Viva il papa!

I heard a piece on All Things Considered this afternoon as I was driving home, talking about the Pope's latest encyclical, and how some people are upset that the Holy Father is inserting himself into "the political debate over climate change." Oh, dear.

First of all, it isn't a political debate. A political debate is whether to increase tuition at state universities. A political debate is whether to approve an omnibus spending bill that will conveniently build a dam in the House Majority Leader's home district. A political debate is whether we should station troops in Ukraine.

Climate change is a scientific debate, and it's over. There are no reputable scientists who dispute it.

Besides, the Pope isn't just a religious leader. He's also a political leader, the absolute monarch of the State of Vatican City. Outside the Vatican walls, European Union and Italian law may rule, but within, he could throw you in jail for the rest of your life without so much as a trial. And I'm sure he's sometimes tempted.

All of which gives him just as much right to weigh in on political affairs as, say, Angela Merkel. But as I said, this isn't political.

What's interesting to me is that the Pope, as the leader of the world's biggest church, frames it in moral terms. It's rather obvious, when you think about it; if this is God's creation, we should care for it, and ensure that those less fortunate than ourselves, as well as our own descendants, will have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and food to eat that has been grown in uncontaminated soil. Such things should not be the exclusive province of the wealthy and powerful.

And that, more than anything, is probably at the root of the opposition to His Holiness. This is a Pope who decries the excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and who declined to occupy the papal apartments, preferring a simple room in a dormitory. He shames the rich, as is appropriate; Jesus Himself said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. This is a man who probably deserves to wear those white vestments more than any of his recent predecessors.

I'm not a Catholic, but I like this Pope. Viva il papa!