Tag Archives: Pope Francis

The Climate Change Pope, Part 3

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I’ve spent a couple blog posts giving the background on why I believe the Pope is wrong about climate change.   Let me start this post by stating my areas of agreement with the Pope.

  1. I am not deligitimizing the overall, general issue of stewardship of God’s creation.     I am not suggesting the Pope has no authority in this area, nor that he should be silent about these concerns.   I am not even saying that the Pope has no right to an opinion on whether or not human-caused global warming (or climate change) is real.    He, as does every person, has a right to an opinion.    As Pope, he has the obligation to instruct the faithful.   More generally speaking, it is proper and correct to challenge all of us as to whether or not we are striking the proper balance between respect for human rights and progress and respect for God’s creation.
  2. There should be many things that we see that should not be particularly debatable as either a good thing or a bad thing in the realm of stewardship of the earth.   Dumping of toxins, breaking the law, leaving a plastic bottle in the woods – some are clearly more serious than others, but all are wrong.   The Pope is correct to suggest that knowingly doing something that is harmful to the planet is sinful.    This statement is not Gaia-worship, it is a simple acknowledgment that we have a responsibility we need to take seriously to keep this planet as healthy as possible, because God made it good, and also because it’s in our best interest to do so.    No matter how pro-capitalism one might be, this should not be debatable.
  3. Consumerism is a somewhat strange word, but we should all be able to agree that, while the economic system is not inherently problematic, the human conditions of jealousy and greed are.   You can point to any economic system ever put in place anywhere, and you will have one thing in common:   greedy people will find a way to take advantage of other people, and will exploit the system to their gain.    I personally believe that the Pope is often a bit too hard on capitalism, as if the system itself is flawed.    Compared to any other system devised, I actually thing it produces the most superior of moral outcomes – you earn what you deserve (generally speaking) and it forces allocation of resources in the most efficient way for a thriving economy, which benefits everybody.     Clearly, there are shortfalls, as will be the case with every system, and we continue to try to create the perfect variant of a social-capitalistic system, which will never happen.   But having said all that, it is certainly worth noting the personal pitfalls of this system.   Capitalism does offer the opportunity for great wealth.   That’s not bad, but is the question is why is that wealth being pursued?     It’s one thing if natural interests or a great idea that can add to the quality of life of others is the reason for the pursuit.    It’s also another thing if an opportunity exists to make your life better without sacrificing other good things (God, family, etc.).   It’s quite another if the drive is purely materialistic, and the time and effort is sacrificing time and energy on more idealistic pursuits.   This is where capitalism, while not bad in and of itself, can be a source of temptation for those who may have a personal weakness in the area of covetousness or greed.    This goes hand-n-hand, then, with the stewardship of creation.   Most Corporations are good, all of which are filled with working people – I hate the generalization of all Corporations as somehow innately evil. This doesn’t mean that greed cannot infect the principal owners/board members of an organization.    As Christians, we can both believe in the goodness of capitalism while speaking out against environmental injustices when they happen.
  4. There are grey areas in the area of stewardship that can be legitimately debated.    Is it immoral to build a factory that will employ people who will be able to provide for their families if it means the endangered snail darter will be at serious risk?    Is it immoral to shutter the entire project, causing community disruptions, lost jobs, and so forth because of an overscrupulous view of stewardship?    Good and honest people will disagree on the moral high ground here.   Perhaps there is a middle ground that makes sense.    One thing is almost certain – not everyone will agree, and it’s almost impossible to say that one side is sinning and the other is not.

So, I think the Pope makes many great points, and challenges us to make sure we are not letting politics steer our religious or moral obligations.    However, where I do take issue is moving from the moral directives to a much more specific proclamation of what our obligations are as a world community, as governments, and as individuals in response to the threat of human-caused climate change.

It is one thing to take a position that dumping a known toxin into a river is a sinful action, and it is quite another to suggest that driving a car is a sin if the option of a bus is available.   If the moral instruction is based on a belief that fossil fuel use is causing destructive warming, it is understandable why that instruction takes place.   But if that underlying premise is false, then the moral instruction is also false.    Put differently, if I do not accept the science-based premise that leads to a particular moral instruction on the basis of that scientific premise – not on simply obstinate grounds, but on grounds of experience and research and (to the extent possible) unbiased human reasoning – then am I obligated to accept the moral instruction that is a response to the flawed scientific premise?    This is different from just saying “I studied the Bible and I don’t believe in Purgatory.”    That is not a scientific question that leads to a religious doctrine.   So, I am not saying that whatever I don’t accept I don’t need to listen to.  In fact, I accept that the moral issue of stewardship is an obligation on my part.   It is the specific nature of this issue that I have a problem with.

One may simply ask, “What’s the big deal?”    Well, it is a big deal, actually.    If the Pope gives moral authority to governments, the UN, and other secular organizations on this issue, it sets the stage for a much more aggressive response with the justification that the Vatican is on board.   I think the Pope, in his own way, has this vision of the goodness of they types of choices that will be made – people just decide to buy fewer things, drive less, think about the environment more, and participate less in the types of things that will drive climate change.   Governments will do reasonable things that benefit everyone.

There is good there, and the good things are the things we should do anyway, irrespective of climate change.   But going beyond personal choices, everything else is problematic even if the theory is correct.   And if the theory is wrong, then everything else is horribly flawed. Governments will tax – inefficient, and a displacement of resources that can help people.   Governments will regulate and restrict production, will deviate resources to unnecessary and expensive areas, and will be an overall drag on growth and incomes.   But far worse will be the continuation and escalation of social engineering:   (a) abortion on demand will continue, be promoted as a good, and will escalate in the areas of the world where it has yet to gain a foothold; (b) people will be encouraged to outright “fear” having children, further encouraging use of contraception,  (c) personal property rights and use of property will continue to be diminished and attacked, and (d) marriage will continue to devolve into an institution of self-happiness rather than as an institution of rearing the next generation.

Now, the Pope doesn’t want fewer children via an increase in abortion and contraception.   And he would condemn that approach.   But the secular world doesn’t care what the Pope thinks, except when he thinks something they can use to advance their agenda.   While it should not be the case that the Pope should never speak pastorally or on social justice issues due to the risk of progressives selectively choosing the words of his they want to use for their purposes, neither should the Pope dismiss or ignore the fact that this reality exists.   He should understand the consequences of his instruction, and at the very least make it clear that when he speaks of these things, he condemns absolutely a number of the human “solutions” or agendas around this issue.

He should, in my opinion, also not speak so absolutely about the truth of climate change as a result of human activity, but instead focus more generally on environmental stewardship and our moral responsibility.

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The Climate Change Pope, Part 2

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In my recent post The Climate Change Pope, Part 1, I provided a brief historical context as to why I believe i can speak to this issue with some clarity from the standpoint of science and mathematics, as well as modeling.    I have done my best to take an unbiased look at the data, and have also studied a number of the less black and white issues around the idea of human-caused climate change (which used to be global warming, but I’m convinced that it became obvious that this claim was going to be problematic – nonetheless, climate change is still, generally, used synonymous with a precept that the planet is warming, and that is undergirded by a precept that the warming is caused by humans).

My past history has led me to the conclusion that the theory that humans cause global warming is mostly false.   Call it the Diatribe-o-facto-meter.   I say mostly false because I think there does appear, in my past research, that over the past few decaded the temperature anomalies ride slightly higher than what is otherwise nicely explained by incorporating cyclical trend analysis.   The differential, however, is not what I would call significant.    The fact is, there are very long term warming and cooling trends that take place over time.   We all know this without being science majors – there have been series’ of ice ages and series’ of warmer ages.   One can easily find historical charts dating back millions of years that show these cyclical patterns, determined through different scientific analyses.   Then there are intermediate term cycles withing these longer term cycles.  Finally, we know of at least two sixty-ish year cycles that take place with ocean warming and cooling patterns.    Throw on top of that the solar cycle that lasts a fraction of that time, and it’s easy to see why trying to jump to conclusions by looking at a 10, 20, or 30 year temperature trend needs to consider all sorts of things before you can start talking about what the actual impact of human activity does.

In my past blogging, I attempted to do just that, and my conclusions are that we are in a long/intermediate trend of warming at about 0.4 degrees Celsius per Century.   This has nothing at all to do with human activity.    From the mid 1970s through the 1990s we were in one of the short-term upward cycles.   My analysis showed that we peaked a few years ago, are on top of a wave where temps would be relatively stable, and then start a gradual decline for a number of years before starting to increase once again.    I posted this observation a number of years ago and it’s exactly what happened.

My analysis also showed that recent anomalies where slightly elevated after considering these cycles.    This could have to do with recent solar cycle contribution, or it may well have to do with human contributions.   So I accept a contributory impact.   But it is such a small contribution that it cannot possibly justify back-breaking action.

So, moving on from all that, why is this important?    I have always felt it is important, primarily, because I think we are victims of a combination of honest mistakes and outright lies.    Honest mistakes can be reviewed and debated and corrected.   Outright lies means that there is something more to the story.   The question is, “why would they lie about something like this?”

And this is where the Pope becoming complicit (I believe with good intentions) is quite problematic.    The goal of those who really, really understand the science behind this issue is to promote a particular socioeconomic outcome.   Increase taxation, disallow more and more land use, thus reducing private ownership of land (I just read today that during Obama’s 8 years, he has federalized enough land to fill Texas three times – that is alarming and something we should resist greatly), and – the greatest evil of all – to paint human beings as intrinsically at odds with creation and of lower value than planet earth.

In my next, and final, post on this, I will further explain my position.   In a nutshell, I am not suggesting the Pope doesn’t have a proper concern in making sure we are reminded of our human responsibility to care for God’s creation.   He makes great and humbling points that need to be considered.   My issue is moving beyond the more general spiritual directive in reminding us of our overall responsibility and the broad considerations we need to make in all our actions, and moving into much more specific case of climate change and fossil fuels.   There is a very real danger in how his words will be taken by many odd bedfellows, and in my opinion not only creates potential confusion but also actually, albeit indirectly and unintentionally, aids in the advancement of evil.

The Climate Change Pope – Part 1

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In my former blogging life, I became enamored with looking into the actual global temperature numbers.   This may seem odd to the casual observer, but you have to understand that I am a math, computer, and science guy.   In college, at one point I was a Math & Physics major, with a Chemistry, Computer Science, and Microelectronics minor.    When I finally decided to become an actuary I dropped the science, as it was no longer necessary.   But I love science and I appreciate the scientific process.

In my more than 25 years as an actuary, I have also developed a profound appreciation for taking an unbiased view of the numbers.   When you are working for a company and they are expecting you to give answers that will ultimately impact bottom line, you cannot bring preconceived biases into the equation and pretend that what you are seeing isn’t really what you are seeing.    Nor can you pretend to see something that isn’t actually there.   This would lead to bad business decisions and it would be poor actuarial practice.

I’ve always been intrigued by the stories that numbers can actually tell.   There have been a number of times where I entered into an analytical exercise expecting to see one result, which was exactly the opposite of the actual result.    Upon further consistency testing, it became evident that what I previously thought was simply wrong.   The fun part is to try and figure out why that is the case.    Being forced with the reality of the results, it usually became clear and obvious why the numbers were what they were, but before actual observation the explanation was not self-evident.

In my work on global temperature data, I was extremely disappointed by what seems to be an utter failure on the part of climate-change proponents to present the reality of the actual temperature data.   I’m not talking about climate models, or CO2 readings, or anecdotal items of some glacier melting here or there.   I’m talking about the actual data.

Anyone who really wants to dive into my past writings on this can find a plethora of posts on Digital Diatribes.   Just google that and you’ll get there.

The intent of this post isn’t to rehash all of that.   But it is worth noting what are the clear conclusions I consistently found:

  1. There is an increasing temperature trend, and it’s been pretty consistently trending up since the mid/late 1800s.   We had extremely colder weather in the 1800s, and the upward trend started before fossil fuels were an issue.   The overall trend is less than a half-degree Celsius per Century.
  2. The trend seemed to accelerate in the 80s and 90s if you focus on the short-term periods, but they really didn’t. Or if they did, it wasn’t a dramatic acceleration.   There may be a small bit of higher trend in the last few decades above expected levels, but we are talking about less than a tenth of a degree difference.
  3. Temperatures are clearly cyclical, which was the main problem with the panicked view of the up-tick in temps in the 80s and 90s.   I fitted many graphs using cyclical waves along with trend and it was clear and obvious to any serious data reviewer that this was appropriate and predictive.
  4. I ran correlation analyses against sunspot activity, and it is extremely evident that solar activity is strongly correlated on a delayed basis with temperature.   Solar cycles were more intense and shorter in the 80s and 90s, and are lengthening out now with much less activity.
  5. My predictive models – much simpler and based only on temperature numbers – have proven far more accurate than any of the more complex climate models that all the experts try to perfect.
  6. The actual historical temperature data changes. Yes, that’s correct.   The official NASA data relies on temperature monitors and what-not across the globe to estimate global temps.   They then use an algorithm to re-state the past historical data. The intent is to normalize past data to current measurement capabilities.   In theory, I get it, but the fact is that studies have been done on this and the continued restatement of this data has had the impact of lowering the actual historical measurements of temperature, which creates a higher warming trend value.   The problem is that this restatement is completely assumption-based, and is not the actual result.   It’s basically reverse-modeling of past temperatures.   Since the go-forward modeling has overstated expected temperature trends, it’s hard to accept that the past reverse-modeling has accurately captured history.

I ultimately stopped doing my climate change blog because I had reviewed it enough to become convinced that 90% of the current trend in increasing temperatures was a natural phenomenon, coming out of a previous period of colder temperatures after an extended spotless sun, known as the Maunder Minimum (I would encourage others to read about that).   There were extended warm periods in the centuries before that, well before there could be any serious argument for anthropogenic warming.   I had done enough, I figured out the story, and I could also accept that there was some potentially minor contribution to warming through human-caused greenhouse gases.   But the contributive impact of adding five-hundredths to one-tenth of a degree per Century did not register in my admittedly simple mind as anything to be even remotely concerned about.

As a member of the insurance community, I also knew first-hand how deceiving some of the stats about ever-increasing losses from storms were.   From both a frequency and severity standpoint, if you take inflation into account, as well as demographic movements, there is actually nothing remarkable about anything we’ve seen in the last 20, 30, or 40 years.    There just isn’t.   All of us in the industry know this, whether we openly say it or not.   Further, there is just more insurance being purchased on more things in more ways with more kinds of products.    It becomes a bit difficult to figure out from event to event how comparable they all are.    But we know enough to know that once you correct for the things we know with a high degree of certainty, the trend isn’t eye-popping.

Which now, as a Catholic who has taken great pains to not over-react to what the Pope says on certain things, I now get a bad case of spiritual heartburn when I hear the Pope talk about climate change.

I’ve written enough for today.   I’ll follow up more specifically on the Pope’s comments.    I can live with the spirit of many of his comments, but he has also strayed into a narrow focus as well, and quite honestly, I just think he’s wrong (not on the underlying faith and morals of stewardship, but on what he thinks stewardship means in the nitty gritty details).

Who Can Figure Out the Pope?

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The Pope is nothing if not interesting.    On one day he completely dismantles the Congregation of Divine Worship, seemingly a nod to the moderate/”liberal” arm of our Church, and then the very next day he basically comes out and says that women will never be Priests, which can’t make the progressive side of the fence all that happy.

Then, generally unprovoked, he talks about politics and building bridges instead of walls a couple days before U.S. elections, which might lead people to believe he is implying that Trump is not the preferred choice, while saying nothing about the anti-life policies and clear political corruption of Hillary.

From the start of his papacy, I have both appreciated and cringed with Pope Francis.   But I have cringed more at some of the commentary about him.

Our Pope is the properly elected and valid Pope.   There can be no question about this.   I have been disturbed from day one that a lot of people who most adamantly lectured others about how they needed to respect Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are some of the first to wring their hands over the unorthodoxy of Pope Francis.

Every Pope has his strengths and weaknesses, and none are perfect.   Every Pope has a particular mission he feels called to.    Most importantly, we all need to understand that our Pope is our current leader for a reason.   We may not like the reason, but that may be part of why we need him at this time.

I do not see eye to eye with everything Pope Francis says and does.   I’m not afraid to admit that.   But I respect him as my Pope.   There are times I wonder what the heck he’s doing.  Which either means (1) I need to contemplate what he’s doing and try to get it, and have the humility to take a fresh p[perspective on some things, (2) he is just not the world’s greatest Pope in all ways, but God has him here at this time despite that because his strengths are what we most need, or (3) he’s causing confusion (not necessarily intentionally) and just isn’t a great Pope, but God is allowing it for some reason which will be evident.    There is another option where he is purposefully sowing discord and disunity, but I honestly don’t believe that.    That worst case scenario means it’s a bit of a darker period for the Church, but ultimately the Holy Spirit will protect us from doctrinal error.   But ALL options still demand that we acknowledge, respect, and display obedience to the Pope.

Disagreement is fine as long as it’s not on doctrinal matters and if it is done in a respectful way.  God will take care of the rest.

To Turn or Not to Turn

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His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah stirred the pot and excited some people in early June when he announced that he prefers and recommends that Priests celebrate Mass ad orientem.   As Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it seemed a legitimate thought that he made these statements in an official capacity.  Waves of cheers rocked the traditionalist community and they saw that it was good.  Most of us shrugged, and said, “whatever.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols chimed in with a different view in July and essentially poured cold water on the idea, at least for his archdiocese.   It seemed that Cardinal Nichols felt like this could lead to a bit of Liturgical anarchy, and perhaps even some sort of competition.    He directed that his priests should not interject preference into the Liturgy.    Cardinal Nichols now became the subject of scrutiny in traditionalist circles – was he even Catholic? – and they feared the tremendous progress made would be sabatoged.   Most of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Then the Vatican itself went to the replay booth and essentially overturned the play.  It became clear that, despite his official capacity in his role, Robert Cardinal Sarah overstepped a bit and had not run this idea past Pope Francis before springing it on the world.    The traditionalists’ fears were now confirmed, the Pope hates them, and all is still lost.    Most of the rest of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Personally, I find the entire thing silly on the one hand and troubling on the other.

I love my friends – many of them who strongly prefer a more traditional Liturgy, and would essentially love to see all masses revert back to the traditional Latin Mass.  I respect their preference and would never, ever tell them that their preference is wrong.   Further, even though it’s a little bit longer of a drive, there is an oratory in our area that celebrates the Latin Mass.   They have that option.   I suppose it would be nice to have a few more places celebrate Mass in that way so they didn’t need to work as hard for them to have that experience.

My issue is, as usual, with those who cannot let this go.   Who elevate their preference to a dogmatic level and want to force everyone to accept this as the “correct” Liturgical form – not merely a preference in form – and that anyone who doesn’t see it their way is somehow less serious about the faith than they are.   Unfortunately, this is a very real phenomenon.    It is actually part of what keeps me from adopting a more traditionalist bent, myself.   I see spiritual pride and judgment and I want to avoid that.

Do not misunderstand that I don’t know the arguments that are made for why people really prefer the ad orientem posture.   I do.  There’s a symbolism there I can appreciate.  There’s nice symbolism in all sorts of things, though.   We follow the Church’s guidance on what must be an element of Mass, what should be, what may be, and what cannot be.    We need a certain uniformity among all the faithful, and then there is room for preference as long as it is within the guidance of Liturgical norms.   If you want to go to a church that celebrates in one way, then go ahead, but don’t tell me I need to want or desire that.   The same can be true of more liberal interpretations of the Liturgy, as well.   And I’m not saying there aren’t lines that get crossed – there are.   When things move from a preference that is allowable to something that is actually discouraged or outright impermissible, I don’t shrug.   That is simply wrong, and needs to be called out.   but this is NOT one of those things, as the GIRM currently stands.

The following cartoon has made the rounds:

This is stupid.

I will borrow my arguments from a Facebook exchange I read in discussing this cartoon.    But in general, the cartoon is trying to make the point that the Priest is turning his back to Jesus.    This is just unnecessary divisive.   Which, excuse the tangent here, is my main issue.   Why are we constantly arguing and hating on each other over things like this?    Do we really believe that God wants this to be the issue that leads our heart to determine that the Pope must be the Antichrist?    Seriously…

Anyway – again borrowing arguments from others:  Jesus is actually at the right hand of God the Father.  We don’t praise His image on the crucifix.   We may desire to look at it while we praise Him to help us focus on our image of Him and a reminder of what He went through, but it is not necessary to face the crucifix to pray to God.   Further, God is with us in our midst wherever any number are gathered in His name.    There is no requirement that we all face the same direction to acknowledge that.   Third, the altar is where Christ becomes physically present to us.   When the Priest consecrates the hosts and the wine he is facing Jesus.   So are we.   What difference does it make whether Jesus is between us or at one end of the line?

And yes, I know that there is more to it than that – the Priest is “leading” us.   But that’s not the point of the cartoon, so I’m responding to that whole “what makes more sense” bit.  Probably the only remotely reasonable argument I heard on this from the pro- camp was that it would have been a better representation above if it were the tabernacle instead of the crucifix.   I can buy that to an extent, but it’s not as if the tabernacle is ignored and dismissed during Mass.   Great reverence is paid to it.   Further, again, the altar is more the focus of the Mass itself, anyway, and the physical presence of Jesus that is in the tabernacle until communion became manifest on the altar.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Catholics probably don’t even realize this debate is going on.   If you’d bring it up they’d be all like “Uh…  what?”   Many people would default to the idea that this, in and of itself, is a bad thing.    We all need to be better educated and understand why this is important, and only then can we all be enlightened and think like they do.    I’m being a bit overboard here – I do think it is important to understand, but I also can’t really help but think about all the old ladies throughout the years who never concerned themselves with much other than going to Mass, praying the Rosary, and feeding their families.    The greater debates of the Church throughout the centuries more often than not took place without them having any particular clue about it.

I like that simple faith.    I try to abide by that as much as I can.   If the Church and the Pope says it’s OK, then I’m fine.   If they say it’s not, I’m fine.   If they need to change something, I’m fine.

I guess you need people to push and ask questions and keep things in check.   That’s OK, too.    I think some are called to that, but I think most are not.    Further, those that are called to it have a unique responsibility to do so in a manner befitting a Christian, and not create unnecessary division while they are doing so.   In extreme cases, some division must occur, but in most cases it does not have to.

Until then, I’m firmly in the camp that shrugs and says “whatever.”