And he's going to give climate change a fig leaf of moral legitimacy to make up for its lack of scientific persuasiveness.
But before Francis, and his soon-to-be-released ecocyclical, there was His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, the "Green Patriarch." The Patriarchate has been stirring the complex witch's brew of environmentalism since the mid-80s. Since his election in 1991, Bartholomew has made a name for himself as a globe-trotting apostle of green.
In 1995, at a symposium called by Bartholomew and Prince Phillip, Bartholomew, after quoting the book of Revelation, said this: "The Earth has been hurt. Conscious of the threat of nuclear destruction and environmental pollution, we shall move toward one world, or none."
In 2002, the fourth in the series of symposia was held under Bartholomew and the President of the European Commission focusing on the Adriatic Sea. (The Commission is the executive body of the European Union.) At its conclusion, Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II co-signed "The Venice Declaration" on environmental ethics.
In 2009 a symposium on the Mississippi River concluded the man-made changes to the river threatened not only human and natural consequences, but democracy itself.
In November, 1997, at Santa Barbara, Bartholomew declared: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin." According to an article on the official website of the Patriarch, his approach to the environment is marked by humility. "He recognizes that he is standing before something greater than himself, the world before which he must kneel."
"That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." Philippians 2:10. Also John 16:11. "And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged." (Just a reminder.)
Now pay attention to how the green movement spreads as fast as kudzu to cover familiar leftist territory. This is what the Green movement is really about.
Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch is aware that environmental issues are intimately connected to and dependent on numerous other social justice issues of our times including war and peace, justice and human rights, poverty and unemployment. It is not by chance that the term "eco-justice" has been used in religious circles to describe this interconnection between creation and creatures, between the world and its inhabitants. We have, in recent years, become increasingly aware of the effects of environmental degradation on people, and especially the poor.
Surely someone can work gun control into eco-justice! The Green movement is more ambitious than just curbing pollution and saving the rainforests.
Here's a theory; you can take it for what it's worth. The less relevant Christianity becomes, the more major Christian institutions will align themselves with worldly causes. The world realizes it can use the moral weight of a Pope Francis. And is it possible a pope might realize he needs the world to give the Church a purpose? A seat at the table, if you will? After all, the Church is through with its old mission of evangelization. But there is plenty of work to be done hand in green hand with Caesar.