Century Marks

Century Marks

Reinterpreting Francis

Michael Bransfield, Catholic bishop of West Virginia, seems to be taking his cues from the coal industry when interpreting Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato si’, which calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels. Bransfield says the pope’s call for ending fossil fuel use is qualified: it should happen “only after” greater progress is made in using alternative fuels, and only where economically feasible. In fact, Pope Francis makes no such qualifications. Bransfield is also promoting the idea of “clean coal.” A spokesperson admitted that the Wheeling-Charleston diocese has “energy related investments” (National Catholic Reporter, July 1).

Mission trip?

The Carnival Corpor­a­tion has announced plans for cruises to Cuba that will encourage people-to-people exchanges. The Cuba cruises are intended for “cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens.” Projecting a May 2016 launch, Carnival says it already has approval from the United States and is hoping to get clearance from Cuban authorities. Religious activities and humanitarian efforts are among the 12 approved categories for travel to Cuba (USA Today, July 7).

Ora et labora

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, is aiming to win the evangelical vote in his bid to become the Republican presidential candidate. But Heath W. Carter, who teaches history at Valparaiso University, says that if they support Walker, who is known for his union-busting efforts, evangelicals will be ignoring some of their own history. Evangelicals have played a key role in union history, says Carter. In the 19th century, Scottish immigrant Andrew Cameron, a devout believer, campaigned for an eight-hour work day, believing that workers didn’t receive a fair wage for their labor. Evangelical figures were also involved in labor efforts in the early part of the 20th century and during the Depression. Walker’s own congregation was deeply divided over his attack on public unions (New Republic, July 12).

Paper trail

A study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists in July reveals that a coalition of fossil fuel companies and trade groups in the 1990s were told by scientific experts that heat-trapping gases were causing global warming. Nevertheless, these companies funded a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to try to discredit climate change science. One of the researchers they backed is Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon, an aerospace engineer, who has made the discredited claim that the sun is the cause of global warming. Soon’s research has been funded by ExxonMobil, the coal utility Southern Company, and the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.

Friendly enemies

On the day the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal, Iowans Bob Vander Plaats and Donna Red Wing had a chance meeting and hugged one another—even though they are culture warriors on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Vander Plaats heads Family Leader, which supports traditional marriage; he believes Red Wing’s lesbian marriage is unnatural. Red Wing, head of One Iowa, an LGBT rights group, has called Vander Plaats “bigoted” and “cruel.” But a few years ago, at Red Wing’s initiative, the two met for coffee and struck up a friendship. Since then they have been trying to soften the rhetoric of their organizations while still sticking to their principles (Washington Post, July 4).