ROME – Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will be the last head of government to address the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) on Tuesday afternoon.
The cardinal gave a clue as to what he will say, telling Vatican News on October 30 that he hopes that COP26 will “reaffirm the centrality of multilateralism and action” and that “integral ecology” – dealing with the peace, justice and the preservation of justice as interconnected themes – will be considered.
He did not mention the Church’s long-standing Christological approach to the environment, but instead echoed other world leaders in stressing the urgency for action and repeated the calls of Pope Francis to fight against a “throwaway society” by means of “eco-sustainability”.
Many of these views are almost identical to the UN’s own goals for the meeting and are noticeably omitted are words articulating the Catholic Church’s perspective on the climate and the future of the Earth.
Father Paul Haffner, author of Towards an environmental theology (Gracewing), takes an approach not so much focused on socio-political solutions, but rather on key principles and values that underpin the prophetic witness of the Church. “We don’t want a moving train,” he says. “We also want to inspire these people, not to be led by them, but to lead them. “
Father Haffner, professor of systematic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, recently spoke with the Registry’s correspondent in Rome, Edward Pentin.
Father Haffner, the Holy See seems to emphasize only one point of view on climate change, namely the scientific one of the UN with minor variations. Why do you think he does not often convey the full scope of the Church’s teaching on this issue?
Before getting into the practical details of climate change, you need to have a Christian perspective on ecology that begins with the Creation, the Fall, the Redemption, and the New Creation. Creation that you need because the cosmos was not born of itself. God created it. You need the Incarnation and the redemption because Christ took on human nature and redeemed us. A new creation will be given to us because it is ephemeral and temporary. Therefore, you can’t make the universe a godlike quality and then something becomes a little pear shaped like climate change, you can’t be so upset.
So, the UN point of view, we know, is obtained by a rather fragile consensus, while our Christian point of view, Eastern and Western, is obtained by the Apocalypse. So these are two different images. Climate change is something not all scientists agree on anyway. There are people, for example, who would say that climate change has always happened because the climate is never exactly the same, but the Church adheres to a particular vision of climate change, adopted by the UN, and several world governments around the world, is a bit dangerous. Like the Galileo affair – you buy a position and science can take you wrong. So we should navigate very, very carefully through these troubled waters.
Does it threaten to be some kind of Galileo upside down?
Exactly. I would remain that we have to be very clear on one position: we should state principles, maybe not in a moralistic way, but we would say: “This is a Catholic Christian vision of creation that we want to bring to you and from there . you have to find the answers through discussion, scientific research, economic considerations, political negotiation, etc. The Church does not really get involved.
The action is based on being, therefore the ethical aspect is based on a theology of creation and redemption applied to creation. So it’s not like, like Gaudium et Spes so said, the Church has ready-made answers to every question (33.2). So there should not be an easy answer on this point. And it is not because we are afraid of being caught on the wrong foot. We don’t want to force people either. It seems totally crazy to specify too many details – that we should accept “climate change the dogma”. It may sound fair, but it is not at the level of a dogmatic statement.
Do you think it has become dogma with the help of the Church?
Unfortunately [yes], because you see that there is [Karl] Popper’s principle of falsification in science [Popper’s principle suggests that for a theory to be considered scientific it must be able to be tested and conceivably proven false].
I don’t believe in Popper myself, but with this principle you need a series of successive verifications of theory, but even then you cannot dogmatize theory in science. Science is constantly evolving. Climate science is not an exact science; it is very approximate because it cannot be measured so easily.
Some supporters of the UN point of view speak of a climate religion, that it has taken on religious characteristics, becoming almost an article of faith. Doesn’t this vision of the world make human beings an enemy of creation?
It’s a new age religion, basically a cosmo-centrism in which the cosmos is placed in the center, the human being is a nuisance, and you want to put it aside. Therefore, abortion, euthanasia and depopulation of course, are all part of this wicked agenda, which obviously wants the person to be put second and third and the exaltation of animals, putting them on the same level as the animals. Human being. The biblical and traditional teaching is that men and women are at the top of the created world. The hierarchy in creation exists and we forget it because what is promoted is fundamentally ecologism, as we call it – a socialist or communist ideology that wants to level everything and forget that there is a hierarchy. in which the human person is the summit, under God, under Christ, with dominion over creation.
Why do you think the Vatican doesn’t seem to be strengthening a lot or none of this? Why does he not enter the arena of climate control?
I have no inside information, but it seems to me that there are pressure groups that rely on the Vatican as there always have been and persuade them to accept a worldview that is the accepted view. – an unchallenged worldview which is totally contrary to the faith which we believe we cherish, defend and defend.
And yet we are taught to save creation, so is it right that we try to tackle climate change if it exists?
The Church cannot dictate how we are to do it in great detail. She says that we should take care of creation as “priests” and stewards and leaves it to our initiative. We do not give too many details and this is the genius of the oriental tradition. Then we will not be caught by these socialist and communist pressure groups and ideologies. We also remember that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. This creation will not last forever. We do not have a permanent home in this present world, so to try to deify or make this world permanent as if it is something that we have to preserve forever is actually worshiping it. We worship a false God. We worship the Lord in his Christ, so we try to take care of the house we live in, knowing that this house will not last forever.
Would you say that the Holy See is fertile ground for such an ideology, because the Vatican, as some claim, has focused too much on the temporal over the past 50 years?
Yes, it has been going on for a long time. It is a very easy temptation. I mean the Israelites in the Old Testament very easily gave up the faith and worshiped the golden calf. So it’s a constant temptation and unless you don’t have so much discipline but rather your eyes on the Lord and then prayer, not caring too much about systems or spiritualities, then you have this danger. When you’re more interested in your power, fame, money, and the approval of the world, things start to go wrong.
I’m not passing judgment on individual priests and bishops, but it’s a constant temptation to follow what everyone else is saying in the world about climate change, global warming – all those buzzwords. But a lot of people who talk about it haven’t studied the science behind it. The science behind this is not an exact science, so we should be very frugal on the bandwagon we should jump on. The one that all Christians want to jump on is the bandwagon of the Gospel and Gospel values and leave everything else, whether UN or NGOs or local government or regional government , nations, the European Union – we don’t want another bandwagon. We also want to inspire these people, not to be led by them, but to lead them. It is essential.