06/24/2015 10:57 am ET Updated Jun 23, 2016

Francis, Don't Pontificate Environment!

Pope Francis recently published his statement on global warming as a moral problem. The Pontiff may be the best liked public figure on the planet but his credibility on environmental issues is close to zero. More specifically, Catholic Church policies hurt both the poor, and the environment.

Catholic Policies Hurt the Poor
Economist Diana Furchgott Roth argued that the Pope's call to forsake fossil fuels in favor of renewables is most damaging to the poor because it would increase their utility bills that are a bigger fraction of the budget of poorer people. (She used natural gas as the reference fossil fuel rather than oil that seems more appropriate).

Given the host of other moral problems surrounding the Catholic Church, claiming the high ground on the environment can be considered a diversionary tactic that serves to draw attention from systematic child sex abuse by clergy, in addition to money laundering for drug traffickers by the Vatican Bank.

The Vatican bank is being cleaned up but very little has been done to address the Catholic hierarchy's conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse of children, many of them poor. Francis did not cause these problems but he is responsible for cleaning them up and a progress report on that front should take precedence over cleaning up the environment.

It is ironic that Pope Francis talks so much about elevating the poor given that an escape from poverty is so bad for organized religion, including Catholicism. That principle is illustrated by Ireland whose Celtic Tiger changed it from one of the most to one of the least religious countries in Europe, as I explain in my book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion.

Catholic Policies Hurt the Environment as well as the Poor
Human-caused global warming is hardly in doubt. Nor is the practical need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions before climate tips over into a hot state that is potentially very dangerous in terms of extreme weather events. Of course, some leading environmentalists, such as Stewart Brand, argue that it is already too late to do much but that is another issue. Arguing that developing countries should get a pass on carbon pollution is a nonstarter because they are already the dirtiest (e. g., China that needs to control air pollution for health reasons) and because we are all in this together.

The biggest threat to the environment is overpopulation. The Vatican opposes effective birth control methods such as the pill and condoms. Not using condoms contributes to HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases around the globe for which most of the victims are poor.

Any serious attempt to tackle climate change must begin by promoting fertility reduction, particularly in developing countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa where fertility remains high.

The fact that the Vatican continues its doctrinaire opposition to widely used and effective forms of contraception means that it is, in effect, cheering on global warming because that is the inevitable result of promoting fertility in the midst of an unprecedented population explosion.

My suggestion for Pope Francis: clean up the glaring moral problems of the Catholic Church. Don't pontificate about the environment until you get through with that.