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It’s About Compassion and Human Dignity. And Rush Limbaugh Hates It.

With no hint of irony, the most vitriolic critics of Pope Francis say his condemnations of greed, environmental abuse, and neglect of the poor are attacks on America.

But when the pope linked those issues together in Evangelli Gaudium, his Apostolic Exhortation of November 24, he put me in mind of the first Earth Day when Senator Gaylord Nelson, its founder, told a crowd in Denver, Colorado that environmentalism is about “human dignity” and “the problems of race, of war, of poverty,” as well as the protection of nature.

And of Pete Seeger, who told us in the late seventies that our environmental and social ills were not separate problems but “one big problem.”

And Gus Speth who, at the 2013 annual meeting of the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities, suggested his audience revisit the early days of modern environmentalism and the “things that really matter, including whether our society is equitable and fair and whether we are gaining or losing environmental quality.” Like Pope Francis, Speth called for a re-evaluation of an economic system that is designed to have built-in losers, such as the human and natural environment.

Real environmentalism. It’s time for it again.

In nine months, Pope Francis has so gained the world’s ear Time Magazine has named him 2013 Person of the Year. Unnerved, Rush Limbaugh resorted to what he does best, name calling.

Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.*

Pope Francis, Photo by [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.**

Rush Limbaugh, Photo by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via Wikimedia Commons

As a young Catholic boy I believed such an outburst against a pope would send one straight to Hell. So did much of the world. Times have changed. And ugly talk sells.

I have some arguments with the Church in which I was raised; Pope Francis’ environmental theology is not one. In Evangelli Gaudium, which is aimed at the social consequences of economic inequity, and spurred American conservative outrage, he wrote:

We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swatch of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.

No wonder Limbaugh is furious.

*Evangelii Gaudium, #215, November 24, 2013.
** The Rush Limbaugh Show, radio broadcast, November 27, 2013