Tuesday, September 8, 2009

That the Pope Thinks Highly of Himself and His Church

Pope Ratzinger has boldly gone where countless others have gone before, by identifying a social problem -- in this case, callous denialism vis-a-vis protecting the environment --- and imputing it to atheism:

Experiencing the shared responsibility for creation (Cf. 51), the Church is not only committed to the promotion of the defense of the earth, of water and of air, given by the Creator to everyone, but above all is committed to protect man from the destruction of himself. In fact, "when 'human ecology' is respected in society, environmental ecology also benefits" (ibid). Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where is existence is denied? If the human creature's relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the "final authority," and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.
The careful reader will hesitate before being too swayed by the Cf's and ibid's; the Pope is citing his own material, his encyclical* Caritas in Veritate, which I have not read in full but which is surely a rip-roaring tour de force, no doubt one of the most persuasive several thousand writings to appear in Latin in the current calendar year.

As to the merits of the claim, it's not laugh-out-loud ridiculous to claim that some materialists hold a world view in which "matter is reduced to egoistic possession" and life is "reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible." It's equally true to observe that some non-materialists hold the same world view.

I think we labeled such reasoning a problem of inherency back in my high school debate days: the set of beliefs in question really do exist, but they are plainly not inherent in only one side of the materialist/non-materialist divide. There are greedy bastards of all faiths and no faith, and of numberless metaphysical stripes between and beyond. Does Pope Whatzinger think his favorite sect's centuries-old struggle to produce frightened, narrow-minded masses has been successful enough to let him get away with such a glaring flaw of reasoning and observation? Does the Pope think the Church's teachings have scared people out of noticing, say, televangelism? Mormonism? Versions of "prosperity gospels"? Any of numerous forms of apocalypse-randy dead-enders? Members of the Republican party?

All of these, in varying degrees and along assorted ideological pathways, connect believing in god(s) with trashing the planet, or at best, actively not giving a damn about the planet. Mammon is flourishing across an uncountable array of franchise operations, all of which count him among god's dearest pals, if not identical with god.

The world picture that fosters concern for the condition of the earth's biosphere is exactly that -- the world picture that, one way or another, arrives at that concern. It is connectable with, but independent of, the varieties of religion and metaphysics.

The Pope thinks too highly of the success of his organization's efforts to enthrall, beguile, and mislead humanity.

* This statement by Pope Whozit rekindles my confusion over whether Catholics are compelled to receive papal pronouncements as infallible or not. As with so many things the Pope utters in public, these absurdities cross back and forth over a very fine line between pure theological discourse and everyday truth claim. Cf.


Anonymous said...

Well said. Leave it to catholics to jump on the "green" bandwagon at the last minute and then blame atheists for having no pride in their planet. How ridiculously presumptuous.

Dale said...

Charolotte, thanks for the comment. I pick on the pope because I love him. No, that's not it, not at all. I pick on the pope because he's a joke.

JohnnyHank said...

I actually think this statement is a step in the right direction for the Catholic Church. Seems all ANYONE wants to do with their faith anymore is control other people's sex lives. I think it's great that the Pope is telling Catholics that environmental concerns are important. I think this is more a statement against materialism (worship of things over Creation).

Not that I'm a big fan of the Pope or anything, but I was, as they say, raised Catholic, so a couple things...it's a common misconception that everything the Pope says is supposed to be infallible. Nope. In fact, papal infallibility has only been used once.
Not sure how it all works, but the Pope can make infallible statements (like a Governor making a proclamation or something): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility
Also, most televangelists and born-again (Bush Republican) types are not big fans of papists.

Anyway, I peek in here now and then and always enjoy reading.

Dale said...

JohnnyHank, thanks for the comment and for stopping by. I do realize that there have been countless thousands of tiresome words wasted on drawing the line between 'fallible' and 'infallible' when it comes to the utterances of Popes -- defining exactly what secret cheat code key-combination grants him the 'infallible' power-up. It's all so precious and hilarious but for the gigantic waste of human potential it represents.

Also, I realize that American protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals have their severe differences with 'papists.' As with their creepy embrace of right-wing Jews over Israel, they have forged a coalition with right-wing Catholics -- one that centers on a shared enthusiasm for blastocysts -- that, in the fullness of time, can be expected to dissolve. They'd gladly kill every Catholic standing if all the hated liberals and non-Christians were cleared away.