After talking about imminent decline of science I thought it was a good time to mention latest Vatican message on global warming. It’s been over a week and the news cycle has moved on but the message might only be starting to propagate in Catholic communities.
This paper was called encyclical and I admit it’s the first time I heard the term. Apparently, it means that this time the Pope was serious, as opposed to his usual blabber. It was issued in the form of 200 page book so it will take time to get translated, read, digested, discussed, and watered down to the actual priests. The US, however, has already released a guide on how Pope’s message is to be presented, and it isn’t short either. Whether people will accept the message is another matter.
For the American public the Pope has been a hit and miss. One day he says things pleasing to the liberals, another day he pleases conservatives. One day he goes along with Democrat party agenda, next he seemingly supports the Republicans. Catholic Church is firmly against abortions, for example, which is a Republican stance, but it now also supports the evolution, which gives ammunition to fire against the conservatives.
The global warming paper supports the Democrats but there are plenty of Republican Catholics in the run for the next year presidential elections and so far they told the Pope to get lost. The highest polling candidate, yet another Bush, said he was not going to take advice on how to run the economy from his priest, but then he has no problem in deferring to religion on issues like marriage etc.
All this mess just shows how divided, confused, and bewildered Christians are, and that’s just among the Catholics. Protestants don’t accept the authority of the Pope but they’ll probably accept his global warming message while Catholics themselves will try to downplay it.
Why is it so divisive? Global warming itself is actually not, it’s the need to do something about it that goes against people’s attachments to material enjoyment. Even Catholics are not going to let Pope stand in the way between them and their sense gratification. Heavily invested Protestants are not going to accept the message either, so it’s actually a false dichotomy. The world is divided here not by religious flavors but by effects on people’s aspirations.
As for global warming itself, the Pope said all the right things. He framed it as not an issue of economics but as an issue of morality and responsibility. It’s God’s Earth to begin with so it’s not ours to destroy, and it’s not prudent to destroy the environment even if we decide to play God ourselves.
Posited this way, it’s not so much about global warming or environment but about fundamental relationships between us, God, and our planet. As aspiring devotees there’s nothing to disagree for us here. Go Pope!
And yet we can pick on him for not being a vegetarian, but if we do so we’ll run into the same problem that has been dogging Christianity since its inception – they are free to interpret their scriptures to suit their tastes and so nothing is ever definitive there .
The current Pope is named after Saint Francis of Assisi who, among other things, was very kind to the animals. It is not clear if Francis was a vegetarian himself but, generally, he ate very little and abstaining from meat was not unusual in monastic communities at the time. Vegetarians, therefore, will pick his quotes on protecting the animals while meat eaters will cite lack of proof that Francis practiced what vegetarians claim he preached.
Pope Francis is not a big eater, he never goes to restaurants, but there are reports of chicken and wine being on his menu. Wine? Seriously? Doesn’t he notice the effect it has on one’s consciousness? Or are all Christians live in a perpetual state of total confusion that they can’t tell the difference between being intoxicated and sober?
We have our regs and I’ve never heard drinking to be a problem for any devotee. I would even say that devotees abstain from drinking because they can’t stand their minds being clouded and unable to concentrate on Kṛṣṇa. The reported feeling or warmth and comfort for us is a feeling of betrayal of our service attitude. What does it say about spiritual advancement of the Pope?
This is the biggest problem we have with Christianity – utter lack of spiritual realizations. Leading a clean and austere life is a prerequisite for any spiritual undertaking and Christians can’t manage even that. For Muslims it’s Ramadan right now, they believe they are “fasting”, but even in their wildest dreams they can’t imagine stopping killing animals for their own pleasure.
It’s no wonder the Pope is confused on so many issues. He’s got brains, we should obviously give him that, but trying to understand science of God with one’s mental prowess along is futile. Arguments can be made for everything and even if in Vedic times jñāna yoga led to legitimate realization of the Absolute Truth on the basis of intelligence along, nowadays people’s intellect is extremely weak and they’ll swallow anything that is only made to look convincing. It was one of favorite Lord Caitanya’s pastimes – challenge people to a debate, defeat them, and then defeat His own arguments in their favor, and so on and on.
Without direct spiritual knowledge intelligence is simply inadequate. We are not smarter than the Pope but we have proper authorities to rely on. Authorities spoke the truth, our job is only to understand how it was so, we don’t get to determine what the truth actually is, it has already been done.
We can, and actually must, humbly say that we don’t know anything and do not have any spiritual realizations but our ācāryas are spotless and we can simply repeat their words. Christians don’t have that luxury.
What did our ācāryas say about global warming, one might ask – the concept didn’t even exist then. And this is another very important point – Pope and his fellow Christians are trying to make a world a better place, more suitable for their perpetual enjoyment, if not for themselves then for their children. They talk about global warming as a threat to their comfort and security. Our ācāryas didn’t think in such selfish and materialistic terms. When they pointed at people’s faults in Kali Yuga they didn’t mention global warming because it’s not the cause but only a symptom of the problem.
When Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī described qualities of the Kali Yuga (SB 12.2) he started with money being the sole criteria for respect and with laws being applied only on the basis of power. This is what led the world to the situation we found ourselves in right now – global warming is the result of our greed and manipulating the laws to feed it. Well, Pope was right about that.
One more thing, in the spirit of yesterday’s post – science should share some of the blame, too. When they invented all those cars and airplanes and factories and power stations they had no idea of the consequences, of the strain it would put on world’s resources. For all the superior knowledge they claimed, they actually had no clue and didn’t even think about that, and now we have to pay for their ignorance, too.