Virtue Signalling: Marquette President Lovell Signs Letter on “Climate Change”
In a lot (probably most) cases they “aren’t comfortable” because, in their hearts of hearts, they are pretty much secular liberals, with perhaps just a bit of a residue of Catholic piety.
Thus is comes as no surprise that an organization called Catholic Climate Covenant has written a “Letter to President Trump and Members of United States Congress.” It demands “[o]n behalf of people who are poor and vulnerable and future generations” that the U.S. “fund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; honor U.S. commitments to the Green Climate Fund; and meaningfully participate in the deliberations of the UNFCCC.”
Catholic leaders across the nation and world have explicitly and consistently affirmed climate change as a moral issue that threatens core Catholic commitments, including to: protect human life, promote human dignity, exercise a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, advance the common good, live in solidarity with future generations, and care for God’s creation which is our common home [italics in original].Of course, Michael Lovell, President of Marquette, signed it.
So why not? He has a right to his opinion, doesn’t he?
But Brian Rosenberg, President of Macalester College, admits that:
The first and ultimately most important reason [for a university president] to steer clear from politics is educational.Rosenberg goes on to say that public statements are fine “when politicians actively undermine the core values by which our institutions live,” which he sees as justifying bashing Donald Trump. But stretching this dictum to rationalize popping off on any controversial issue is going way too far.
Colleges are meant to function as places where there can be free and open discourse and sometimes passionate disagreement about a very wide range of issues, including the political. To the extent that the president, as the most visible spokesperson for the university, takes a political stance, she or he runs the risk of biasing or even limiting the expression of views by others on campus.
Further, it is controversial whether the Earth faces a climate catastrophe. Alarmists insist that “the debate is over.” But that’s untrue; indeed it’s pretty much a flat out lie. And it’s used to try to shut up and stifle dissenting opinions. No university president should sign onto the shutting down of debate. Especially when he is no expert on the issue at hand.
Who Signed the StatementBut the key to what is really going on is found in the list of presidents who signed the statement. What kind of company does Lovell keep?
We can identify the institutions who are most committed to a real Catholic identity by consulting the Cardinal Newman Society’s list of “recommended” colleges and universities. These are institutions that take their Catholic identity very seriously and have resisted secularizing influences. Seventeen institutions are listed there, and the president of only one of them (Mount Saint Mary’s) signed the letter.
Perhaps some of the others disagree that a climate catastrophy is on the horizon. Or perhaps they don’t think it appropriate to speak on an issue on which they have no expertise. Or perhaps they feel no need for virtue signaling to impress secular elites.
The list of presidents who did sign is laced with the more secular institutions: DePaul, Fordham, Georgetown, Loyola (four different ones), Saint Louis University, Notre Dame, Xavier (Ohio).
Also interesting is the number of nuns who signed (the older orders have been a source of secular political activism in recent years, witness the “Nuns on the Bus”). And of course, the there are usual suspects among leftist activists (the Executive Director of Pax Christi, who happens to be a nun).
Speaking for the PoorParticularly ironic is the claim to be speaking for the “poor and vulnerable.” In poor countries, the necessary path to raising people out of grinding poverty lies in more energy. And reasonably priced energy. Solar Panels and windmills aren’t going to do it. At least, not for decades.
Ignoring this fact makes it easier for climate change crowd to feel very moral. And when we add Catholic rhetoric, secular-leaning Catholics not only get to feel moralistic but get to (for a change) claim they are doing something “Catholic.” For people like Michael Lovell, the temptation has to be overwhelming.