A few weeks ago Stefano Gennarini of C-Fam sent a series of respectful questions to Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo about the inclusion of abortion advocates Ban Ki-Moon and Jeffrey Sachs at a Vatican conference on so-called climate change. Sanchez Sorondo heads the Pontifical Academy of Science, the organizer of the conference.
Sanchez Sorondo’s response was at best undisciplined and one wishes he had put it in a drawer overnight. He accused climate skeptics of being in league with the American Tea Party and of actually being employed by the oil industry. I am sure the vastly underpaid Gennarini, who works for me, chuckled at that as he puzzled over such an impolitic response.
Gennarini wrote about it at First Things and said a statement that Sanchez understood the position of the Holy See at the UN on “reproductive health and rights” could have cleared up the whole mess. This was the heart of Gennarini’s question about inviting two major UN apparatchiks to the Vatican.
This drew an immediate and wholly unhinged response from a British aristocrat named Lady Margaret Archer who now heads the Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences, a post she assumed last year from the greatly missed Professor Mary Ann Glendon.
Archer referred to Gennarini’s column as an attack, which it most assuredly was not. It was a quite balanced and even respectful response. Quite revealingly, she resurrected the old pro-abortion cliché that pro-lifer’s “sole concern with human dignity [is] confined to the period between conception and live-birth.” She referred to his column as a “travesty of Catholic Social Teaching.”
She suggests that Gennarini is “totally uninterested in vicious practices such as human trafficking.” She cites mass graves in Malaysia and Thailand as instances of Gennarini’s lack of interest.
She said his column was a “hate message to Bishop Sanchez Sorondo” and wondered why it wasn’t directed to other Vatican bigwigs including Archer herself. After all, she says it was her conference. What’s more, she actually said, “the Pope appointed me.” And finally with all her aristocratic grandeur, “…that leaves you and your cohort out in the cold.” Take that, you peasant.
She then accuses Gennarini of being on the financial take with lobbying interests.
One wonders if the climate cheerleaders are quite confident in their position. And whether they still believe global warming will become an infallible matter as they clearly hope. Otherwise why send such an odd response to the questions of a small NGO? She posted her email on her own website and others chimed in.
One was Anthony Annett at the Commonweal blog lustily cheering her on. He said climate skeptics could no longer rely simply on junk science to rebut the soon-to-be infallible notion of global warming, so they must resort to the oldest trick in the book, “raising the specter of abortion to mask their determined opposition to core aspects of Catholic Social Teaching.” Annett says, “This time they messed with the wrong woman….”
He refers repeatedly to Archer’s mocking tone, though approvingly, and says more Catholics and all people of good will should do the same and in the process “reclaim Catholic Social Teaching from those who have spent decades hijacking it.”
I call them Bullies for Francis.
You see them large and small. You see them among the major and minor bloggers. You see them in the comment boxes. You see them among the academics and among the ordained. You even see them among the non-believers for even they have waited for a Pope they could use as a stick against their enemies.
It is as if they have waited a very long time for payback. It’s like they suffered those long years during the reign first of John Paul II and then Benedict and every day they would wake up and have to explain something the pope said about the preeminence of the life issues over against, say, the minimum wage.
For years they had to suffer the indignities of people like Richard John Neuhaus, George Weigel, and Michael Novak being seen as the golden boys, close to JPII and Benedict, confidants, advisers, friends. All the while they wondered, “Doesn’t the pope see what wicked men these are? Doesn’t the pope see they are not fully Catholic, like we are?” They wondered and wondered and ground their teeth and waited. Would their time ever come?
And then, it did. Francis was elevated. Frances was a progressive, just like them, right? Francis would make everything all right. At long last he would put Weigel in his place. Cathy Kaveny and all the rest would finally get what’s rightfully theirs. At long last, payback, sweet payback.
When the Vatican released Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope’s encyclical on economics, Michael Sean Winters wrote, “There’s not enough red and gold pens in the world for George Weigel to parse the clamant social justice sections out of Evangelii Gaudium.” This was a reference to Weigel marking up a previous encyclical and suggesting some parts of it were really the Pope and others were not.
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Commonweal asked: “Will conservatives among American Catholics who have long championed tax cuts for the wealthy acknowledge the moral conundrum that Francis has put before them?”
And a political lefty named Dan Nichols, who runs a little-visited site called Caelum et Terra, says how happy he is to see conservatives “squirm.”
When Francis said not to judge homosexuals, those of us working for traditional marriage were told we were no longer Catholic. The gay blogs were jubilant that the pope was with them and against us.
When Francis said the Church should no longer “obsess” over abortion, pro-lifers inevitably heard that the pope doesn’t want us working on abortion anymore.
Last year the pope Tweeted that “Inequality is the root of social evil.” When some commentators engaged and even disagreed with that notion, blogger Grant Gallicho at Commonweal made it clear the only choice was to “jump to.” He accused conservatives of being “frightened and confused.”
I do not think for one second that Pope Francis would approve of his bullies.
The good news is that even Lady Archer’s strange email has come under fairly widespread criticism. Various Vatican bigwigs have back channeled to Gennarini their condemnation of it. Certainly, conservative commentators have expressed their wonderment at Archer. Phil Lawler said she should resign. But even many of the progressive commenters under Annett’s Commonweal piece defended Gennarini and criticized Archer.
But the Bullies of Francis are far from finished with us. The encyclical on the environment is days away. Even if it does not say as much, there is little doubt they will tell us global warming is an aspect of the faith that we ignore at the peril of our souls. In fact, one person already emailed me that I would have to answer to God for even questioning man-made global warming.
The Bullies for Francis are just getting started.
Editor’s note: In the image above, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meets Pope Francis at the Vatican in April where he participated in a conference on “climate change” organized by Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo (center).