William F. Buckley Jr. provided the intellectual underpinning of the conservative movement that has shaped American politics since 1964. He was also a devout Christian and a committed Catholic.
Once, responding to a popular profanation by Nietzsche, Buckley famously proclaimed, “And best of all it appears that God is not dead. He seems to have survived even Vatican II.”
I did not.
Pope Francis listens to a speech during a special audience he held for members of the FOCSIV Italian Catholic volunteers, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
I spent early mornings every day for six or seven years on my knees as an altar boy and I believed in the teaching of the Church and the infallibility of the pope. Knowingly eating meat on Friday was, indeed, a mortal sin.
If you stepped off the curb leaving McDonald’s just after eating a Big Mac and were killed by a truck you were consigned to an eternity absent the glory of God.
Then came Pope John XXIII. He was a breath of fresh air for a faith in need of one. Vatican II brought many changes. I was bereft over the loss of the Latin Mass, but then I was a romantic.
More meaningful to many was the dismissal of the formerly mortal sin of eating meat on Friday.
One had to wonder about those who had missed confession on Saturday evening because of the truck. Would this pope retrieve them from Hell?
Papal infallibility began to falter in my little corner of the world.
Papal encyclicals are letters illuminating the pope’s thinking on some aspect of Catholic dogma to a faith of over a billion people. Pope Pius XII proclaimed them the final authority to end debate on a given topic.
Papal encyclicals have spoken to life’s prosaic experience on earth as well as the dogma of the church.
Pope Leo XIII, in Rerum Novarum, confronted industrialists for abusing the rights of workers and argued that man, created in God’s image, had inherent human rights to dignity and property.
Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, issued just after the Cuban missile crisis, proclaimed Peace on Earth and was applauded by President John F. Kennedy. Some, noting that the pope commanded no troops, considered it well intended, but benign.
In Redemptor Hominis Pope John Paul II presaged his crusade on behalf of human dignity in the face of communism. His was the most potent moral voice of the 20th Century and his nine-day pilgrimage to Poland, just one year before Solidarity, foreshadowed the end of Soviet domination in Poland and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
In the first two years of this papacy Francis seems more attuned to politics than dogma. He has issued Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), an Apostolic Exhortation in which he attacked “unfettered capitalism” as a new tyranny and condemned “trickle down” economics.
In a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas he promised to sign a papal agreement implicitly recognizing a Palestinian State.
Pope Francis (L) meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a peace invocation prayer at the Vatican Gardens on June 8, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the encounter on May 25th during his brief but intense visit to the Holy Land. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
After meeting Pope Francis, Cuba’s President Raul Castro expressed a renewed interest in Catholic teachings after his 70-year absence from the sacraments and President Barack Obama has credited the pope for the thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States.
Next month Pope Francis will weigh in on climate change. We can anticipate that he will focus on the poor, and how an increase in global temperature will exacerbate the pain in their lives.
Global temperatures have been both higher and lower than today’s. Warmer temperatures have produced longer growing seasons and more rain to grow a plant to eat. CO2, the villain in the warmist’s melodrama, is necessary for that plant to grow.
In any event, the pope’s caring and empathy for the poor will not alter the sun’s impact on the earth’s temperature. His Father handles that.
Pope Urban VIII insinuated the papacy into frank science by imprisoning Galileo for the profanation of asserting that the earth orbits the sun.
When Pope Francis locks up Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley for the profanation of ridiculing President Obama’s recent Global Warming silliness at the Coast Guard Academy graduation we will know that Lord is in his Holy Place and all is right with the world.
I respectfully suggest that Pope Francis’ encyclical on this difficult issue will not end, or even alter, the scientific debate on man’s impact on God’s creation.
Just as the mastery of music confers no unique insights as to nuclear war, the study of the Word of God confers no unique insights into climate science.
Pope Francis has an elevated pulpit for instructing the faithful on the path to salvation. His instructions on the scientific method are not equally elevated.
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