Pope Benedict, climate change & Cardinal Martino.

Reuters ran a story today entitled, “Pope should talk climate change with Bush: cardinal”.

I realize this is a sensitive issue with many people, but it’s important and I’m interested.

Going on what the article says, Cardinal Martino said that he “believes the Pontiff should raise the dangers of climate change and global warming with U.S. President George W. Bush when the two meet in June.”

Admittedly, Martino was careful with his remarks, saying “It’s not for me to say what the Pope and President Bush should discuss but certainly they will discuss current issues and therefore I imagine and I hope they will (discuss climate change),” [continuing:] “It certainly merits it.”

Martino’s council for justice and peace is hosting a conference on “climate change and development” this weekend, which prompted the Reuters story as well as a message from the Pope, in which he said that he hoped studies could lead to “lifestyles and production and consumer methods that aim to respect creation and (aim for) sustainable progress.” All very fine and good.

Of course, I’d like to see his full message (and this is the cue for industrious readers to pop me an email or drop a link in the combox!) so I can see whether the Pope actually came out and said anything about “manmade global warming.” My understanding is that to this point he has not.

Martino went on to claim that willfull damage to the environment is a sin. Now, I have no problem with this statement, as long as it is specified. Burning down trees needlessly or contaminating drinking water can be wrong, but I’ve often seen the concept of good stewardship twisted into some sort of moral imperative that we all (to randomly pick an example, but not an extreme one) use halogen lightbulbs or buy electric cars.

And I get especially nervous when Martino says that (according to the Reuters article) “all religious groups should be involved in environmental causes and raise awareness about global warming.” I also don’t feel comfortable when he makes comments like this:

“We have to start at the level of elementary schools, to make sure children are taught to respect nature and be aware of the problems of the world. We can’t wait until they are older. This has to be done naturally in religion classes, in religious groups everywhere,” Martino said.

In a perfect world we could educate children about anything and everything. But I think that in practice, especially in elementary school, the lion’s share of time in religion class should be spent on, well, God, the Sacraments, the Saints, Virtues, Commandments, and the list goes on for quite awhile. Nevertheless, we’d all count ourselves successful if kids manage to receive even an entry-level formation in those areas.

I’m not saying that Cardinal Martino is suggesting global warming and ecology replace these subjects, but I do think that in elementary education, Cardinal Martino’s set of issues are actually far down on the list of objective priorities, especially in religion class.

Let the parents spend their time fighting about global warming and CO2 emissions.

I’m sure this isn’t my last post on this topic, so we’ll leave it here for now.

Update: From Gabe in the comments:
I think Cardinal Pell’s comments on global warming in which he calls global warming “superstition,” “nonsense,” and “semi-religious” make a lot more sense than Cardinal Martino’s comments.

I’m glad I just got finished saying in another post that it is “always well worth listening to Cardinal Pell”, because it just came true again. And I knew I had heard someone else credible (and episcopal) describe the enthusiasm of global-warming advocates as being “semi-religious.”
Update 2: Zenit has released some partial coverage of the conference here.
[photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters]
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