A leading group of climate change skeptics is concerned that paganism is creeping into the Catholic Church. That was the message delivered by Gene Koprowski, director of marketing at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, at a press conference in Philadelphia Thursday.
The event, which Heartland had billed as a challenge to Pope Francis' "views on global warming and the nature of capitalism," was recorded by the liberal group American Bridge. Talking Points Memo first reported on the video Friday. You can watch an excerpt above.
The pope, who is visiting the United States next week, has called on policymakers to take action to control climate change and has criticized the excesses of free market capitalism. According to Koprowski, when Heartland staffers first began reading news stories about the pope speaking out on climate, they were "shocked that the pope was buying into this left-wing political craze that is global warming." So in April, Heartland sent a delegation of climate skeptics to Rome to offer a "prebuttal" to a Vatican climate summit in an attempt to change the pope's mind.
"When the Vatican leapt into the controversy on climate science, we were initially under the impression that His Holiness was a victim of bad advice from bad advisers," Koprowski said Thursday. "There were people from the UN who were population control advocates. There were people from other left-wing groups who were advising the pontiff."
But Koprowski said that after the pope released his landmark encyclical calling for action on climate change, he began to suspect that "something more may be afoot." Koprowski then invoked pagan rituals and "nature worship" that he said were "seeping into the Church" during the Middle Ages, adding: "I'm wondering, as a scholar, if pagan forms are returning to the Church this day."
Koprowski concluded: "I would say, contrary to some of the criticism, that this is not communism that has entered the church. It's, rather, paganism."
Heartland and Koprowski did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Master image of Pope Francis: giulio napolitano/Shutterstock