Jay Meehan: Is the Pope Catholic? | ParkRecord.com

Jay Meehan: Is the Pope Catholic?

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

Well, now that the Vatican has released Pope Francis’ much anticipated Encyclical on Climate Change and the Environment, are we to assume that the resultant fallout will be that the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics will finally come onboard the good-ship Climate Justice with the notion that the sky is, indeed, falling? We’ll see.

Although, to traditionalists, the Pope’s recent behavior has nudged toward the radical end of the political spectrum, the encyclical must have arrived with a quite un-subtle and somewhat surprising "thud" in many quarters of the faith.

I mean, what balderdash! Who does he think he is, telling us we have a moral and, for the faithful, religious, obligation to come to grips with the reality of our current predicament so that we may feed and clothe and shelter the poor and take care of Mother Earth? Or as Pope Francis so succinctly put it:

"The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life.

"I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

Now, what I’m getting here is that Pope Francis, while certainly aware of the power of politics, isn’t in the mood to play any of its games. Cutting to the chase, the Pontiff’s emphasis on and use of the phrase "and its human roots," would appear to "deny" climate "deniers" the moral high ground.

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Although cyclical shifts in global warming have proven to be the case over geological time, since the advent of the industrial revolution in general and our seeming insatiable dependence on fossil fuels in particular, we as a species are "a" (if not "the") primary cause of climate change! I said that! Pope Francis said this:

"A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.

"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it."

Now, as a card-carrying member of "humanity," I don’t, for a minute, exclude myself as a contributor to our planetary ills. Admittedly, I’m part of the problem, not the solution.

Although existing lower on the ecological food chain than many of my peers, my cultural tastes alone lend themselves to the seemingly unceasing growth of my species’ carbon footprint. This is a trend I need to reverse. It’s just that sacrifice has never come easily. I’d much rather just point fingers and whine about it in print. So, we’ll let Pope Francis take it from here:

"We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

"Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources [that] can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.

"There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy."

"A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.

"But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition.

"The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us."

Well said, Papa! Your thoughts are a most welcome addition to the debate. Hopefully others will join the cause. Keep the faith and pray for us!

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.