Margaret Archer speaks out

Catholics who oppose the pending papal encyclical on the environment, and the sustainable development agenda more generally, understand that simply resorting to junk science is not going to cut it. So they also resort to the oldest trick in the book: raising the specter of abortion to mask their determined opposition to core aspects of Catholic social teaching. They seek a “gotcha” moment – if some of the people who lead sustainable development efforts either support abortion or have made ambiguous statements about it in the past, then we should shun them. And of course, jettison the whole sustainable development agenda with it.

But this is smoke and mirrors. As I’ve noted before, the real issue is decarbonization, not depopulation.  Yet this tactic is worked so many times before. But not this time. This time, they messed with the wrong woman – Margaret Archer, world-renowned social theorist and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. In the context of an all-too-typical hit piece from First Things, she issued a defiant response. She asks a sequence of questions, starting with this one:

Is your sole concern with human dignity confined to the period between conception and live-birth? If so, this is a travesty of Catholic Social Teaching, whose concern is not confined to the newborn but extends to the development of all those potentialities and powers that exist only in potentia at birth (such as walking and talking) that develop or can be irreparably damaged throughout life.”

Precisely. She goes on to talk about all the good work the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has been doing on human trafficking and modern forms of slavery, and how they completely ignore that. She mocks them for being “climate change deniers” and for their flirtation with junk science. She points out that climate change affects the life and dignity of the poorest, making it a pressing concern for pro-lifers. She mocks them for singling out Ban Ki Moon, noting that the pope had a private audience with him. She asks:

“Do you really have a higher moral standard than the Pope? Or is your own minimalistic version of the Creed, consisting of the single item: ‘’We believe in the ethical depravity of abortion’ considered to be an improvement?”

And then there’s the real kicker:

“I am appointed by the Pope and responsible directly to him. I’m afraid that leaves you and your cohort out in the cold. Moreover, we work pro bono and are therefore are self-supporting, which makes me wonder which lobbyists meet your salary bill?”

Bravo! It’s time for all Catholics – for all people of good will – to speak out as strongly as Margaret Archer on these issues, and reclaim Catholic Social Teaching from those who have spent decades hijacking it. And let’s start with EWTN, where Raymond Arroyo has unleashed a campaign to undermine the encyclical (even before it is written), even giving a platform to the junk scientists in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. When Arroyo shamefully defended torture during the Bush years, very few spoke out against him. May this time be different. 

Anthony Annett is a Gabelli Fellow at Fordham University and a Senior Advisor at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 

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