In the wake of the worst winter storms of recent US history and the likelihood of more to come this spring and summer, as well as clear evidence of increasing global climate change, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s denunciation on Feb. 18th of President Obama’s “phony theology” of “radical environmentalism” flies in the face of the Obama administration’s all-too-moderate efforts to protect and preserve the increasingly endangered health of the planet. It no less conflicts with the teachings of Santorum’s own Catholic Church as well as plain common sense.
To sacrifice long-term benefits, especially the common good of rich and poor alike, on the altar of short-term political and material gain is nothing new and could even be characterized as a solid plank in current Republican Party campaign platforms. (Let it be said that most Democratic candidates for public office have been ominously quiet about the worsening environmental situation.) But to challenge environmental stewardship as based on allegedly unbiblical “phony theology” betrays a profound ignorance of the pastoral letter on “Global Climate Change” of the US Bishops Conference in 2001 and statements of several regional episcopal gatherings from more than a decade earlier. It ignores the statements of Pope John Paul II and repeated exhortations by Pope Benedict XVI, not to mention many dozens of books and articles by mainstream theologians and biblical scholars.
If by some weird concatenation of events, Mr. Santorum were to become president, the world might in fact witness a catastrophic reversal of the remaining theologically sound pro-environmental initiatives that have managed to survive the rusty knives of Washington’s wealthy corporate lobbyists and politicians.
The library of authentic Catholic teaching on environmental stewardship is extensive and growing. Having taught courses in environmental theology for many years, I will be happy to supply Mr. Santorum with a hefty bibliography – if indeed he reads standard theology at all.
No, Mr. Santorum, President Obama’s “theology” is neither extreme nor phony. But yours seems to be.