More Americans believe in angels than in climate change. Still, a poll released earlier this year indicated that more Americans than ever now think that climate change is happening, that it is caused by human activity and that world leaders have a moral obligation to do something about it.
So why are we getting so little action? If a large majority of people actually thinks our only home, the Earth, suffers from human behavior, then shouldn’t our personal and public actions reflect that reality? Oh, sure, lots of people drive electric cars, but lots more drive SUVs. I know that California has implemented a “cap-and-trade” program that will limit the future growth of carbon in the air, but the state has not banned fracking, which wastes water and hurts our air quality. And I know that the federal government has been setting higher goals for vehicle mileage —
Is the Pope a tease? Not really. He’s trying. He challenged the neoliberal economic system just a month into his papacy and brought up one of its difficult byproducts: growing inequality. And last week, at his recently convened synod on the family, he attempted to coax his bishops to expand their definition of the family, acknowledging yet another difficult issue: the rapidly expanding fact of gay marriage. For a brief moment, it appeared the Church was not only poised to liberalize its definition of the family, but it might even be ready to jumpstart Vatican II and go so far as to overturn one of its most cherished catechisms: denial.
It all started with an October 13 press release that included this hopeful language for LGBT Catholics (the draft was credited to a Pope Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for his progressivism):
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.
‘Tis the season of miracles.
That’s not a phrase that sits easily with the modern mind. Nevertheless, the stories with which we mark this time of year all contain gestures, unexpected motions and things hoped for — but that are not at all certain or even vaguely possible. The lamp held enough oil for a couple of days at most, but it stays lit for eight – until more can be brought from a distance. A peasant sees the Virgin Mary but, of course, the local bishop doesn’t believe that such a simple person would be visited by Her, but another vision accompanied by long-stemmed red roses convinces him. A poor working family bears a child in circumstances no middle class American can quite grasp, and people think this one will be the liberator of his people. Those are miracles.
Of course, these stories update a deeper and even older human experience when the ancients awaited the sun’s return.
While growing up an American Catholic, I learned to tune out the Vatican, which had the air of Old World irrelevancy. The pope, I thought, was just the Catholic Church’s version of Queen Elizabeth, some doddering old monarch with no real power. The uncharismatic Pope Paul VI was a case in point, a kind of Millard Fillmore of the papacy. But instead of some dude with a bad 19th century haircut embroiled in states’ rights debates, this was an old Italian guy in a white dress. Same difference. But what did it have to do with my world?
Well, plenty as it turned out, for my boyhood coincided with the implementation of Pope John XXIII’s Vatican II reforms, which did in fact alter my world—in important ways. For a 9-year-old those important changes included permission to wear sneakers and T-shirts into church, the folk mass, no Latin classes — and an interesting lesson in architecture as the new circular churches that began to appear were more like theater in the round vs.