website brings to my mind — the need to avoid cognitive dissonance. So a person might be smart enough to realize these above imagined policy implications do not determine the science, but they need to vote for someone. And it seems, except for Stupak (who is good both on pro-life and pro-environment, but is stepping down), most candidates who are seemingly pro-environment are also pro-choice, and most candidtate seeming pro-life are anti-environmental. I say seemingly because it is impossible in my books to be pro-life and anti-environmental. As Mr. Spock would say, it doesn’t compute.

    So what happens is the person who would be very much pro-life (meaning anti-abortion) AND pro-environment makes a choice, but then has to find some justification for the shortcomings of his/her candidate — so if they pick pro-life candidate X, they have to say that he/she is really pro-environment, or there really aren’t any environmental problems; and if they pick a pro-environment candidate Y, they have to say he/she isn’t really pro-abortion, and actually wants to reduce abortion with social welfare help, and anyway laws against abortion are ineffective, perhaps even increasing abortion….. And then the opposing candidate has to be painted as truly evil and not sincerely pro-life or pro-environment.

    You see the problem. We’re all a bit (some heavily) guilty of allowing our need for avoiding cognitive dissonance to lead us into finagling some facts about candidates & issues to fit our own stance (which is not shared entirely by any candidate). I think that might be the main problem with that CatholicVote site, while some other Catholic anti-environmental sites (like Acton) are simply funded by fossil fuels and dare not bite the hand that feeds them.

  5. Henry Karlson Says:

    Sadly, I think there are many aspects to the dissonance on CatholicVote, but a major part of it is that they tend to be very partisan (and pro-Republican) so that anything which is not capable of being approved by their political orthodoxy becomes outright rejected.

    Pro-life should indeed be pro-environment, because it is clear, the earth needs to continue to exist in order to provide a source for life in the future. It is quite telling to me that we find egotism and the desire for one’s own desires to be met over morality by those who claim to be about morality. Thankfully, outside of the United States, this sentiment is not as apparent in Catholicism. Popes are pro-life and pro-environment — they even make declarations with Orthodox Patriarchs on the need for our rightful stewardship. Though it is not the only thing I write upon, it is a significant part of my general vision — and you can find on Vox Nova (if you have not been there) several posts on the environment (by myself and others). Sometimes I try to bring in fundamental theological concepts and show how absurd it is to believe humanity can’t affect the earth (sin and original sin are about the fact we can); other times, I just try to deal with the needs which exist. Certainly, because they are blog posts, I tend to be “rough” in my editing – I let things be more “loose” and then edit them for later use. But if there is something on there which would be helpful, let me (or others, if it is their article) know.

  6. lynnvinc Says:

    I think I may have seen Vox Nova before — I just went there, and it looks good. I do need to know about sensible Catholicism, otherwise dealing only with anti-environmental ideologue Catholics I might get very disheartened. It’s good to know some sensible Catholics exist.

    RE how we are harming the earth, I hardly am able to get into the worst case scenario, since people refuse to even consider the less harmful scenarios. But I think you are an open-minded person, so I’ll share this with you. The top climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen (head of climate science at NASA), and up to this point accurate in all his climate predictions over the past 25 years, has from his recent studies concluded that it is possible we could push the climate into permanent runaway conditions as on Venus, in which all life on earth would end. Of course life is slated to end in a billion or so years when the sun gets very hot, pushing earth’s climate into runaway warming. But we could trigger this now (tho it would take perhaps hundreds or thousands of years to totally play out – I’m not sure of the time framework). See especially pg. 24 of his 2008 AGU presentation — http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/AGUBjerknes_20081217.pdf

    I’m on his email list and got this just before Christmas 2008 — I emailed him to see if he meant temporary runaway warming, as happened during the end-Permian extinction when 95% of life on earth died out, and he replied Christmas Eve he meant permanent runaway. Merry Christmas.

    This weighs heavily on me, but Catholics pretty much think I’m hysterical or berzerk or an extreme alarmist for even bringing it up, so I usually keep quite. I don’t have children, but I do feel very sorry for my nieces and nephews, and everyone else’s children. If we don’t drastically mitigate, if we cannot find it without our hearts & minds to do so, they will have hell to pay.

  7. Henry Karlson Says:

    Exactly, we can affect the earth, and it makes sense we can (since the theology of original sin says we have). There are many ways we could go about destroying our environment — if we end up destroying the bees, the whole impact will be disastrous. If we end up hurting our oceans (and many ways we could be doing it), the end result will of course destroy the food chain. This doesn’t require us to deal with global warming; but it is obvious, to me, we certainly can change the environment — hopefully we have not gone too far, but if we are not careful, what we see on Venus certainly can happen.

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