Is Koch Brothers Money Fueling Criticism of Pope Francis on Climate Change?
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 09:54:02 AM EST
In my last post I examined conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty. Indeed, some of the loudest howls of disapproval have arisen from Catholic Right pundits and think tanks. But clearly, there are other sources as well.

Is some of this criticism being fossil-fueled by the Koch Brothers? Well, let's follow the money!

Movement conservatives who have become accustomed to the pronouncements of recent pontiffs as fuel for their culture war diatribes now find themselves in the awkward position of being at odds with Church teachings on the environment. For the first time many movement conservative Catholics are now forced to choose between God and the mammon of their financial backers - and mammon seems to be winning the day. A lot that mammon comes from the Koch Brothers Family foundations as well as Koch allies.

One of the Catholic Right climate change skeptics challenging Francis on the new encyclical is Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Whether it be a coincidence or not, it is worth noting that Donohue is an adjunct scholar for the Heritage Foundation. The conservative think tank is heavily funded by Koch Brothers money.

Another Catholic Right climate change skeptic organization working overtime to blunt the effects of Laudato Sii is ultra-libertarian think tank the Acton Institute . As the website Source Watch noted :

The Acton Institute's strong support for both Catholicism and free market economics has come under strain as Pope Francis has actively criticized global inequality and unfettered capitalism. In May 2014, the Pope's Twitter account posted a tweet saying "Inequality is the root of all evil." Joe Carter, a senior editor at Acton, tweeted in reply, "Seriously, though, what was up with that tweet by @Pontifex? Has he traded the writings of Peter and Paul for Piketty?", referring to economist Thomas Piketty, author of the 2014 book Capital in the 21st Century, a critique of growing economic inequality.

Action features a page on its web site filled with blog posts critical to varying degrees of the pope's stand on climate change.

Acton also receives significant funding from Koch Brothers foundations. According to Greenpeace, between1997 to 2011 the Kochs kicked-in about $423,750 to Father Sirico's organization.

Then there is self-described Koch Brothers ally billionaire Foster Friess. ABC News has dubbed him as " The Man Behind Rick Santorum's Money " :

Friess is a born-again Christian who, along with his wife, Lynn, has given millions to conservative and Christian causes, including $1 million to Koch-brothers-related causes, as well as non-political charities, including raising money for children orphaned in the Haitian earthquake.

As I pointed out in my last piece, Santorum criticized Francis's encyclical by complaining that the Pope is not competent enough to discuss matters of science.

But the two infamous libertarian siblings are funding those attacking the Pope 's environmental ism from outside of Catholicism as well as from within. For example, there is the Chicago-based Heartland Institute. S ourcewatch describes Heartland as " a nonprofit "think tank" that questions the reality and import of climate change, second-hand smoke health hazards, and a host of other issues that might seem to require government regulation. " More importantly, the organization is strongly linked to and heavily funded by Charles and David Koch.

The Heartland Institute seems to be particularly threatened by the Pope's stance on climate change. The organization has not only dedicated a page on its website to disputing Francis on global warming but even sent a contingent to protest the issuance of the encyclical .

Fred Koch, Charles and David's father and founder of the Koch Family empire once did contract work in Stalin's Soviet Union during the 1920s. Indeed, it was Stalin who sarcastically remarked in 1935, " The pope! How many divisions has he got? " A little more than a half a century later it would be another pope that would play a significant role in bringing down Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe.

Perhaps Charles and David Koch understand that when it comes to climate change they are now up against a force truly to be reckoned with. Here is a pope who can not only rally liberal and moderate Catholics but a significant number of religious conservatives too. Perhaps unlike Stalin they know not to underestimate his nontraditional source of power. And, they appear to be spending an awful lot of money to make sure that they do not repeat the Soviet mistake.

It would not come as a surprise to know the Kochs were financing opposition to Pope Francis's encyclical, but it would be in line with their activities designed to buy our polity and use it for their own benefit. It's interesting that you quoted Stalin on the Pope's legions because the week before last, the priest at Mass opened his homily with the same line.

by khughes1963 on Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 07:03:10 PM EST

Just to add to the confusion, the (unrelated, so far as I know) Koch Foundation, Inc. exists, according to itself, "to fund evangelization activities of the Roman Catholic faith throughout the world" and "has become one of the largest Catholic foundations in the United States."

Their 2014 annual report says they gave, worldwide, $1,036,930 for "direct evangelization and mass media", $3,686,019 for "preparation of evangelists", $863,480 to Catholic schools, & $1,383,860 for "capital expenditures" ($6,970,289 total) from net assets of $118,729,746 - no doubt a welcome addition to the resources available to Francis, but much less than 1% of those deployed by Charles & David.

by Pierce R Butler on Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 08:30:41 PM EST

I hope they don't want to assassinate him like others have or tried when the Pope went his own way on things and had to be demoted.

by Nightgaunt on Tue Jul 21, 2015 at 08:45:02 PM EST

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