Fr. George Rutler wrote an essay today at Crisis Magazine, which is the most forthright explication of the much ballyhooed, and just published, encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment. He addressed the historical problem of Mixing Up the Sciences of Heaven and Earth, which is the title of his essay.
Pope Urban VIII and his advisers, in the misunderstood (and sometime deliberately misrepresented) Galileo case, inadequately distinguished the duties of prophecy and politics, and of theological and physical science. St. John Paul II said that “this led them unduly to transpose into the realm of the doctrine of the faith, a question which in fact pertained to scientific investigation.”If you see the above as possibly analogous to the issuing of this new encyclical, you might be right. Fr. Rutler went further, intimating that Pope Francis might have written an encyclical on a more clear and pressing problem:
While the Holy Father has spoken eloquently about the present genocide of Christians in the Middle East, those who calculate priorities would have hoped for an encyclical about this fierce persecution, surpassing that of the emperor Decius. Pictures of martyrs being beheaded, gingerly filed away by the media, give the impression that their last concern on earth was not climate fluctuations.Finally, he points out that papal encyclicals are considered infallible only when they deal with matters of faith and morals such as Church teaching on contraception, abortion and marriage. Interestingly, those who ignore encyclicals that deal with such matters, are rushing to expound on the infallibility of papal teaching on the matter which is the subject of the current encyclical which, as Fr. Rutler points out, "does NOT involve faith or morals."
Saint Peter, from his fishing days, had enough hydrometeorology to know that he could not walk on water. Then the eternal Logos told him to do it, and he did, until he mixed up the sciences of heaven and earth and began to sink. As vicars of that Logos, popes speak infallibly only on faith and morals. They also have the prophetic duty to correct anyone who, for the propagation of their particular interests, imputes virtual infallibility to papal commentary on physical science while ignoring genuinely infallible teaching on contraception, abortion and marriage and the mysteries of the Lord of the Universe. At this moment, we have the paradoxical situation in which an animated, and even frenzied, secular chorus hails papal teaching as infallible, almost as if it could divide the world, provided it does NOT involve faith or morals.You can read the entire essay by clicking HERE.