Video: Rev. Robert Sirico tangles with Sen. Barbara Boxer on Energy, Environment
Religion & Liberty Online

Video: Rev. Robert Sirico tangles with Sen. Barbara Boxer on Energy, Environment

Video source: The Harry Read Me File. More clips from the hearing here.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, testified at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works. The hearing aimed “to examine the role of environmental policies on access to energy and economic opportunity … ” A report at the Energy & Environment news service said the hearing was “full of fireworks.” It was convened by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a sharp critic of the Obama administration’s climate policies.

“The true purpose of the president’s climate polices have nothing to do with protecting the interests of the America people,” Inhofe said. “Instead, they are meant to line the pocketbooks of his political patrons while promoting his self-proclaimed climate legacy.”

Democrats on the committee pushed back against those arguments. But it was majority witness Alex Epstein, the author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” who caused much of the contention at the hearing.

Epstein testified that rising carbon dioxide levels benefit plants and Americans. He defended fossil fuels as a driver of stability and prosperity in an ever-changing climate.

“The president’s anti-fossil-fuel policies would ruin billions of lives economically and environmentally,” he said, “depriving people of energy and therefore making them more vulnerable to nature’s ever-present climate danger.”

In a follow up report, the news service highlighted testy exchanges between Democrat members of the committee and Sirico:

The Catholic Church and faith-based organizations have been increasingly making the case for action against climate change as a moral issue. Pope Francis’ encyclical last year that called for urgent action to protect the Earth from climate change has been at the center of that argument.

But the Rev. Robert Sirico, who co-founded the free-market group Acton Institute, told lawmakers yesterday that the encyclical has been taken out of context and that the church should be seen to speak authoritatively only on the subjects of faith and morals — and that scientific issues like climate change don’t fall under those umbrellas.

“The church simply does not speak, nor does she claim to speak with the same authority, on matters of economics and science,” said Sirico, a GOP witness who testified that his group had received a small portion of funding from Exxon Mobil Corp. and groups affiliated with the Koch brothers.

In a transcript of the hearing, The Daily Caller highlighted an exchange between Sirico and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer went after a Catholic priest in a Wednesday hearing for supposedly questioning the pope’s statements on the dangers of man-made global warming. “So do you disagree with the pope when he says that climate change is one of the biggest issues,” Boxer asked Father Robert Sirico of the conservative Acton Institute.

“I’m very grateful for your defense of the pope. Perhaps not in all of his magisterial authority and the cherry-picking of this or that,” Sirico tried to respond before being interrupted by Boxer.

“I can ask you what I want,” she said. “Do you disagree with the pope on climate change, it’s a simple yes or no.”

Boxer, who is Jewish, was trying to get Sirico to say he disagreed with the pope on global warming. Last year, Pope Francis published an encyclical blaming humans for global warming and calling the Earth “an immense pile of filth.”

Environmentalists and Democrats were overjoyed with the encyclical. Former Vice President Al Gore even said he could convert to Catholicism because of the pope’s global warming activism. Francis’s encyclical was not well-received by more conservative Catholics in the U.S., who saw it as out of place for the pontiff to speak out on a scientific issue — let alone an issue he was advised on by academics who support population control.

“When the pope says things that have to do with science, he does not speak from the magisterial authority of the church. When he speaks on moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and the like, then he speaks on magisterial authority,” Sirico responded before again being interrupted.

“So who’s cherry-picking?” Boxer said. “You’re saying that when the planet is facing all these problems, it’s not a moral issue.”

“I never said that,” Sirico said. “Where did I say that? Could you give me that quotation, senator?”

Here’s a 48-minute “highlight” reel of the Senate hearing, beginning with Rev. Sirico’s opening statement:

John Couretas

is a writer and editor based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.