Former vice president Al Gore told CNN that he would consider converting to Catholicism because of the witness of Pope Francis, particularly in the area of environmental concern.
“I’m a Protestant, but I’ll tell you, because of Pope Francis, I really could become a Catholic. He is really an amazing spiritual leader,” Gore told Father John S. Rausch, who appeared with him on CNN Tuesday as part of a climate change town hall event.
Gore, who was raised a Southern Baptist, went on to recommend that people of all faith traditions read Pope Francis’ senvironmental encyclical letter Laudato Si, “which really addressed the question that you’re asking here.”
“Now I was taught in my church that the purpose of life is to glorify God and if we are heaping contempt on God’s creation, then we’re not living up to the duty that God is calling us to,” Gore said. “And so this — the way we live our lives is definitely connected to this. It is — it’s not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual issue. And thank you for bringing that up.”
Glenmary priest John S. Rausch, an environmental activist, said that his experience as a priest in Appalachia has led him to believe the climate crisis is a crisis in spirituality.
“There are many who are living in poverty, and they’re not only living in poverty, they’re living right next to polluted streams and mountains that have been destroyed,” Rausch said.
The priest went on to assert the need to “influence people to see a spiritual connection in their consumer habits (so) that they can see the consequences of their buying, the consequences have on people in Appalachia and also in other parts of God’s kingdom.”
Father Rausch has said that he drives many thousands of miles each year, but whatever environmental degradation that ensues is worth it because of the important work he is doing.
“Dealing with issues in Appalachia requires me to drive 22,000 miles a year,” he said. “My carbon footprint may be big, but the region is ever expansive and demanding my driving.”
Nonetheless, other people should probably be driving less, the priest suggested, such as those who drive “100 miles for some sporting event” and think nothing of it.
“For essential driving,” he said, “we rely on community members to contribute some of their ‘carbon miles,’ so others can bring compassion to outside situations.”
In his comments, Mr. Gore echoed previous remarks he had made at a town hall event in 2015, where he also suggested that Pope Francis could inspire him to become a Catholic.
In May of that year, Gore said in a talk at the University of California, Berkeley that he is inspired by Pope Francis’s leadership on environmental issues.
“I think Pope Francis is quite an inspiring figure really,” he said. “I’ve been startled with the clarity of the moral force that he embodies.”
“And I know the vast majority of my Catholic friends are just thrilled to the marrow of their bones that he is providing this kind of spiritual leadership,” he said.
Gore got himself into trouble with black activists last month when he compared the fight against global warming to the emancipation of black slaves.
The fight against global warming is one of humanity’s great moral causes, Gore told participants in the EcoCity World Summit in Melbourne, alongside “the abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage and women’s rights, the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.”
In an online statement, black activists with the Project 21 leadership network denounced the comparison, saying that Gore “gives climate change activists unearned moral credibility” by associating these important moral movements of history with a crusade “grounded in questionable data.”
Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper went further still, saying that Gore’s climate alarmism stands to hurt black Americans most of all.
“Study after study demonstrate that the radical climate policies advocated by Al Gore, Jr. will hurt blacks and the poor most,” Cooper said. “Just as segregation and interracial marriage bans were purported to be for the good of all while clearly done to generate political support, today’s climate alarmism is pushed solely to get the support of a small group of so-called eco-warriors at the expense of blacks.”