There’s an eco-warrior in the Vatican.

A very important fact about the Second Vatican Council is that after it a large part of the Roman Catholic Church stopped looking heavenward and began to look earthward.

Not finding enough to say about the world of the Spirit, or anyone to say it to who would listen, many in the Church opted instead for “engagement with the world”. Perhaps the world around them had become the only one in which Catholic hierarchs really believed in our sceptical age. Now, with the encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis in his new role of eco-warrior exemplifies this post-Vatican II embrace of the here and now.

Forget about what the Founder of Christianity had to say about where His kingdom was. The post-Vatican II Church found that its kingdom (or should one say area of focus) was “social justice” here and now. Forget about sinful souls. “Sinful structures” (capitalism) were the real manifestation of diabolical activity in the world. Episcopal utterances, increasingly delivered not by bishops but by ecclesiastical quangoes acting in their name and paid for by Sunday Mass-goers, were framed in the language and values of socialism (the earliest Christians were socialists, it was said, although no one pointed out that they weren’t in precisely the same sense that the term is understood now; if they were socialistic in practice it was an expression not of class envy but of the commandment to love one another).  

In all the places where Catholics were henceforth to be in the world but no longer not of the world, nowhere was the new gospel implemented with greater zeal than in South America. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that that’s where Pope Francis comes from; though there is evidence that he takes a not unfavourable view of that continent’s special contribution to Catholic thought: liberation theology – liberation being understood not so much as liberation of a spiritual and internal nature as defined in the Sermon on the Mount, but political liberation, by force if necessary, from “oppression” – liberation from Caesar you might say, which is exactly the mistake the Jews made with Christ in their expectations of a Messiah. What is not a coincidence is that this man, who by training and experience is steeped in the “spirit of Vatican II”, has brought the full Vatican II agenda of engagement with the world, as it has developed in practice if not as intended by the Council itself, into every area of his papal ministry, and has now crowned his efforts with his encyclical on the environment, its title taken from a hymn by St Francis of Assisi in praise of creation.

Pope Francis knows no more, and probably a lot less, about the environment than many other people; but he has chosen to take up the cudgels on behalf of a powerful movement that asserts that greedy Western man is wrecking it (with his “sinful structures”). In an area where scientific hypotheses are far from unchallengeably demonstrated, the Pope has gone for the warming-our-way-into-self-immolation option. It’s what he was sold by his principal scientific adviser, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and there is no evidence that he consulted any non-subscriber to this view. For all his self-identification with the humble poverello of Assisi, Francis is a determined authoritarian, as personalities that present a hail-fellow bonhomie and for whom all is fine as long as they’re telling the jokes often are; and having been persuaded by Herr Schnellnhuber et al. that man-caused climate change is a given fact, he declares it to be so with the zeal of a Green. The earth, he states, referring to it as St Francis did as “our mother”, a concept now much favoured by neo-pagan environment-worshippers (and a term that used to be reserved by popes for Our Lady or the Church itself) is being ill-treated (it was tactful of the Pope not to use the term abused), and if we don’t do something about it we’ll find ourselves in an overheated hell. (Presumably that means we’ll be able to experience at least one of the Four Last Things without having to go to the trouble of dying first.)

Francis doesn’t believe in mincing his words: “an immense pile of filth,” he says, is what the earth is starting to resemble (have the street-sweepers in St Peter’s Square downed their brooms?). “[O]nce beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.” Why?” Well in part because of “a throwaway culture which … quickly reduces things to rubbish.” And guess who’s to blame for the throwaway culture?

From Sustainability 1.2 he moves to climate science. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system… Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it … ” and so on and so forth in the somniferous jargon of a Greenpeace tract. We've heard it all before. It didn't need the Pope to say it.

Vatican II’s engagement with this world thus finds its fullest expression yet in Pope Francis’s parroting of modish ideologised science. Naturally, Laudato Si is being lapped up by a secularist establishment not notably inclined to listen to papal views on other topics, such as abortion or same-sex “marriage” or more importantly the fundamental propositions of Christian faith, beginning with the existence of God. And this is the problem. Care of the poor and the planet should be a result of belief not a substitute for it. If the Church convincingly preached Christ’s doctrine of love of God and of neighbour, there’d be no need for papal encyclicals on sustainability. Responsible stewardship (as it used to be called) of the created world was not invented by modern environmentalists.

In his post-Vatican II focus on this world rather than the one to come, Pope Francis has given those who seek in Christianity the meaning of life a stone instead of bread. He has allowed himself to be used by ideologues. He has lent his weight to a series of scientific assertions that remain speculative but are accepted as true because people of a certain political tendency want them to be true as a necessary first step to a new world order.

In 1992 Francis’s predecessor Pope (now Saint) John Paul II acknowledged that, in a celebrated earlier excursion into scientific judgment, the Church had been wrong and the subject of its condemnation, Galileo and his theory of heliocentrism, right. That of course was a case where the boot was on the other foot, with the scientist in the ridiculed minority position global warming “deniers” are in today. This time papal authority is on the side of an unverified scientific “consensus”. By endorsing it Pope Francis might have bequeathed to a future Pope the necessity – embarrassing for both the office and the man – of again apologising for a predecessor’s error.

27 June 2015
Published in The Spectator Australia


I probably shouldn't do this, but the incomparable Mark Steyn does, so I suppose lesser mortals are free to follow. I mean republish old posts. I happened across this one from 2012 and I thought, that still stands up, or so it seems to me. I called the guest Arblaster because it seemed to suit him better than his real name. Anyhow here it is. 


Hello, and welcome to the programme and welcome too to my guest today who is a very interesting person and a towering giant in the world of Australian broadcasting, arts, ideas, films, creativity and genius. You've probably guessed it's Phillip Arblaster, the greatest polymath Australia - no I think I should make that the world - has ever produced. Good morning, Phillip, and it's lovely to have you in the studio.
Polymath, now there's a word with associations - it reminds me of Polyfilla, a very useful all-purpose product for the handyperson and the subject of one of my earlier outstandingly successful sales-record-breaking advertising campaigns.
It must have been a very interesting childhood, growing up to be an advertising agent, Phillip. Tell me, did you talk much about it at home, you know, around the family meal table?
I did - in fact I did all the talking in our home. My family were Christian believers, you see, and left to themselves would have talked superstitious tosh all the time about Jesus and heaven and other nonsense. So I was compelled to impose a ban on their opening their mouths in my presence.
You must have been very persuasive. Most parents used to think it was the children who should be - what did they used to say? - seen and not heard.
I simply told them that I was God and that they were to keep silence before me. It is a belief I have come to accept today as being truer than ever.
Well, that's certainly an interesting approach, but tell me, how do you square it with the fact that you are quite a well known, I mean terribly famous, atheist - you know, with the fact that you don't believe in God?
No no, ha ha, you've got me wrong. It's other gods I don't believe in. You remember the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"?
Mmm, mmm ...
It's those gods that don't exist. The kind of god you read about in the Bible and that the Greeks used to have. False, all of them. Whereas, unlike them, I exist. Indeed, before all worlds, I am.
Do you find the rampant disbelief in you - I was reading in the census that a growing number of Australians don't believe in a personal god - do you find that distressing?
Couldn't care less. The people who count, people like the top programmers at the ABC or the editor of the Australian, they are all believers, to a person. So is my old mate Dickie Dawkins, the second most intelligent being on earth - though it's true he didn't believe in God until he met me when he was here and had to admit the existence of a supreme intelligence in the universe. It was a sudden conversion, like St Paul on the road to Corinth.
Tell me, as God, what have been your most creative moments? What are the things you're proudest of? I know if I was God I'd have lots of things of which I'd want to say, "You know, that's not bad. You did that, take a bow." What do you take a bow about?
Where do I start? There are so many things, it's an embarrassment of choice. I suppose I'd say my brilliant campaign to change consumer perception about Ol' Colonel Greazy's Krunchy Fried Frozen Chickenburgers. They're fried of course, but for health reasons the client didn't want people to think that they were. I just came up with the formula "OCG" and that was that. Or the slogan I created for Marlboro, "Smoking Is Good For You" - remember? It was pure genius though if I say it myself I subsequently outshone even that with my campaign for the National Health Commission and its stark warning "Smoking Will Kill You Horribly". Stupendous works of the Lord, every one of them. And they were only in the first of my six great days of creation.
You are of course a very politically concerned God, a God who is no friend of what I believe you describe as right-wing nutters like Tony Abbott - though he of course is a believer in you. But is it hard to reconcile the richly rewarded capitalistic world of advertising, you know, with all its materialist values, with your role as socialist and defender of the downtrodden and have-nots?
Not at all. It is simply a case of rendering under Julius Caesar and not giving the matter any further thought. Besides advertising is not the only attribute for which men, I should say people, praise me. I move in other mysterious ways my wonders to perform. You haven't even mentioned my single-handedly bringing Australia's world-leading cinema industry into life. Or my enduring legacy in Australian broadcasting.
I was going to ask you about that. As I'm sure I don't need to tell listeners, we have both made a name for ourselves in the same field. I suppose you could say we are colleagues.
To the extent that my Lamborghini and a Daewoo Nubira are both cars, yes I suppose we are.
With all the achievements under your belt is there is any ambition you have not fulfilled? For instance, there's a lot of injustice in the world. Can that be overcome?
There is indeed and yes it can, for with God all things are possible.
Where would you begin, O Lord?
I would begin with the most monstrous injustice of our times, the injustice crying out to heaven for vengeance, which is that even now certain of my works go unheeded. In all the years that I have laboured and brought forth a mighty company of volumes - immortal creations of wisdom and scholarship such as The Unspeakable Arblaster, The Uncensored Arblaster, More Unspeakable Arblaster, The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes, The Penguin Book of More Australian Jokes - not one virtuous voice has been raise to nominate me for the Nobel Prize for Literature. If a grumpy old goat like Patrick White should be thus honoured, why not the Author of All Things? But it is an injustice I shall rectify. I shall start my own prize.
What a wonderful idea. I can think of several Sydney writers -
The prize will be for myself.
Hmm. Well I think we could have a great conversation about that, in fact Phillip I'd love to have you in the studio all day, but there are things called schedules. Let me quickly change the subject slightly and ask you what you think about the big question of the moment, the carbon tax.
It was a great mistake to introduce it -
Really? But surely -
- to introduce it without commissioning me to conduct an appropriate advertising campaign.  I could have shown them how to convince a doubting public. Something on the lines of "It's carbon. It's a tax. It's cool. Be in it". True, I don't come cheap but with all that tax money rolling in they could have afforded me.
Amen. Well, dear Lord, it's been a lovely privilege to have you on the programme. And I believe you have a musical item for us before we run out of time. What is it and what made you choose it?

Yes, and once again there was so much choice. I'd thought of having "How Great Thou Art", the hymn that used to be sung to me at Billy Graham's revivalist meetings - terrible self-publicist he was but he knew how to run a campaign - or given that this is a cultured programme, I've got a Te Deum dedicated to me by Palestrina, or there's my own composition, "The air, the air, of home sweet home / Is sweeter when it's Air-o-Zone", or another personal favourite, "What's the finest tissue in the bathroom you can issue? /  Why you'd have to say it's Sorbent for sure" - I composed that on my harp, catchy tune isn't it? And I think perhaps my very favourite is one of my earliest successes, why not sing along with me, Margaret? "False teeth need three-way care / So soak your dentures in Kemdex / To sterilise, deodorise / Clean your dentures in Kemdex"? (FADES OUT)

23 June 2015 / 7 July 2012


It is seven months since I last wrote anything for Argus. But I have written other bits and pieces elsewhere. Some have been published and some not. I have decided to post several of them here and to add more such writings from time to time.

17 June 2015