The Vatican’s financial chief, cardinal George Pell, has criticized Pope Francis’s decision to call upon the faithful to fight global warming.
The 74-year old Australian cardinal has told the Financial Times that the Church believes in the autonomy of science and that God did not gave its members any imperative to offer opinions on scientific matters, nor does it have any relevant expertise in this domain.
Cardinal Pell, who is the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy since 2014, is known as an outspoken climate change skeptic. His criticism marks the first time a Catholic Church official openly spoke against the Pope’s landmark encyclical he read last month.
“It’s got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful. But the Church has no particular expertise in science …. the Church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science” said Pell.
However, the cardinal did also state that the encyclical was extremely well received by both faithful and non-believers and that it reached its aim in setting current and future obligations to the environment.
The Pope’s “Laudato Sii” encyclical – an official open Papal letter offering recommendation called upon all of humanity to fight against the devastating effects on climate change, emphasizing on the negative effects it has on the poor and downtrodden and on the economic disparity it generates.
This marked the first time the Catholic Church took an official stand against climate change, which arguably anchors it more into the necessities and reality of today’s world. While almost unanimously acclaimed by environmentalists over the globe, conservative voices such as Pell’s have questioned whether the church has authority to speak over matters intensely debated in the scientific community.
Church involvement into scientific issues has had a turbulent and now openly criticized history. In one of the most known cases during the Renaissance, famous astronomer Galileo Galilei, an avid supporter of heliocentrism, was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life after defending his views in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, while also ridiculing then-Pope Urban VIII’s geocentric views.
Such events are not surprising during Francis’s tenure as a Pope, as he seeks to turn around a stained image of the Catholic Church by making its position more relevant to today’s struggles, while not compromising on its doctrines. For example, while not denying the right of LGBT individuals to believe in God, Francis maintained the Church’s firm position against gay marriage.
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