Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.
According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.
In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.
For my own part, I think he’s right in his reasoning to a point, but I hope that the dynamic power of capitalism can be turned to good purpose in addressing climate change. Like a knife, capitalism cuts what its edge is pointed at. Choose wisely your goals, and good tools will give good results. Capitalism doesn’t have to be in charge of our goals, any more than a knife must cut whatever it’s sharp enough to get through.
But yeah, if we make a god of money then things will not end well. Leaving aside the truth of the whole shebang of Catholicism, it ought to be clear that just by announcing that there are no other gods, Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, helps us steer clear of worshipping at false altars. Like money.