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How Pope Francis Is Pissing Off Climate Change Deniers

When you think about the Pope, you know he's a person with an enormous amount of influence.

There are a whole lot of Catholics in the world, 1.2 billion to be exact, and to them, he is God's representative on Earth.

That's a pretty big segment of the population, but it's certainly not everyone. For those of us who are not Catholic, it's usually safe to ignore what he is or isn't saying because it doesn't concern us.

Pope Francis, however, is changing that. And it's really pissing off the Republican Party.

Francis, whose papacy began just over two years ago, has become known as a real Pope of the people.

He's not in it for the recognition or the fancy robes; he's made an effort to be humble and down-to-earth and to use his position to further causes that he considers to be important not only to Catholics but to the whole world.

Helping the poor has always been a big thing for him, as he actually managed to read and comprehend that section of the Gospel. While it would never admit to it, that is the first strike for America's conservative wing.

That, however, is easy to ignore. People like the billionaire Koch brothers, who will basically be choosing which Republican will end up as their presidential candidate, have been ignoring that aspect of religion for years in order to focus on the important stuff, like limiting women's reproductive rights.

Just in the last week or so, though, the Pope has expressed two opinions that the Koch brothers and their cronies find absolutely untenable: first, that humans, as a major driving factor behind climate change, need to do something about it; second, that women deserve equal pay.

The horror! It's ridiculous to think we should actually protect our world and that women and men should get paid the same for the same amount of work!

Francis' concern for the poor is actually what led to his statements about the environment – third world countries will be the most vulnerable and the least able to protect themselves when the effects of climate change really become evident.

Recently, he published an encyclical, an important catholic proclamation, urging people to treat the environment better, and he met this week with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to discuss their goals of getting countries to limit their emissions leading up to the UN climate change summit that will be held in Paris in December.

This sent conservatives into a frenzy with the Heartland Institute, a Koch-funded ultra-conservative think tank, right at the center of it.

Not to be overshadowed by the Pope, the Heartland Institute sent its own representatives to Rome in an effort to persuade the Pope not to lend his voice — and along with it his moral sway — to “the UN's unscientific agenda.”

It's long been clear that climate change deniers, especially those whose billions of dollars of wealth came directly from the oil industry, tend to perceive science differently than people who actually have degrees in the field.

The Pope, it seems, has in this case chosen to pay more attention to actual science.

The Catholic Church hasn't exactly always been a defender of science – just ask Galileo – but in this particular case, we can probably agree that it's better late than never.

The Catholic Church also hasn't always put its full weight behind guaranteeing women equal rights – just ask all the women who have ever wanted to be ordained in the Catholic Church – but again, if this becomes the Church's official position, that's a good thing for women who want to be properly compensated for their work.

And again, when you look at the actions the Republican Party has taken regarding equal pay for women, this new message from the Pope is a real slap in the face.

Just last year, Congress failed to pass a bill that would have guaranteed it, and we can only imagine the reasons why – besides, of course, blatant sexism.

If you're aiming to be a model Catholic, though, which a large percentage of the American government is, you can't exactly just ignore everything that the Pope says, especially when he says it so publically, to the joy of so many people.

Although we as Millennials might still take issue with some of Francis' opinions (namely that homosexual activity is still a sinbirth control is morally questionable, abortion rights are out), we have to also recognize that he's really taking our side on two important issues.

In terms of the environment, it's our future world he's trying to get people to protect. In terms of promoting gender equality, he's trying to push to make our working lives more financially productive.

His motivation may be coming from scripture, but it's us who will reap the benefits, whether or not we go to church on Sunday mornings.

When you get right down to it, the majority of those 1.2 billion Catholics like Pope Francis.

They trust him and listen to what he says.

And if he's backing the environment and gender equality, that could mean some serious progress.

Citations: Pope Francis and climate change why Catholic skeptics are so alarmed (Christian Science Monitor), Pope Francis, the new leader of the Catholic Church praised by many for practicing what he preaches his humble nature and his empathy for the poor (NY Daily News), Francis To care for the poor is not communism It is the Gospel (Vatican Insider), Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change to Conservatives Alarm (The New York Times), Pope Francis Says Its Pure Scandal That Women Dont Have Equal Pay (Cosmopolitan), Scientists and Religious Leaders Discuss Climate Change at Vatican (The New York Times), Francis firmly backs equal pay for women citing Christian radical equality (National Catholic Reporter), Big Oil to Pope Francis We Know Whats Best for the Worlds Poor (The New Republic), Senate Vote 103 Blocks Pay Equity Bill (The New York Times), How Pope Francis fooled us all on LGBT issues (The Guardian)

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Lani Seelinger

Contributor

Lani is a freelance writer in Prague, Czech Republic. She spends most of her time dealing with politics, both in communist Czechoslovakia and otherwise. She’s from the great state of North Carolina, where she developed her great love of grits ...
Lani is a freelance writer in Prague, Czech Republic. She spends most of her time dealing with politics, both in communist Czechoslovakia and otherwise. She’s from the great state of North Carolina, where she developed her great love of grits ...

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