Saturday, June 13, 2015

Birth Control Must Figure Into Any Papal Encyclical On Climate Change

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Pope Francis is preparing an encyclical on global warming-climate change. If it is to mean anything it must allow provisions for birth control, not merely adjure people to consume less.

The news (Denver Post, June 12, p. 13A)  that Pope Francis is now finishing a papal encyclical on global warming has conservatives - Catholics and non-Catholics alike- fretting on the implications. Republican conservos, as is their misguided wont, fear the pontiff conferring benediction on the validity of human -caused climate change which they regard as a "hoax". Catholic conservatives are terrified because it inevitably interjects the issue of the world's growing population - a basic generator of CO2. They fear that any acknowledgement of climate change - especially traced to humans- leaves the door open to accepting the UN agenda that universally gives women access to artificial contraception and abortion.

Since both are claimed to violate Catholic moral tenets, this would be unacceptable. Never mind that before 1869, the Church allowed abortion up to the end of the first trimester. John Connery, S.J. a leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, has been quoted as citing a long standing collection of Canon Law that “it was not until 1869 that abortion for any reason became grounds for excommunication” (See, e.g. Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan, PARADE, April 22, 1990).

The larger point here is that clearly, the fact the Church already changed its doctrine on abortion shows its moral positions are malleable and not set in stone!  What this means is that the Church itself cannot be free of errors in faith or morals if it has already made one that was since covered up.

As for birth control, let's not forget that the Papal Commission set up by Pope Paul VI advised that he alter the Church's stance to allow artificial contraception (cf. Contraception and Holiness- The Catholic Predicament, Collins Publishers, UK, 1964. ) Despite that, Paul rejected his own Commission opting instead to adhere to Vatican hardliners like Joseph Ratzinger.

All this is germane given that how Francis deals with the inexorable population growth as it affects the environment, has to be one of the key questions to be answered when the encyclical, 'Laudato si, on the Care of Our Common Home' is released June 18.

As I noted in earlier posts, over-population is at the root of all the problems, including fouled water, polluted air and soil, melting glaciers, severe crowding - not to mention mass panic migrations (such as  seen this past week to Europe).  There are UN estimates that project a global population of 10.9 billion by 2100. If, however, women - mainly in the poorest nations and without access to contraceptives -  have even 0.5 more offspring each than projected,  that 2100 estimate could turn into 12.3 billion or even 15.8 billion.  See e.g.

The latter pointing to a certain 'Soylent Green' world. Meanwhile, Adrian Rafferty of the University of Washington, publishing in a recent issue of Science, computed there's an 80 percent probability that world population - now 7.3 billion - will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100

All this means that the Pope, if he is serious, cannot ignore or dismiss the adverse role human over -reproduction plays in contributing to a host of problems - including mass poverty and the greenhouse effect. In the case of the first, we note too many people outstripping the resources to provide for them - especially in places like Africa - which at its current rate of reproduction could see 5 billion people by 2100.

 Clearly also, the pollution of the atmosphere* in tandem with the accelerating greenhouse effect, can be laid at the feet of too many people on this planet - each needing food, air, water and energy from the time of birth.  The more people generated the more CO2 produced as a result of their gobbling resources and assorted carbon footprints. While the latter are greatest in the West, because our societies are based on consumption, the lesser footprints also matter in the sense that wars, tribal unrest and religious wars can result in millions fleeing their home nations and disrupting the balance of life in those countries fled to.

The most salient point for the pope is that the existing mass of 7.3 billion humans is currently gobbling the equivalent of 1.6 Earths each year. This is clearly unsustainable and one of two things must happen: humans must cut their numbers radically - preferably by cutting birth rates, or those uncontrolled  numbers will overwhelm the existing resources leading to mass starvation and destitution.

So artificial birth control, and yes - abortion too (if the birth control fails) must be available for a world teetering on the brink of catastrophe.. Failure to acknowledge this will mean the encyclical will be essentially a still born, sterile document - all form and no substance.

* New research has found that natural gas "flaring" at frack sites has added pollutant emissions to the atmosphere equivalent to "77 million cars". The noxious substances entering the atmosphere include:  carbon monoxide, benzene, and volatile organic compounds. (EOS: Earth and Space Science News, Vol. 96, No. 10, p. 5)

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