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Ben Boychuk

is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Reach him at

Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York PostNational Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.

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Well-meaning pontiff’s expertise is in theology
By BEN BOYCHUK 

Manhattan Institute’s City Journal
O
n theological and moral subjects, Pope Francis’ authority among Catholics is more or less unquestioned. But it will be interesting to learn what the Holy Father thinks he knows about climatology.

Among the far left, reaction to the news of the pope’s reported stance has been amazing to watch. Many of these same people have nothing but contempt for the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion and marriage. But when the pontiff comes out on behalf of their cause du jour, he’s “the cool pope.”

The trouble is, media reaction has fostered a great deal of misunderstanding about what the pope may or may not be doing. It’s fair to say most non-Catholics don’t understand the doctrine of papal infallibility. On fundamental tenets of faith and morals, the pope speaks without error. But not everything the pope says comes “from the chair.”

Yes, the church’s teaching on the environment carries great weight. Good stewardship is a moral obligation, and wanton disregard for the environment is a sin. But the church’s line on global warming is more of a piece with its teaching on immigration and its general opposition to the death penalty. And those all happen to be controversial political questions — but not matters of church doctrine. If it isn’t doctrine, it’s debatable.

In any event, Catholic teaching doesn’t quite jibe with the core tenets of the Church of Global Warming, which are often anti-capitalist, anti-growth and at times even anti-human. It’s hard to imagine the pope agreeing with Al Gore, for example, that “fertility management” is a viable moral strategy for tackling global warming.

Francis no doubt will say plenty about the environment for Catholics to challenge. But not even “the cool pope” will depart from fundamental church teachings about life. 

Reach Ben Boychuk at  op-ed was distributed by Tribune News Service.