Pope Francis: "prioritizing short-term economic benefits" is not a good enough reason not to have a carbon tax. Photo: Catholic Church England, Creative Commons

Turns out you really can’t serve God and Mammon! Who knew?

Conservative Alberta was reeling over the weekend at Friday’s news from Rome that Pope Francis, leader of 1.3 billion Catholics, has declared global warming to be a real thing and putting a price on carbon to be “essential” to saving the planet.

At a closed-door meeting of the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences, a concept that at some points in the Church’s history would have been oxymoronic, His Holiness sternly lectured the CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni, BP, Repsol, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and executives of sundry investment funds to get with the program and stop standing in the way of planetary salvation.

This has to be causing some consternation in the circles closest to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, the “former WASP” and convert to Roman Catholicism who for many years has been portraying himself as more Catholic than the pope.

Up to now, this may have appeared compatible with the premier’s crusade against carbon taxes, the heart of his passive-aggressive attack on climate science in which he halfheartedly acknowledges the reality global temperatures are rising while doing everything he can to deny the obvious reason for it.

Hitherto, Kenney has seemed like the sort of fellow who reckons the Inquisition was on the right track in 1633 when it threatened to torture Galileo Galilei to make him recant his notion the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around.

What is Kenney to do now that the infallible Pontifex of Rome has damned — only metaphorically, so far — those who ignore the perils scientists say the planet faces?

Could he turn his back on the teachings of the Bishop of Rome when they don’t suit him — as he once accused the Jesuits at the University of San Francisco of doing when they had the temerity to support the right of women on campus to speak freely in support of their reproductive rights? Alert readers will recall that the young Kenney tried to get the church to declare the institution could not call itself a Catholic university, then dropped out when that didn’t work.

Maybe he could return to his roots in the Anglican Church. Not much satisfaction there, alas. These days Anglicans are all for ordaining women and welcoming LGBTQ folk.

Or maybe the answer would be to set up his own church with his sanctimonious self as pope. I have to tell you, though, it’s been done. At least half the time, that’s basically what that Protestant thing Kenney abandoned in his early years was about.

And what about United Conservative Party ministers like Adriana LaGrange, the fiercely anti-abortion holder of the education portfolio in Kenney’s cabinet? Will this former Catholic school board chair argue the Pope is right about abortion and homosexuality and wrong about climate change? That would make her almost as inconsistent as those evangelicals who take everything in the Bible literally except the bits that they don’t.

Whatever will LaGrange do if Pope Francis declares that teachers in Roman Catholic schools have an obligation to teach climate science? Yikes!

Then there’s federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, another piously Roman Catholic constant carbon-tax complainer. No word from him yet, either, on Friday’s papal carbon commentary.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Kenney’s mighty “war room” as its leaders brainstorm ways to take on the Church of Rome and squeeze the pontiff till his pips squeak. After all, there are still plenty of pips in the coffers of Rome! And if you count the Swiss Guard, the Pope’s got more divisions than Kenney has, too.

I suppose the war roomers could threaten to make the Church pay taxes if His Holiness won’t stay in his lane — if only that could be described as something other than a tax increase.

Talk about awkward.

Fortunately for Kenney and his Catholic caucus and cabinet members, the Pope hasn’t made his latest pronouncement on carbon taxes official doctrine. Yet. But who knows, another papal encyclical may be in the works, which really would leave the pious premier in the position of having to choose between glory to God and death to the carbon tax.

It’s not hard to predict what Kenney and his sanctimonious ilk would do. Catholic Conservatives in Canada have basically been ignoring the last encyclical from Pope Francis on this topic, in 2015.

Still, Pope Francis was pretty clear on Friday. “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations,” he said. “We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits.”

Like Galileo and unlike the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary, the fossil fuel multinationals’ CEOs in Rome saw the wisdom of bowing their heads and saying they too support a carbon tax.

That sounds about right to me. Mr. Kenney? Mr. Scheer?

It’s almost enough to make one yearn for the days when excommunication from the One True Church was a credible threat!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Catholic Church England, Creative Commons​

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...