Pope Francis is about to release a letter on Catholic moral theology and the environment, and some Catholics on the right are fearing the worst.
With the Church's stance on same-sex marriage and abortion, many devout American Catholics are firmly in the Republican camp. That's a camp that often waves the climate change denial flag proudly. A leaked version of the encyclical released by Italian magazine L'espresso on Monday says that climate change is both real and a problem, which puts politically-active Catholics between a rock and a hard (and hot) place.
There is a very consistent scientific consensus indicating we’re in the presence of an alarming warming of the climactic system.
Former Senator and perennial presidential candidate Rick Santorum said last week that the pope should back off climate change. He was backed up by Catholic League President William Donahue, who doubled-down on questioning the pope's credentials in an interview with Newsmax.
"The pope does not have a master’s degree in chemistry. The pope has the equivalent of a two-year community college degree, in other words, two years out of high school."
Austin Rise, president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, instead targeted the "bullies" who support the pope in a column for the appropriately-named magazine, Crisis.
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.
There are polls that suggest the "bullies" are actually mainstream American Catholics. A 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion found concern among American Catholics about climate change, although hispanic Catholics were more worried than whites.
The encyclical "Laudato Sii" will be officially released on Thursday.