News & Politics

Vatican Official Compares Pope’s Teaching on Global Warming to the Church’s Teaching on Abortion

At a recent conference in Rome, a top Vatican official clashed with various other presenters on the subject of global warming and how it applies to magisterial teaching.

During the December 3 Acton Institute conference,  Argentinean Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo — a close advisor to Pope Francis and chancellor of both the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences — argued that “the pope’s declarations on the gravity of global warming as expressed in the encyclical Laudato Si’ are magisterial teaching equivalent to the teaching that abortion is sinful.”

By comparing the pope’s teaching on global warming to the Church’s teaching on abortion, Bishop Sorondo has essentially argued that being a global warming skeptic is as grievous a sin for a Catholic as being pro-abortion. This extraordinary position sparked a heated exchange at the conference.

Life Site News reported:

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the founder of Ignatius Press who obtained his doctorate in theology under Joseph Ratzinger prior to his elevation to the pontificate, told LifeSiteNews, “Neither the pope nor Bishop Sorondo can speak on a matter of science with any binding authority, so to use the word ‘magisterium’ in both cases is equivocal at best, and ignorant in any case.” Fr. Fessio added, “To equate a papal position on abortion with a position on global warming is worse than wrong; it is an embarrassment for the Church.”

The conference, “In Dialogue with Laudato Si’: Can Free Markets Help Us Care for Our Common Home?” was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross with over 200 attendees including members of the media, professors, and students of the Pontifical Universities.

The controversy was sparked when in his address Bishop Sorondo spoke of “global warming” saying that in Laudato Si “for the first time in the Magisterium” Pope Francis “denounces the scientifically identifiable causes of this evil, declaring that: ‘a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity.’” He repeated the point later, saying, “faith and reason, philosophical knowledge and scientific knowledge, are brought together for the first time in the pontifical Magisterium in Laudato Si’.”

These points were contradicted in the presentation by Acton Institute founder and President Father Robert Sirico who said it is “important to underscore the distinction between the theological dimension of Laudato si’ and its empirical, scientific, and economic claims.” He explained, “The Church does not claim to speak with the same authority on matters of economics and science… as it does when pronouncing on matters of faith and morals.”

Quoting the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine to support his point, Fr. Sirico said: “Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic or social order; the purpose he assigned to her was a religious one.  . . . This means that the Church does not intervene in technical questions with her social doctrine, nor does she propose or establish systems or models of social organization. This is not part of the mission entrusted to her by Christ” (CCSD 68).

During the question and answer period that followed, Bishop Sorondo distinguished between “infallible statements” and statements of the pope’s “Ordinary Magisterium.”

The distinction is important because ex-cathedra statements are in Catholic teaching “infallible” or never in error and require absolute adherence by all Catholics, while some of those in the “Ordinary Magisterium” could be in error but nonetheless teachings to which Catholics should submit “in mind and will.”

Still, Bishop Sorondo insisted that the “judgement must be considered Magisterium – it is not an opinion.”

“It is under Ordinary Magisterium,” he explained, “that abortion is a grievous sin – this is Ordinary Magisterium because there is not the revelation of it.” So there is an assumption of “moral doctrine,” he continued, that even though the majority opinion is contrary, we accept that “abortion is a grievous sin” is Magisterium.

Riccardo Casciolione, one of the journalists in attendance, took issue with the notion that Catholics must submit to pronouncements on “scientific theories” rather than “faith and morals.”

Sorondo replied, “When the Pope has assumed this, it is Magisterium of the Church whether you like it or not — it is the Magisterium of the Church just as abortion is a grievous sin – equal (it is the same)…  it is Magisterium of the Church… whether you like it or not.”

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis stated: “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” and that he seeks to “encourage an honest and open debate.” Yet at the conference Bishop Sorondo seemed to be discouraging an open debate on global warming theories.

When Cascioli suggested Catholics could follow their consciences on the theoretical scientific matters, Sorondo rejoined, “If you were a scientist and had a serious (difference of) opinion,” then you could follow your conscience, “but since you are a journalist it is better you follow the opinion of the Pope!” Cascioli reminded the bishop that he too was not a scientist, to which Sorondo replied, “But I am in the Academy of Science of the Pope.”

When Fr. Sirico suggested that there are other experts or scientists with different opinions on the matter of global warming, Sorondo fired back, “But don’t follow them, follow these.  Just like in philosophy, there are many philosophers.. But the Magisterium of the Church follows the philosophy of the being, the person. There are many who say the person does not exist – the Pope does not follow them…. I say it is Magisterium.”

Fr. Fessio told Life Site, “Bishop Sorondo is unknown to me, and – judging by this statement – eminently worthy of that ignorance. The best I can say of his remarks is that they seem to have been unprepared.”

Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute and expert for the Heartland Institute, charged in an interview with Breitbart News last summer that “a communist managed to get control of the pontifical academies of sciences and social science” in the person of Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

According to Monckton, Sorondo is an “out and out marxist who decided that climate change was useful to marxism.” Monckton said that Sorondo could care less whether climate change is true or not. He ignored information from the Vatican’s most influential scientists demonstrating that global warming was more theoretical than empirical. 

Francis, who was brought up in the Communist tradition of liberation theology in Latin America, encourages Sorondo. Previous popes like John Paul II and Benedict believed you have to let skeptics have their say. Pope Francis, Monckton argues, lets Sorondo dominate his head exclusively.

What’s more, Sorondo appears to be defying the Church’s long-held position on abortion and “reproductive rights” at the UN.

Last spring, the bishop helped coordinate a climate change conference that featured  Jeffrey Sachs and Ban Ki-moon, two of the most powerful proponents of abortion and population control in the world.

Asked by First Things’ Stefano Gennarini what he thought of the criticism directed at the Vatican as a result, his reply was “a surprising mixture of indictments of the tea party, the oil industry, and the small pro-life organization” the Gennarini works for.


His replies were a surprising mixture of indictments of the tea party, the oil industry, and the small pro-life organization I work for. Most surprising of all is what he had to say about “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” in U.N. policy.

He is the first Vatican official who interfaces with the United Nations to openly defy the position the Holy See has held on these terms for over thirty years because of their association with abortion.

Obviously, having Bishop “Wormtongue” advising the pope on these important matters doesn’t bode well for the Church.