Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

An encyclical to ward off hurricanes?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 06, 2022

Earlier this week, on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I saw a secular-media headline announcing that the Church would be celebrating the memory of the “ecology saint.”

Now I hear, from Cardinal Michael Czerny, that Catholics—you know, those of us who celebrate the “ecology saint”—can no longer tolerate questions about the role of human action in causing climate change. “The time is over for speculation, for skepticism and denial, for irresponsible populism,” Cardinal Czerny said. Notice, here, how quickly skepticism—which was once recognized as a hallmark of scientific rigor—is now dismissed as “irresponsible populism.”

As I recall, Galileo was skeptical about the prevalent understanding the earth’s place in the solar system. The Vatican’s bid to quiet that skepticism did not turn out well, did it? So why are Vatican officials today so intent on asserting their authority in a scientific debate?

A debate that has become highly politicized, by the way—yet another reason why prudent Church leaders would tread carefully. The Reuters story carrying that quote from Cardinal Czerny provides a vivid illustration of the way this argument is being framed:

At the time that the papal encyclical was issued, some conservative Catholics allied with conservative political movements and corporate interests criticised the pope for backing the opinion of a majority of scientists who said global warming was at least partly due to human activity.

It isn’t enough, apparently, to dismiss the Pope’s critics as “conservative Catholics;“ the reporter feels obliged to add that these conservative Catholics are “allied with conservative political movements.” (Isn’t that what you’d expect? Conservatives are not likely to be allied with liberal movements. But repeating the adjective drives home the point.) And there’s more; these conservative Catholics are also allied with “corporate interests.” So there’s an unsubtle hint that they have been bought off; that they are serving the cause of corporate Mammon. And then, to settle the matter, Reuters cites “the opinion of a majority of scientists.” So if scientific theories are proven by majority vote, I suppose skepticism really is irresponsible.

If I understand Cardinal Czerny correctly, he believes that we might be able to avoid future hurricanes if we followed the guidance of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’. Sorry, but I’m skeptical. Call me irresponsible.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Oct. 11, 2022 5:42 PM ET USA

    Wow! Thanks to the good Cardinal I will keep my eyes peeled for the check that represents my "buy off". And, as a bonus, I also learned from him just how outdated is my understanding of the scientific method!

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Oct. 11, 2022 7:55 AM ET USA

    To paraphrase a popular saying, the good Cardinal was promoted to 3rd base, and he thinks he hit a triple.

  • Posted by: Patrick193301 - Oct. 10, 2022 2:16 AM ET USA

    Please review the Galileo case. He was demonstrating the Copernican theory, to which the Church had no objections. In fact the Pope and a Cardinal, who's name I forget, gave him financial aid to support his research. What the Church objected to, and requested that he not publish, was his claim that his research proved that Genesis story of Creation was wrong. He thought that Scripture was teaching Science. It does not. Chapters 1 and 2 have two different sequences of events. Clearly not science.

  • Posted by: johnhinshaw8419405 - Oct. 06, 2022 6:14 PM ET USA

    Having given out so much "disinformation" in the areas they SHOULD be expert in - you know faith and morals - why should I even stop to listen to any Cardinal on science-related matters? They are the ones telling me that there are no intrinsic evils, homsex is blessed, children can be sacrificed if it means more vaccines from big pharma, which gave us the viruses! You do not need to be Catholic, or any kind of Christian, to know that these statements are wrong! But I should listen to you now?

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Oct. 06, 2022 12:56 PM ET USA

    How have we come to have such ignoramuses in our Church? There must be a causal timeline we can follow to the sources. When will someone or some group of unified individuals in the public eye put an end to the Czernys, the Hollerichs and the Martins who are making a hash of our faith? We can only stand so much of this before an even smaller footprint of Catholicism collapses. Are there any prominent defenders of the faith who'll not wait 'til bitter end to stop this nonsense?