Rick Santorum tells pope what to do
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Rick Santorum tells pope what to do
Rick Santorum — who is not a scientist and not the pope — says Pope Francis — who has a science degree and is the pope — shouldn't be talking about climate change.The GOP presidential candidate said recently that the pope, who soon will release a highly anticipated papal encyclical on the subject of climate change, should just leave "science to the scientists."That's an interesting take from a Catholic politician who, if he actually left science to the scientists, wouldn't talk about having "a lot of problems with the theory of evolution" or believing that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.Setting aside the fact that Francis, with a degree in chemistry, is more a scientist than Santorum, a mere lawyer, it seems like bad form for a Catholic to back-talk the pope. Sounds like a good way to meet Jesus sooner than you expected.But on Sunday, Santorum continued to pontificate on the pontiff. Fox News host Chris Wallace posed this to Santorum, regarding the pope and climate change: "If he shouldn't talk about it, should you?"Santorum said: "We have to make public policy with regard to the environmental policy. … The point is, whether we like it or not, people in government have to make decisions with respect to our public policy that affect American workers."Wallace continued pressing Santorum, leading to this exchange:Wallace: "You don't think the pope has a right to talk about this?"Santorum: "The pope can talk about whatever he wants to talk about. I'm just saying, 'What should the pope use his moral authority for?'"Wallace: "He would say he's protecting the Earth."Santorum: "I would say that that's an important thing to do, but I think there are more pressing problems confronting the Earth than climate change."What's happening with Santorum is a prelude to what will happen with many Republicans, from presidential candidates on down, once the pope releases his encyclical later this month. It's all but assured that Pope Francis will acknowledge the broadly accepted science that says human activity is responsible for climate change, and he's expected to call on Catholics to accept that they have a moral obligation to confront this issue.A Vatican conference on climate change in April resulted in a joint statement from a global group of scientists and religious, business and political leaders that hints strongly at the framework the pope will use: "Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity."In this core moral space, the world's religions play a very vital role. These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home."The pope's encyclical, which will be echoed in Catholic Masses around the world, will shift climate change from a political issue easily shouted down by deniers to a moral issue that's trickier to ignore.Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana said during a lecture in Ireland in March: "For the Christian, to care for God's ongoing work of creation is a duty, irrespective of the causes of climate change. To care for creation, to develop and live an integral ecology as the basis for development and peace in the world, is a fundamental Christian duty."Santorum and most of his fellow GOP presidential candidates see priorities elsewhere. The former senator described himself to Wallace as "someone who's trying to go out there and make sure we have a revitalization of manufacturing and energy production, the things that create jobs and opportunities."Jobs and opportunities are critical, without question, but to ignore the impact manufacturing and energy production have on the world around us is shortsighted. In his speech, Turkson said that Pope Francis has been "pointing to the ominous signs in nature that suggest that humanity may now have tilled too much and kept too little."But Santorum writes climate change off as "speculative science," saying: "Anytime you hear a scientist say the science is settled, that's political science and not real science."Apparently that's true if the science conflicts with your worldview. In Santorum's case, the science behind evolution and climate change is dodgy. But the science behind the things he believes in — like vaccinations and gravity and the fact that you can say dumb things into a television camera and millions of people will hear you — is perfectly fine.It's easy for people of faith to doubt science, because they can default to an explanation attributed to a higher power. But when their faith embraces science, it becomes harder to ignore.After Santorum announced his presidential run in 2011, his wife, Karen, suggested that God was behind the decision: "We have prayed a lot about this decision, and we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants."So now someone who claims to believe in divine direction is telling the pope, God's lead spokesman in the Catholic Church, what he should or shouldn't discuss?That doesn't sound rational. That sounds like someone who's worried his internal contradictions are about to be exposed.rhuppke@tribpub.com

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