Recently Pope Francis has come in for some hard criticism from the U.S. right wing. For instance, First Things blogger Maureen Mullarkey called the pope an egoistic megalomaniac.
It's not just because of the pontiff's rejection of free market capitalism, trickle-down theory, and huge income disparities between the rich and poor. It's not just his openness to gays and divorcees, and his refusal to obsess about abortion and contraception.
Yes, all of these have undermined what conservatives have seen as a close alliance between the Catholic Church and their pet causes and thinking modes.
However, the straw breaking the backs of reactionaries is the pope's unequivocal warnings about climate change.
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They've gone apoplectic about his intention to publish an encyclical on the matter, and his plans to convoke a conference of religious leaders to address it. The pope's expressed intention is to influence this year's U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. All of that has raised the specter of a global Catholic climate change movement potentially mobilizing the world's 1.2 billion members.
Think about that for a minute
In such context, Francis going to the Philippines was extremely significant. The Philippines is the poster child for the devastation that climate change wreaks on the principal victims of global warming, the world's poor. In 2013 the archipelago was raked by Typhoon Yolanda, whose winds and floods killed more than 7,000.
So the world listened when on his way to Manila Pope Francis was asked if climate change is "mostly due to the work of man and his lack of care for nature?"
In reply, the pope said, "(F)or the greater part, it is man who gives a slap to nature continually, and we have to some degree become the owners of nature, of sister Earth, of mother Earth. I recall, and you have heard, what an old peasant once told me: God always forgives, we men forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives. If you give her a slap, she will give you one. I believe that we have exploited nature too much, deforestation, for example."
With words like those, the pope's critics charge he is speaking beyond his expertise, which involves matters of faith and morals.
But that's just the point. The pope is making climate change a moral issue, a matter of ethics even more important than more "traditional" Catholic moral concerns about sex, which after all presume the survival of the human species and the planet.
The pope's critics also ignore, of course, that Francis bases his judgments not only on the testimony of 97 percent of all climate scientists, but on the research of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Its membership roster features the names of the world's most respected scientists, including many Nobel laureates.
But why such right-wing fury? It's because conservatives see for them disastrous implications of addressing the issue or as announced in the title of the book by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything.
That is, taking on climate change as a moral issue undermines the political right's program of market deregulation, unbridled extraction of non-renewable resources and advocacy of trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
No wonder conservatives are furious. This could be the end of all that and the beginning of that global Catholic climate movement.
And that really would change everything.