Most popes urge austerity as a means of saving one’s soul. Pope Francis urges it for a different reason: to save the planet.
The pope’s one-sided treatment of technology, free markets, and consumerism is astonishing.
In keeping with that temporal focus, he called this last week for humans to adopt “simpler” lifestyles not for reasons of spirituality but out of “respect” for the Earth:
We also need once more to listen to the land itself, which Scripture calls adamah, the soil from which man, Adam, was made. Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order — to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters. The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption.
Though normally “progressive,” Francis, on this issue, stands against progress and exhorts man to live like “our indigenous brothers and sisters.” Though normally a fan of modern living, here he inveighs against it, casting coronavirus as nature’s retribution:
Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world. Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!
During the Jubilee, God’s people were invited to rest from their usual labour and to let the land heal and the earth repair itself, as individuals consumed less than usual. Today we need to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us.
In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared. The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.
Somewhere Thomas Malthus is smiling. That 18th-century English cleric also thought the Earth was “groaning” under the weight of mankind.
To hear the pope speak, one would think he is a population control pamphleteer or the author of The World Without Us. What he calls “rampant greed and consumption,” others would call normal human living. Recall that in his eco-encylical Laudato Si he cast perfectly reasonable human activity, such as turning on air-conditioning, as overconsumption:
People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive.
In that encyclical, he openly endorses the anti-growth policies of the Left and celebrates, rather than bemoans, economic decline in the West: “the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world.”
The pope’s one-sided treatment of technology, free markets, and consumerism is astonishing. He completely ignores all of the evidence that those developments have alleviated poverty, improved health, and raised standards of living. He decries the old “colonialism” while peddling a new one: a global environmentalism emanating from the UN that keeps poor nations poor in the name of saving the planet.
Out of his Malthusian mindset he welcomes the economic shutdowns that followed the emergence of Covid. Never mind all the havoc that has wreaked on human lives across the world. Under the pope’s socialism, equal misery is to be preferred to unequal wealth.
Is it any wonder why Jeffrey Sachs and company celebrate this pope? They chafed under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who forthrightly condemned the culture of death underlying their liberalism. But this pope ratifies their propaganda. At the beginning of his pontificate, they cheered his comment that the Church is too “obsessed” with abortion and artificial birth control — stances that environmentalists regard as a major obstacle to their climate change agenda. In Earth in the Balance, Al Gore called for a “Global Marshall Plan” with “fertility management” at the core of the plan — meaning ubiquitous government-regulated abortion and contraceptive use.
Past popes quoted the scriptural admonition “Be fruitful and multiply,” but this pope, to the delight of environmentalists, says Catholics should not breed “like rabbits.” “Good Catholics,” he said, should practice “responsible parenthood.” Even the hideous CNN anchor Carol Costello couldn’t believe her ears, tweeting, “As a Catholic, it’s kinda shocking to hear @Pontifiex say, ‘Catholics must not breed like rabbits.’ Really?”
Elaborating on that remark, the Malthusian pope recalled the time he rebuked one of his parishioners — a mother who had seven children by caesarean section — for “tempting God.” She was guilty of “irresponsibility,” he said.
Where past popes have condemned artificial birth control as “intrinsically disordered,” Pope Francis is far more elliptical on the subject. In 2016, he approved of contraceptive use by women infected with the Zika virus. His spokesman said he supported contraceptive use in cases of “emergency.” But what qualifies as an emergency? Is nature’s “crisis” an emergency? One can see why environmentalists champion this Jesuitical pope. In his socialism, in his Malthusianism, in his porous “situation ethics,” he gives them all the cover they need to advance their propaganda.
Once again it becomes clear that traditional teaching, not departures or politicizations of it, serve as the only hope for mankind. “Be fruitful and multiply” is a slogan of hope. The modern church traffics in despair. Perversely, it sees in Covid a chance to gloat and a pretext for its propaganda. The modern church also takes the meaning out of sacrifice and “austerity,” turning it from glorious to grim: a giving up not of good things but of bad things. The environmentalism to which this pope subscribes is increasingly a religious cult, but not a salvific one, for in saving the Earth under it man must first destroy himself.