They’re on a roll at the First Things blog this week. I don’t often get to excited about what they have to say there — a bit too much of the ideology I criticized in my previous post about the National Shrine book store — but sometimes that’s not the case.
Yesterday there was this post from the journal’s editor, R.R. Reno, on the dissolution of “the great middle-class consensus that once dominated our society,” “the end of solidarity in working class America.” I kept waiting for the part where Professor Reno revealed the twist that would vindicate all that has brought us to “our current political culture [being] dominated by upper-middle-class concerns,” but it never came. It’s a thoughtful post about a discouraging reality.
Now today, comes a post from David Nolan on the possibility that Pope Francis has been outed as an “anti-fracking pope.” One might expect a First Things blogger to share Sarah Palin’s reaction (it’s linked to in the post: “[Pope Francis has] had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me,” Palin said in an interview with CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”), but that’s not the case.
Nolan notes the strong committment to care for the environment displayed by our two previous popes. “And it makes sense,” he writes, “that Pope Francis, with his vision of a ‘Church for the poor,’ would worry about the dual exploitation of nature and worker that can occur when an economy is based on non-renewable resources. We only have to look to areas of the U.S.—Appalachia, for example—to see what can happen to rural communities when mines run dry (sorry, mixed metaphor).” Nolan concludes: “If the Pope speaks out explicitly against fracking there surely will be a lot of noise, but given the various papal declarations from the last twenty-five years, we shouldn’t be hearing gasps of surprise.”
UPDATE: Time magazine’s Elizabeth Dias offers this thoughtful take on the Pope’s anti-fracking photo. She concludes wisely:
Posing with environmental activists of any kind—fracking or other—is a way for Pope Francis to show his solidarity with the people ecological injustice largely hurts. That’s the heartbeat of his mission, of his very name and identity. The fracking photos, unless the Holy See decides to say otherwise, most likely aren’t about the Pope coming out against one specific environmental issue. They are about him coming out for the poor.
And finally, for a good laugh: The First Things blog included this headline over a round-up post: New Papal Encyclical Will Be Called “Frackicum Est Wackicum”.