As various news sources are reporting that Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment will be published next month, there's interesting reporting and commentary about the attempt of right-wing groups funded by big oil interests in the U.S. to subvert the encyclical — even before it has been published and before anyone really knows what it's going to say. Here's Garry Wills' take on this situation in New York Review of Books recently:
Now, as the pope prepares a major encyclical on climate change, to be released this summer, the billionaires are spending a great deal of their money in a direct assault on him. They are calling in their chits, their kept scientists, their rigged conferences, their sycophantic beneficiaries, their bought publicists to discredit words of the pope that have not even been issued: “He would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate,” they say. They do not know exactly what the pope is going to say in his forthcoming encyclical on preserving God’s creation, but they know what he will not say. He will not deny that the poor suffer from actions that despoil the earth. Everything he has said and done so far shows that Francis always stands for the poor.
Those who profit from what harms the earth have to keep the poor out of sight. They have trouble enough fighting off the scientific, economic, and political arguments against bastioned privilege. Bringing basic morality to the fore could be fatal to them. That is why they are mounting such a public pre-emptive strike against the encyclical before it even appears. They must not only discredit the pope’s words (whatever they turn out to be), they must block them, ridicule them, destroy them. The measure of their fear is demonstrated by an article in First Things, the Catholic journal that defended the donations to bishops of the pederast religious founder Marcial Maciel. The First Things writer Maureen Mullarkey calls the pope “an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist,” and continues: “Francis sullies his office by using demagogic formulations to bully the populace into reflexive climate action with no more substantive guide than theologized propaganda.”
For Media Matters, Denise Robbins reports:
In response to the Vatican's climate summit, the Heartland Institute sent their own delegation to Rome to 'inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!' . . .
As Media Matters previously documented, the Heartland Institute received over $700,000 from Exxon Mobil. Heartland has also received significant funding from organizations with ties to the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and Donors Trust, which has been partially funded by the David Koch-chaired Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Additionally, The New York Times reported that CFACT has received 'hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ExxonMobil Foundation.' According to the Capital Research Center, CFACT has also received at least $60,500 from Chevron. [Media Matters, 2/3/15; Media Matters, 3/8/15; The New York Times, 4/10/09; Capital Research Center, archived May 2005]
As Jerry Slevin notes in a recent essay at his Christian Catholicism site, at the recent Yale conference discussing Pope Francis and environmental issues in anticipation of the forthcoming encyclical (I've pointed readers here to a report by Jamie Manson at National Catholic Reporter), moral theologian Margaret Farley noted that environmental degradation affects poor women and their children in very significant ways. And she pointed out that if the encyclcial does not address the needs and concerns of women living in poverty, it will miss a critically important opportunity to address the issue of climate change decisively and effectively.
When I hear Garry Wills say that Francis stands always for the poor, I cannot avoid thinking of Margaret Farley's commentary — and of the insistence of one insightful commentator after another (and here), from Joan Chittister to Tina Beattie to Mary Hunt and Jon O'Brien, that talk about poverty on the part of the leaders of the Catholic church which ignores the needs of poor women is talk that's largely beside the point, in the world in which we live. As long as whole groups of human beings — notably today, women and LGBT persons — are treated by the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church as if they are simply not there as we talk about "the poor" and about the harmful effects of socioeconomic marginalization of minority groups, I fear that many people will continue to treat everything Catholic leaders say about practically any moral issue as so much blather and hot air.
Understandably so . . . .