The right and wrong of the Right (and Left)

A recent commentary by Steven Cohen, writing for the Huffington Post, explores the failures of many Republicans to champion the natural environment. This follows a similar piece a few weeks back by Rick Ungar, writing in Forbes, which largely takes Rick Santorum to task.

These writers, and so many others, make a good point. In catering to the far-right elements of their base, current Republican presidential hopefuls often espouse sloppy science and are irritating many in the pro-life camp.

In part, Cohen puts it this way:
The attack on climate science and regulation seems to be red meat for the Republican primary voters this winter, but that is a pretty soft target for attack. The political problem with climate change is that its cause cannot always be seen or smelled, and its impact is largely in the future. Attacking regulation is also easy, since rules may be respected and even understood, but they are rarely loved. Still, Newt and Mitt may be forgetting something pretty fundamental: people like to breathe. A Harris poll this fall reported that 75% of Americans support stricter environmental protection. While this broke down as 90% of all Democrats and 54% of all Republicans, even those opposing most government regulation understand the need for effective policing of environmental pollution.
Part of the problem, however, is that some on the right are not all wrong when it comes to big government. And remember, I write as a government regulator as well as a Catholic ecologist. Clearly, I see the value of government watchdogs that protect the public from businesses, individuals, and even other government agencies that put profit or expediency before public health or the ecological common good.

But I also cringe when people propose that a clean world will certainly come from some new legislation and more funding of regulators like me. As the saying goes, you can’t legislate good behavior.

Few put it better than Pope Benedict XVI in his 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Embedded in this beautiful bombshell of a papal encyclical are these words about how Church and State should relate:
The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.
Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.
It’s hard to keep typing after that. What can I add?

Well, maybe this: As a government regulator, ecologist, and a Catholic, I implore politicians and pundits of all ideologies to remember that the addition or rejection of human statutes and regulations mean nothing if humans can’t first embrace the eternal truths revealed to us by the God who is love.

As our Lord teaches us – Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Occupiers and Tea Partiers alike – "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)."

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.