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Pro-life leaders praise, express concerns about papal environment encyclical

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June 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- International pro-life and pro-family leaders are weighing in on what might prove to be the most controversial encyclical released since Pope Paul VI’s landmark 1968 teaching on human sexuality, praising it for its strong condemnation of abortion and population control while raising concerns that it risks undermining the Church’s promotion of the right to life.

Pope Francis’ Laudato si’, released today, has been described as everything from a “window of opportunity” for evangelization to a “well-meaning and well-intentioned effort to deal with poverty” that is ultimately unrealistic, to a “politically driven” piece that will only create confusion about the faith.

Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, praised the encyclical for its “strong condemnation of abortion and the other destructive manifestations of the population control movement.”

The encyclical specifically mentions that “concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion” (para. 120) and “that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development” (para. 50).

“We hope that this crucial aspect of Pope Francis’ message is understood by the leaders of the United Nations and its leading member states and NGO partners, most of whom promote these evils in the push for what they call ‘sustainable development,’ a term that appears multiple times in the encyclical,” Boquet told LifeSiteNews.

Boquet noted that in the lead up to the encyclical’s release several advisors to the Holy See responded with what he called “derision and vicious condescension” when these issues were respectfully raised by pro-lifers, “which has caused a great deal of concern.”

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, called attention to the paragraphs condemning abortion, stating that it “pertain[s] in a particular way to our specific pro-life mission.”

Stefano Gennarini, director of the Centre for Legal Studies at the Centre for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), told LifeSiteNews that it looks as if the encyclical was strategically released ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris this coming winter as well as the adoption of a new ‘sustainable’ UN development agenda in September “in order to raise as much interest as possible in what the Church can contribute to international policy debates.”

“It has had that effect. But I think the UN Secretary General and his push for the climate agreement may benefit more from it than anyone else,” he said.

“I cannot remember an encyclical or papal document ever getting this much attention in the media. But it is mostly because of climate change. As a result, it is quite possible that many of the tangible environmental concerns the Holy Father speaks of will be mostly ignored simply because of the timing of the encyclical.”

Gennarini said he hopes that the “pro-abortion leaders of climate change politics will not turn around and use the endorsement of the Holy Father for their efforts to undermine the teaching of the Church on abortion and population control.”

“Unfortunately, many of the people close to the Secretary General, and he himself, promote abortion and population control as a way to avert climate disaster. This is not likely to change even with the Holy Father’s explicit condemnation of abortion and population control in the encyclical,” he said.

Gennarini said there is much in the encyclical that the pro-life movement should “milk for everything it is worth.”

“It clearly condemns abortion. Pope Francis speaks of the importance of the family. He also speaks out against the current trend of validating the gender identity confusion that some persons experience, saying it is a violence against nature.”

“I hope all the attention the encyclical is getting may actually change some hearts and minds. Abortion groups are furious just at the possibility of this happening. We should be very happy about it,” he said.

Gennarini suggested that the pope hoped to advance the pro-life message by connecting it to the issue of the environment, the cause du jour.

“Protecting life in the context of Christian involvement in the social arena is never a question of either/or, but always a question of both/and. The Pope leads by example on this by speaking very strongly in favor of life while specifically addressing the encyclical to the wider world, and not just Catholics.”

“I hope many Catholics, and Catholic organizations that rarely, if ever, engage the milieu in which they operate on pro-life issues will follow the Pope’s lead. This encyclical creates a window of opportunity. We should use it to the fullest extent possible,” he said.

Gennarini said he would have liked to see the encyclical include a “more comprehensive discussion of the sanctity of human life, the evil of the global abortion industry and population control, as well as their eugenic origins.”

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, agrees with Gennarini that he hoped to see stronger statements condemning powerful population reduction programs.

“I was looking for evidence that the Holy Father understands that much of foreign aid is directed to reducing the number of people in the world. So, I was looking for criticisms of reproductive health programs, which I found in paragraph 50 of the document. But I was also looking for stronger statements against those programs,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Mosher, whose background is scientific data analysis, criticized the encyclical for its take on so-called ‘global warming’ in relation to bringing justice to the poor.

“The poor have more pressing problems [than jumping on the global warming band-wagon]. The poor need access to energy. And if you deny them access to energy you're going to keep them in poverty forever. And if you deny them the use of fossil fuels, you're going to make it very hard for them to lift themselves out of poverty. [The encyclical’s suggestion of moving away from fossil fuels] really won't help. If we are going to give priority to the poor, we have to understand that denying them the use of fossil fuels makes them poor forever.”

“The poor need to be encouraged to become the agents of their own development. The only way that poor countries and poor peoples can escape poverty is by producing more goods and services themselves. I wish the Holy Father had encouraged the poor to work harder, produce more, and lift themselves out of poverty. That is, after all, how the peoples of Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia became wealthy. This is how the people of Africa, Latin American and, yes, Argentina, will one day escape poverty as well. Instead he complains that those who have already, through generations of hard work, escaped poverty are consuming too much. Don't they have a right to the fruits of their labor,” he said.

Mosher also took issue with the encyclical giving broad endorsement to the theory that so-called global warming is happening and is caused by the consumption of fossil fuels.

“I think it's far too premature to reach [that] conclusion,” he said. “I think that a lot of the global warming science that has been done is driven by politically well-connected scientists who are getting huge grants to investigate only one side of this issue.”

“I think at the end of the day we may find that we know much less about climatology than what we thought in the beginning. Certainly all of the models have been off by a factor of about 100 percent on average. We simply don't know what causes these wide swings in the earth’s temperature. It wasn't very long ago that we had an ice age with an ice shield covering half of North America, half of Europe, and half of Asia,” he said.

“It's far too early to reach conclusions and restructure the economy at a cost of trillions of dollars to deal with a problem that may turn out in the long run not to be a problem.”

Mosher worried that the pope’s call-to-arms to protect the environment will largely bring in the paid mercenaries of the wealthy elite who are already pushing an extreme anti-population agenda.

“Any new efforts to deal with this global problem [addressed in the encyclical] is going to mean that a lot of money and resources will be funneled into the same international organizations [such as International Planned Parenthood Federation, CARE, Population Services International], nearly all of which promote abortion.”

“There are a limited number of players out in the world and those are the organizations that will be getting the lion’s share of this funding. And they are not going to change their stripes. They're going to be doing the same sort of thing that they've been doing for decades. Their approach has always been to see poverty as being caused by too many poor people and to eliminate the poor and their children,” he said.

Voice of the Family, an international coalition of pro-life organizations, said it was “deeply concerned” that the encyclical omitted any “reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching against contraception” and the procreative purpose of the sexual act.

“The omission of any reference to Church teaching on the use of contraception leaves Catholics ill-prepared to resist the international population control agenda,” it stated in a press release, echoing the concerns of Gennarini and Mosher.

“Developing nations are being flooded with contraceptives and subjected to pressure to legalize abortion. Given that contraception and environmentalism so often go hand-in-hand it is deeply troubling that Church teaching on the primacy of procreation is not reaffirmed,” said Voice of the Family manager Maria Madise.

Judie Brown, co-founder of American Life League, told LifeSiteNews that she was “terribly disappointed” with the encyclical, saying that it appeared to be more motivated by “politics” than by “the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“That troubles me the most. Because souls are going to hell every day because they are violating moral principles and are offending God in many and varied ways that are substantive and are [contrary] to the laws of God, the Ten Commandments.”

“This encyclical flies in the face of all of that. And sadly, I've come to the conclusion from what I've read of it that it is a politically motivated encyclical,” she said.

Brown said that she thinks many Catholics would prefer to see the Holy Father “leading us out of the moral morass that this world is in.”

“[There are] so many people being denied proper care, and other people are being killed at the hands of abortionists and those who perform euthanasia, and we've got all sorts of devastation going on in the human family. Should we really be looking at what's going on with endangered species of animals?” she said.

Father Raymond De Souza noted in the National Catholic Register how Pope Francis not only argues that authentic care for the environment is incompatible with abortion, but also with homosexuality and notions of gender fluidity.

The Holy Father states in paragraph 155: “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

“Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

Catholic author and scholar George Weigel said that the encyclical is “primarily about us, and not primarily about trees, plankton, and the Tennessee snail darter.”

“Which is, of course, precisely as it should be. For Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor who, like his predecessor St. John Paul II, wants to lift up for our reflection what the Polish pontiff called ‘the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative plan.’ And that is the starting point for all serious Christian reflection about the natural world: God’s ongoing creativity, which sustains the world God brought into being and in which we, by the grace and favor of God, participate,” he wrote in National Review.

“Reading Laudato Si’ as if it were a climate-change encyclical, period, is somewhat akin to reading Moby Dick as if it were a treatise on the 19th-century New England whaling industry. The ships and the harpoons are an important part of the story, to be sure; but if they become the whole story, you miss what Melville’s sprawling novel is really about. Ditto with Laudato Si’: If you read it as ‘the global-warming encyclical,’ you will miss the heart and soul of what this sprawling encyclical is about — which is us,” he said.

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