Q. I am appalled that the church has apparently bought into the climate change mania. This, despite significant scientific evidence to the contrary — and especially in spite of its obvious political motivation. Am I a bad Catholic for opposing this church position? (Troy, New York)
A. Clearly, the Catholic Church views climate change as a dangerous reality in need of a global solution. In his May 2015 encyclical on the environment (“Laudato Si'”) Pope Francis said the following: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”
He continued: “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes that produce or aggravate it.”
He also added: “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
In November of 2015, on a plane returning from Africa, Pope Francis told reporters that an international agreement on climate change was needed to save a world “at the limits of suicide.”
The Church’s moral position is based on a strong consensus within the international scientific community: Since 2001, some 34 national science academies worldwide have made formal declarations confirming human-induced climate change and urging nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
In December 2015, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, while strongly supporting the Pope’s ecology encyclical on the call for climate control, told the National Catholic Register that the Pope was “not claiming any dogmatic position” or proclaiming “an article of faith.”
So, directly to your question: I suppose that you can be a good Catholic and still disagree with the Church on climate change. I just wonder whether you are being a good scientist.
Q. Some years ago, I was driving my car in an unfamiliar area and felt a desire to stop in a church and pray. I came across a huge barn of a building with no sign on the outside, and I wondered whether it might be “one of ours” (i.e., a Catholic church).
I entered and saw a red candle lighted, to the right of the altar, and I knew that I was “home.” In more recent years, though, some of the Catholic churches I visit have no red light, and the Blessed Sacrament is locked away in a chapel. Perhaps this is just a quirk of my home diocese, but I can’t help wondering: Why are we hiding God? (Orange, California)
A. The “sanctuary lamp,” to which you refer, is actually required in a Catholic church whenever the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the GIRM, the church’s liturgical “rule book”) says in No. 316 that “near the tabernacle a special lamp, fueled by oil or wax, should shine permanently to indicate the presence of Christ and honor it.”
Note that it need not be red, though certainly that is the traditional color. As for your concern with the Eucharist’s being “locked away in a chapel,” you should know that the GIRM does provide an option (in No. 315) so that the Blessed Sacrament may be reserved “either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration” or “even in some chapel suitable for the private adoration and prayer of the faithful.” That chapel, though, must be “organically connected to the church and readily noticeable by the Christian faithful.”
I am assuming that you have not seen the Eucharist literally “locked away,” since that would preclude the chance for adoration. In our parish, we have a separate eucharistic chapel. It can accommodate six to eight people, who may kneel or sit in quiet meditation before the Blessed Sacrament.
Just outside this chapel, visible as one enters the main body of the church, is a (red) sanctuary lamp that is kept lighted throughout the day and night. Far from “hiding God,” I believe this small but prayerful place honors the presence of Jesus in a special way and beckons people to visit.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.
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The Pope, 99% of scientists, and all the nations who agreed in Paris are wrong and the far right talk radio and GOP are correct? SURE, I’m buying that. What has happened to common sense and Catholics ?
You must know that many of these scientific groups are funded by government grants and many other groups disagree with them which the media rarely reports. I would hope that the Holy Father would be more concerned about souls and their salvation. Leave the scientific arguments to the scientists. Lecture us on turning away from sin. Whatever happened to “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul”?
Dear Father Doyle:
“So, directly to your question: I suppose that you can be a good Catholic and still disagree with the Church on climate change. I just wonder whether you are being a good scientist.”
Father, do you “suppose” that Lumen Gentium was adopted by the fathers at the Second Vatican Council, or is it indeed the Constitution of the Church?
Doesn’t Lumen Gentium accord to the laity the right and the duty to address political particulars on which good Catholics (as you “suppose”) can and do disagree, in full harmony with the social teaching of the Church as well as Lumen Gentium?
We welcome Pope Francis’ affirmation of Magisterial truths in Laudato si, including his emphasis on Humanae Vitae and his rejection of the goals of the secular population control lobby.
Moreover, didn’t Pope Francis tell us in Laudato Si,”Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.” (No. 188)
Is Cardinal George Pell a bad Catholic because he insists that the Church has ““no particular expertise in science”?
And isn’t it possible that the American hierarchy’s constant insertion into such prudential particulars of political issues – in remarkable harmony with the agenda of the Democrat Party (but for the life issues) – constitutes clericalism, a practice long condemned by Holy Mother Church?
Father, why do you so flippantly alienate millions of faithful Catholics – as well as other Americans – who have the right and duty to draw their own conclusions regarding these particulars? Why the thinly-veiled contempt?
Our family prays for our bishops and priests every day. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
How can one possibly believe about the climate disaster that has been promoted for the last forty years? In the 1970’s is was global cooling, and when that didn’t happened the name was simply changed to global warming. Then 18 years of no temperature rise the activists changed it to climate change. Climate change has been going on since the formation of the earth and is as naturals as sunrise/sunset. Also, science is not confirmed by consensus but by empirical testing and there is nothing in this world that science would declare as settled.
Father Doyle: This is somewhat amazing but within a space of just over two weeks I am writing to take issue with you. Last time I wrote to state that you dodged a question about Bernard Law. This time I am writing about your response to the writer and his concerns about climate change. At least this time you admitted that you “suppose” the writer can be a good Catholic and not follow the Pope’s teaching on climate. As a product of 12 years of Catholic schools to me that’s my 8th grade nun saying “you’re flirting with a serious near occasion of sin”. And you said it after you parroted what the Pope wrote about climate change. There is so much factually wrong with your comments in defense of the Pope’s position that I’m certain you’ve never objectively sat down and examined the other side. Regardless a simple answer would have sufficed. Namely a simple yes that you can be a good Catholic if you disagree with the Pope’s scientific views. And finally can I be a good Catholic if I disagree with the Pope continuing to harbor Bernard Law and protecting him from legal depositions? With all due respect;
I hear ya, Troy.
Check out William Briggs at The Stream or “When Will Climate Scientists Say They Were Wrong?” article easily found online. Science isn’t settled but it is political.
The Catholic Church does NOT “clearly” view climate change as a dangerous reality. I am a member of the Catholic Church, the body of Christ, and I believe that this concept is wrong. There are many eminent scientists who agree. Specify who thinks what, and don’t generalize about “the church”. That’s like saying Muslims believe in Jihad, when you mean there are some Muslims who believe that, but not all.