Diane Roberts: Pols get hot as pope warms to climate change

There’s a reason your mama told you not to bring up politics or religion in company. Things are bound to get ugly.

If you’re a religious conservative politico running for president, you might want to steer clear of science, too, especially now that Pope Francis has delivered himself of an encyclical urging action on climate change. You will sound stupid.

Primo example: Rick Santorum, tossing His Holiness this pro tip: “I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

You will have noticed how eager Republican politicians are to leave science to the scientists. Louisiana governor and probable presidential candidate Bobby Jindal pushed a law to teach Creationism in schools. And, of course, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe: He “disproved” global warming once and for all by bringing a snowball into the capitol. In February.

Weather? Climate? Same thing!

Florida’s frontrunners for the Republican nomination, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, refuse to accept what NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the Max Planck Institute and the citizens of Broward County know to be the case: temperatures are rising. The sea, too.

But who needs science when you’ve got Jesus?

Marcocito admits that something is up with the climate, but humans are not to blame. Anyway, if we cut back on fossil fuels even a teeny bit, his campaign donors – er, the American economy, I mean – won’t like it. Western Civilization will collapse! The terrorists win!

Politically, Marcocito’s your common right-wing lightweight. Religion-wise, he’s been around the block several times. Raised a Catholic, he became a Mormon, then went back to Rome. Lately he fools around with fundamentalists, going to mass on Sundays but hanging out at one of those evangelical Wal-churches on Saturday nights.

Not so much Cafeteria Catholicism as an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

As for Jeb, he converted to Roman Catholicism 20 years ago. He presents himself as so devout, so dedicated to the pro-life teachings of his new church, that in 2000 he trampled the constitutions of Florida and the United States to keep a woman in a vegetative state “alive,” though no rational person would call it living.

Back then, Jeb was happy to cite the pope as support for his insistence that poor Terri Schiavo, her brain gone, should lie indefinitely in a hospital bed stuck full of tubes. “God’s will,” you know.

That pope was the ultraconservative John Paul II. St. Peter’s current successor is hardly a flaming progressive, though the way the GOP carries on, you’d think the cardinals had elected Caitlyn Jenner.

For the likes of Bush, Rubio, and Santorum, this pope lacks spiritual authority. Perhaps he’s insufficiently fixated upon gays, abortion and those awful blue jeans-wearing American nuns who, instead of shaming unwed mothers, spend all their time working with the downtrodden. Asked about the Holy Father’s intervention in climate change, Jeb sniffed, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

Marcocito (along with Rick Scott) likes to say, “I’m not a scientist.” The pope is a scientist – trained as a chemist. His encyclical makes it clear he understands what’s happening with CO2 and ocean acidification.

There’s a lot wrong with the Catholic Church: the homophobia, the misogyny, the  criminal failure to deal with pedophile priests. But this pope atones for a multitude of sins by focusing attention on the rape and pillage of the planet and demanding rich nations pay their “grave social debt” to the developing world: “We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that the problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.”

Conservative heads are, of course, exploding, calling Francis a “Marxist.” Peggy Noonan, Reagan speechwriter and Doctor of the Church, worries the pope thinks that the “science of climate change is settled” and is overcompensating because, you know, Galileo.

St. Francis of Assisi called the sun his brother and the earth his sister. He gave away everything he had and hung around with beggars.

Hippie. Welfare scrounger. Now his namesake wants us to stop buying so much stuff and trashing the planet. What next: peace, love and understanding?

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.


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