GOP Vexed over Pope on Climate Change

In the pocket of the oil industry, key Republicans continue to sow doubts about the science on climate change, an attitude that may extend to their annoyance with Pope Francis if he raises the issue when he addresses Congress, as Michael Winship describes.

By Michael Winship

The funniest line of the last few days came from Arizona’s Republican Congressman Paul Gosar. Resentful that Pope Francis might blaspheme the sacred chamber of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body with some inconvenient truth about global warming, Gosar announced he would boycott the Holy Father’s visit to Capitol Hill.

He then declared, “If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time.”

Image of Planet Earth taken from Apollo 17

Image of Planet Earth taken from Apollo 17

Now that’s funny. Not intentionally funny because this is a member of the House of Representatives who says many silly things and actually means them. Like the time earlier this year when he told a town hall that the cash from Social Security and other government benefits that undocumented immigrants allegedly were sending home made up the second largest component of Mexico’s gross domestic product. Who told the White Mountain Apache tribe, “You’re still wards of the federal government.” A man who, though Catholic, won’t give the pope the time of day but once accepted the endorsement of controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio and drove to Nevada to declare his support for right-wing lawbreaker and racist Cliven Bundy.

Also, I wonder, what exactly does Rep. Gosar imagine the pope usually does with “his personal time?” Catch up on his Netflix? Chow down at Olive Garden with his Never Ending Pasta Pass? Head to the rifle range for some target practice? Instead, I’m guessing thoughtful prayer and meditation. (And come to think of it, WHAT personal time?)

You can argue that a joint session of Congress is an inappropriate speaking venue for a world religious leader, violation of church and state and so forth. And many of us have big, big issues with the Roman Catholic Church.

As journalist and climate activist Wen Stephenson writes in the current issue of The Nation, “However sincere and compassionate he may be (and he appears to be both), in his role as the pope he’s a politician, a world leader at the head of a rich, powerfully influential, and entirely human, that is, deeply fallible, global institution.

“And he presides over a conservative theological tradition whose teachings on gender, sexuality, marriage, contraception, and abortion are, to many of us, and women in particular, not only wrong but oppressive. For these and other reasons, his ability to single-handedly reshape climate politics, especially in this country, is limited, to say the least

“Nevertheless, what is surprising and undeniably significant about Francis’s message is the forceful way he foregrounds a radical systemic analysis of the deep structural causes of the climate and ecological crisis, the kind of radical response required, and the political and economic forces standing in the way.”

Frankly, despite the separation of church and state argument, this is no time for business, or politics, as usual. And months before his Capitol Hill address, the pontiff demonstrated that he had Congress’ number.

“We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations,” he wrote in his June encyclical Laudato si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).

“The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

Example: last week’s revelations from the Pulitzer Prize-winning website Inside Climate News. Their eight-month investigation, including extensive interviews and access to internal documents demonstrates that as early as 1977, Exxon Corporation was warned that “carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.”

The petrochemical giant “assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.” They seem to have been decent corporate citizens especially compared to today.

The head of theoretical sciences at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories even wrote, in 1982, that their “ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature. Indeed to do otherwise would be a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity.”

And so they did publish, but then, according to the Inside Climate News investigative team, “Toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.”

And so it goes. “The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests,” the pope wrote in his climate encyclical. “Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”

An obstacle to be circumvented which brings us back around to the GOP of Paul Gosar and his ilk. Just two weeks ago, Politico’s Andrew Restuccia reported, “Top Republican lawmakers are planning a wide-ranging offensive, including outreach to foreign officials by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, to undermine President Barack Obama’s hopes of reaching an international climate change agreement that would cement his environmental legacy.

“The GOP strategy, emerging after months of quiet discussions, includes sowing doubts about Obama’s climate policies at home and abroad, trying to block key environmental regulations in Congress, and challenging the legitimacy of the president’s attempts to craft a global agreement without submitting a treaty to the Senate.”

It is not for nothing that since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the gas and oil industry has contributed more than $1.8 million to McConnell (and it’s not for nothing that in the short time since 2010, when he was first elected to the House, Paul Gosar has collected nearly $200,000 from the energy and natural resources sector).

Joe Romm of the indispensable Climate Progress blog wrote, “McConnell’s actions end the pretense that the GOP leadership has any interest whatsoever in trying to globally address the gravest preventable threat America faces. I’m not sure a major political leader has ever pursued a strategy that is so directly counter to the health and well-being of all Americans, their children, and the next 50 generations.”

It is cynical, hypocritical, mercenary, and willfully destructive: many things this pope seems not to be. By all means, let him speak to Congress. When it comes to climate change, he will be a breath of fresh, unpolluted air.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This story first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/2015/09/23/the-pope-smokes-out-congress-on-climate-change/]

16 comments for “GOP Vexed over Pope on Climate Change

  1. Dosamuno
    September 25, 2015 at 08:23

    I am sick of reading and hearing about the goddamned Pope.
    Why does anyone besides the brain-dead members of his cult care anything about this clown in a yarmulka and jeweled robes?

    As I’ve written before, Popes are merely the CEOs of the world’s oldest multinational corporation whose business is stealing money and land and manufacturing Catholics—often under the guise of charity as when they kidnap children and raise them to be Catholic in the local mission. He–the Pope, the Grand Poobah, is the leader of the movement to reverse The Enlightenment.

    I agree with Zachary: the Church impedes my right to physician assisted death, access to abortion, and birth control. The morning after pill should be available everywhere; thanks to the Church, it is not.

    I resent that the Church pays no taxes, receives vouchers paid for by my tax money, and indoctrinates small children who have not had the chance to develop their critical thinking skills with nonsense about pregnant virgins, walking cadavers, wafers that turn into the body of Christ, and wine that turns into his blood. According to the Church, The Garden of Eden and original sin are real, but evolution is not.

    I agree with Diderot: Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. And Popes are just glorified priests.

  2. mememine69
    September 24, 2015 at 10:39

    *Is THIS how you fear mongering and peace loving libs want your kids and history remembering you?*

    Are you new LIBERAL pope worshiping climate blame “believers” now going to be anti gay and pro life as well?
    And how was it “progressive” to goose step your own children to your exaggerated greenhouse gas ovens just as an excuse to blame and HATE conservatives?
    This was YOUR Iraq War of lies and fear mongering.

    Get up to date, it’s over;
    Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands anymore because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.

  3. Evangelista
    September 23, 2015 at 22:09

    The “separation of church and state” ’cause’ some are asserting to impose a prohibition of the Roman Christian Pope speaking to a joint session (or even separate sessions) of the United States Congress is fatuous flatulence, since the Pope, in that role in that milieu is effectively only another Chaplain in the chambers. Chaplains have been a regular feature in Congress from the beginning, and religious leaders offering moral admonishments to hypocrites who they have succeeded in corralling into a congregation is as American as apple-pie.

    And didn’t they just have Netenyahu playing the “Rabbi” in Congress a few months ago, laying on with the fire-and-brimstone about “Demon Iran” and the Syrian Serpent and explaining the Gaza massacre as the will-of-God?

    I will admit that I cannot see even Pope Francis being able to bring our Congress to the Mourner’s Bench (even the Lobbyists have to offer them free-lunch), but it never hurts to try…

    • Zachary Smith
      September 23, 2015 at 22:40

      Clearly there ought to be no objections when Leaders of other world churches get invitations to address congress. But betcha none of the leading Ayatollah stand there in our lifetime.

    • Evangelista
      September 24, 2015 at 22:48

      We should begin badgering our, an dothers’, Congressmen to ’round out’ their trend (we can call it that) of inviting world-class clerics to address them, by having Ayatollah Kameni of Iran, now that the United States has a relationship with Iran, and Ayatollah Nasrallah of Hezbollah, who, outside U.S. Mainstream (and radical Zionist) media is recognizable as reasonable and erudite a religious leader as Pope Francis (which means leagues beyond ‘Bibi’ and all the neo-con top-tier, who have brought us into the mess we are in).

  4. Mortimer
    September 23, 2015 at 20:55

    I agree, in part, with your comment, Zachary Smith.

    Part 1 of his talk was inspirational – his words attesting to the life and ways of Jesus Christ as the model for true Christianity fall into the category of religious teaching. It was consummate. original ‘preaching’.

    Part 2 where he “canonized’ Miguel Jose Serra. a man with a brutal dictators heart — that part was Purely Political. The man, Serra, treated west coast Native Americans to homicidal sociopathic cruelty under The Authority of Spain and/or Color of “the clergy.” — As an official representative of both Spain and The Church he was THE EXAMPLE of the Imperial and Autocratic Rule of Europeans over “savage natives.”
    The history is much too sad to be told, therefore, it has been Erased From true History Books.

    West coast Native Americans have, for months, been shouting out against this ‘beatification’ of a devilish, despotic, tyrant.

    What be the true objective of the vatican in propping up this infamous person?

  5. Zachary Smith
    September 23, 2015 at 18:22

    When it comes to climate change, he will be a breath of fresh, unpolluted air.

    Maybe, maybe not. In this case I’m at best ‘hopeful’, for what I’ve seen so far is yak-yak-yak.

    But this post is about another issue that’s likely related only to the extent that the Pope is using the US trip for cover.

    It seems that a man named Junipero Serra is going to be made a “Saint”. What I’ve read of the fellow suggests to me that a random passing homeless person would be more qualified for such an honor.

    According to his wiki Serra was a nut, an extremely violent man who whipped himself with barbed wire and smashed himself with large rocks. Just imagine how the less-holy Indians were treated. He presided over the establishment of a local Mission. According to my 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, these establishments were complete failures in every way except to the extent they enriched the Missionaries. (Volume 5, page 17)

    Perhaps the worst of all was the fact the man belonged to the Inquisition. Just as it’s not a good idea to make a former Nazi a Pope, in my opinion making a member of the Inquisition a saint is really beyond the pale.

    But regarding the last feature, I strongly suspect a major coverup sometime in the past.. The Spanish were fanatical keepers of records, but most all traces of Serra’s Inquisition work have disappeared.

    Still the opinion of a non-Catholic, but Francis screwed up badly on this one.

    • Evangelista
      September 23, 2015 at 21:33

      Zach,

      If you are a “non-Catholic”, meaning, as usually used, not a member of the Roman Christian Church, and are one of The People of the United States, you should sit down and shut-up when discussion runs to Roman Christian Church affairs and you have criticisms. That is what “separation of church and state” requires of you.

      If Serra may operate, as a saint, as a positive influence on Roman Christians going forward into the future, then Serra as a Roman Christian Saint is a positive addition to Roman Christianity, and there through to we the prople of the United States.

      What you, or I, think of Serra having been a Dominican (the Roman Christian Order of Torquemada and so ‘responsible’ for the infamous era of the Roman Christian (aka ‘Spanish’) Inquisition, of the era of Serra’s history, of the location of his activities, of the successes or failures of components of those, or of Roman Christian Church history in general, has nothing to do with anything the Roman Christian Chruch and religion is doing today. If we can learn some things from the errors, or positives, the records of that history provide, we should. If we can offer from amongst those in positive ways in conversations with Roman Christians, to aid in achieving common understandings of common situations and questions (or if they can to us for the same purpose and end) we should do so.

      What we cannot do as we the people of these United States, without abbrogating our civil responsibilites, is attack the moral bases that ones of our fellow people depend on for their moral foundationing. We only get to attack the immediate crumblings of those, and then to suggest they need to get with the mortar and ‘improved-strength-and-structure’ bricks. The past is to review to learn from and go forward from, it is not to rake up and harrow over to find things to fight over. Serra’s flagelating himself was his business. If it worked for him, to focus his mind more to what he sought to focus to, good, for everybody, just as if worshipping idols, or praying to icons or statues, works for worshippers who do,that is good, again, for everybody.

      Freedom of religion is each being able to do what works for each in each’s religious effort to find and hold to working and workable moral virtues. The reason freedom of religion is important in a pluralistic secular social system like ours in the United States is supposed to be is because where we live together with others whose religions, meaning moral guidance systems are not what ours are, the moral guidance systems of the others are what we depend on and are dependent on to maintain peace and intergrity in our secular society. This is why advocating and encouraging others’ religious ethics is a good thing in our society and deprecating and prohibiting is a bad thing. Unless we want to fight with our neighbors, make them people we cannot count on or depend on, because they won’t be able to count on or depend on us and live in an environment of animosity and suspicion, instead of getting along with them.

      The question is what was Serra doing, and attempting to do, in the environment in which he was living and working, and what moral guidance was he using, or attempting to implement in his actions? Was he responsible for evils there existing, was he perpetrating wrongs, knowingly? or was he attempting to relieve and ameliorate, whether succeeding or not?

    • Zachary Smith
      September 23, 2015 at 22:36

      …you should sit down and shut-up when discussion runs to Roman Christian Church affairs and you have criticisms.

      No, thanks. The Roman Catholic Church has previously and continues to interfere with MY freedoms, and I’ll continue to comment on the shortcomings of the Church. AND those of the popes.

      I’m not the only one irritated about the newly minted Saint. The guy was – from all indications – a fanatical jerk. I’m totally on the side of the Native American descendants on this issue.

      Obviously I want Francis to be successful regarding his sermons about Global Warming. But so far, what I’ve seen is 95% theology and 5% Warming. That’s discouraging.

    • Evangelista
      September 24, 2015 at 22:35

      Zach,

      First, sorry if my first paragraph read like an order to you, my “you” was bad phrasing, meant a general you. I should have used “one”: “If one is a …one should…”

      Of course anyone may comment on any subject. Comments by non-participants, though, are always kibbitzes, meaning, in the context of the discussion on the playing field, just spectator murmur.

      Everyone has an equal right to comment, the differences being if one is a participant, meaning a directly effected party, a member of a religion, or is a spectator, looking on from outside. Is the business being addressed is one’s business or others’ business? Where the business is others’ one’s opinions are irrelevant and extraneous. They may, then, of course, have potential to contribute, or influence, positively, or negatively.

      If a church ‘interferes’ with non-members’ freedoms is matter of individual decision, and goes back and forth, for example, do church-bells on Sundays interfere with freedom? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors interfere with freedoms? Would prohibiting those interfere with the church-goers and Witnesses freedoms?

      Societies are more often wrecked by complainers’ complaints being used for excuses to impose uncivil authoritarian restriction than are damaged in any way by accepting church-bell peals, street-preachers’ appeals and others’ general rights to act and believe and think differently.

      As for the Roman Christian Church, it used to be a political organization, theoretically heading a ‘Holy Roman Empire’ and, self-assignedly, per self-designation as “Catholic” (“Universal”) assuming right to politically control ‘the world’. The history of the R.C. Church shows how that went, and, incidentally, provides, today, some good illustrations, if they were to be heeded, what does not work in that regard, why, and what can be expected to result from the same and similar kinds of actions (e.g., ‘Crusades’).

      For providing us that history, the past errors of the RC church could be useful to the present Imperial United States, and its neo-con drivers, shoing where the World Imperator power-delusion leads, how torture worked and why it is best avoided, etc.

      I would suggest that rather than beating dead horses, dead issues and dead natives (ancestors for some of us) with no potential for positive result, except maybe to generate adrenalin rushes, we should look to the positive potentials, what we can see, from the histories, does not work, and why, and put those forward.

    • Zachary Smith
      September 25, 2015 at 00:02

      If a church ‘interferes’ with non-members’ freedoms is matter of individual decision, and goes back and forth, for example, do church-bells on Sundays interfere with freedom? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors interfere with freedoms?

      Your examples involve trivia. An example of what I’m talking about doesn’t.

      Pregnant? Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, and Catholic Hospitals

      I’m male, but I have female relatives. When any of them marry, I warn them to avoid Catholic hospitals. But the way the Church is using its tax-free money to buy up hospitals makes it more and more difficult.

      I’m in favor of taxing the non-religious parts of ALL churches. The income of the preachers and the actual church buildings is all that ought to be exempted.

      Not that this is likely. The US of A has 6 Catholic justices on the Supreme Court. Given the Church’s traditional dislike for democracy, is it any wonder that we’re being dragged more and more into the Authority State by that institution?

    • Roberto
      September 23, 2015 at 23:50

      I think it says that government has not got the right to establish a religion. The Church of England is a good example.

    • Dosamuno
      September 26, 2015 at 11:45

      The Grand Poobah is not welcomed by me

      GLOBAL WARNING
      Religion & Government — A Dangerous Mix
      It’s an affront to our nation’s secular values that Roman Catholic congressional leaders are granting the leader of their religion — the pope — an unprecedented opportunity to address a joint session of Congress.
      Pope Francis has yet to repeal even one harmful Catholic doctrine or practice, including Vatican commitment to:
      Even the pope’s more laudable focus on global warming is hypocritical. The root cause of global warming is out-of-control population growth, which is exacerbated by fallible papal teachings. Since Pope Paul VI irresponsibly issued “Humanae Vitae”
      in 1968 reaffirming the church’s ban on contraception, the world population has more than doubled from 3.5 billion to 7.3 billion.
      Regardless of what Pope Francis’ message is, Congress shouldn’t be “blessing” him or handing him a government-endorsed pulpit. The framers of our godless Constitution wisely envisioned what John F. Kennedy described as “an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope . . . where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

      FFRF advertisement

    • Dosamuno
      September 26, 2015 at 12:05

      Omission:

      Pope Francis has yet to repeal even one harmful Catholic doctrine or practice, including Vatican commitment to:

      1. Ban contraception and sterilization worldwide.
      2. Criminalize abortion globally.
      3. Endanger women’s comprehensive insurance coverage.
      4. Bar LGB rights to marriage equality.
      5. Halt stem cell research.
      6. Override the right to death with dignity.
      7. Oblige taxpayers to support religious schools.
      8. Deny Catholic women the right to religious equality.
      9. Protect the Church rather than victims of clergy abuses.
      10. Derail enforcement of the U.N.’s C.E.D.A.W.

      Spanish columnist for El País, and author, Rosa Montero, while writing about illiteracy in Spain, observed that “(illiteracy in Spain) recalls the old, sad question: Is a country ignorant because it’s Catholic or Catholic because it’s ignorant?”

      http://ffrf.org/images/FFRF_NYT-PopeAd_11x21Coup_Lo.pdf

    • Mortimer
      September 24, 2015 at 01:02

      I agree, in part, with your comment, Zachary Smith.

      Part 1 of his talk was inspirational – his words attesting to the life and ways of Jesus Christ as the model for true Christianity fall into the category of religious teaching. It was consummate. original ‘preaching’.

      Part 2 where he “canonized’ Miguel Jose Serra. a man with a brutal dictators heart — that part was Purely Political. The man, Serra, treated west coast Native Americans to homicidal sociopathic cruelty under The Authority of Spain and/or Color of “the clergy.” — As an official representative of both Spain and The Church he was THE EXAMPLE of the Imperial and Autocratic Rule of Europeans over “savage natives.”
      The history is much too sad to be told, therefore, it has been Erased From true History Books.

      West coast Native Americans have, for months, been shouting out against this ‘beatification’ of a devilish, despotic, tyrant.

      What be the true objective of the vatican in propping up this infamous person?

  6. September 23, 2015 at 17:13

    Thank you. I will be watching news of the Pope’s visit as closely as I can.

Comments are closed.