Pope Francis’ Concern For the Planet Deemed Offensive

by Marcia Mueller

In his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis acknowledged that human activities, especially those involving business and consumerism, hurt the planet and agreed that human activity is also playing a role in climate change. One of the most notable admissions in the encyclical is that the old interpretation of humanity’s place on the earth must be reexamined:  “Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

In keeping with the encyclical, the Vatican hosted a light show, “Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home,” presented on the first day of what the Pope called a “Year of Mercy.” The show was produced and financed by a group of humanitarian and philanthropic groups and corporations, including the World Bank, in what admirers called a celebration of nature and the earth and in what critics called the Church’s “partnering with her enemies” for a deeply offensive political statement.

The light show itself was a spectacular display. The majority of the hour was devoted to the natural world:  Sun, moon, meteor showers, and the oceans, but mostly animals, as butterflies, toucans, monkeys, primates, reptiles, wolves, big cats, and elephants chattered, hissed, howled, roared, and trumpeted across the face of St. Peter’s Basilica. No creature was too small or too big to be included, from bees to whales.

Unfortunately, the light show outraged many conservatives. After-show appraisals included such terms as “creepy,” “pagan,” “blasphemous,” “sacrilegious,” “profane,” and “offensive.” They complained that Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan (which is devoted to finding solutions to seemingly insoluble problems), was named after the Roman god of fire. They pointed out that the Okeanos organization, which seems to promote health of the oceans, was named after a Greek god. They found New Age symbolism throughout the show, and one YouTube video investigates the “creepy symbols” that were “plastered” all over the Vatican during the show:  “Fiat Lux Satanic Light Show Decoded”

The majority of complaints were about the animals, particularly the primates, reptiles, and big  cats, whose eyes disturbed the critics.

For example, one light scene faded and then flared back as an amber-eyed lion covering the entire face of the Basilica, his maned head turned to look at the viewers. Hopefully, some of those viewers contemplated the tragedy of losing that magnificent creature to extinction. But critics were reminded of the demonic. The lion prompted Father John Zuhlsdorf to quote Scripture:  “Be sober and watch:  Because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”

Father Zuhlsdorf was not on the only one who looked into the animals’ eyes animals and saw something satanic looking back:  “When an animal has this gaze, it is rabid or a symbol of evil that God created to help men be vigilant..”

Some watched the “crazy-looking lemur” and “sinister” reptiles and asked:  “Are these really endangered species or  did the show’s director take a special pleasure in picturing these symbols of the devil on the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica façade, the most holy of all Catholic Churches?

The outrage went beyond the animal displays. There were scenes of humanity’s affects on the planet, with stacks of wrecked cars, piles of used cell phones, a plane graveyard, shanty towns, skyscrapers, and call-filled highways, along with chickens crammed into cages on factory farms and spectators crowded into a vast stadium.

Those hints at overpopulation resulted in critics calling the light show misanthropic and anti-human for undermining the old anthropocentrism of the Church. They complained that the environmental groups promote population growth as a threat and that organizations such as the World Bank were flooding developing nations with contraception and pressuring them to legalize abortion. They claimed that the most endangered species of all was the unborn child.

Critics were also unhappy about the lack of evangelizing and Catholic symbolism in the light show:  No signs of the clergy or other exclusively Catholic themes or worship were included. The people depicted in the light show were Asian, Middle Eastern (the “umbrella people”), Buddhist monks, and villagers picking crops. Indigenous people were represented by, according to one source, “almost nude Indians.”

For years, liberal Catholics hoped that when the next pontiff was elected, he would concern himself more with problems of the modern world. Pope Francis did just that in his “Laudato Si” and in the sponsorship of the light show. While many people did approve, the backlash was also severe.

It prompted Archbishop Rino Fisichella to create a petition to the Vatican asserting that the light show’s “radical environmental” message was an affront to millions of Catholics who are skeptical about man-made climate chan. It isge and the “ideology” surrounding it.

There are many conservative Christians in the world, including Evangelicals. And the conservatives tend to be the most involved in their church and in practicing their faith.  It is unlikely that the Pope (of the conservative bishops and cardinals) will ignore them or their objections. Politicians at election time will remember their conservative positions on the climate and the natural world and campaign accordingly. They realize that the most committed and fervent people also have the deepest pockets and the willingness to reach into them.

(NOTE:  A Pew survey revealed that most Christians voted for Trump:  Protestants 58%, white Catholics 60%, white Evangelicals 81%, and Mormons 61%.)

As animal rights activists, we spend much of our time in an Internet echo chamber clicking and likely (or condemning) news with others of similar opinions. The outrage over the light show, as outlandish and retrograde as it seems, is how many people think, and they are no friends to our cause. Obviously, much work remains to be done to change their hearts and minds about animals and their well-being.

I’m including some comments to reveal the opinions of the show’s critics.


 1.  “Birds, apes, whales, lions . . . and where is the image of an unborn baby in the womb?”

 2.  “But there is something demonic about the environmental movement. It’s a worldwide cult now.”

 3.  “What a bizarro world. Slaughter your children so the animals of the world can eat, multiply, and have dominion over the earth.”

 4.  “Babies, aborted or born, are the enemy to them. Just more tissue and cells to suck up resources that should be left to Gaia and her animals.”

 5.  “It was a circus atmosphere, not a reverent place of God. The devil is in charge.”

 6.  “Diabolical and a circus of animals over people. Human beings have souls, animals do not.”

 7.  “Worry about the unborn and their murders, not if a polar bear doesn’t have a block of ice to stand on.”

 8.  “Souls are the Pope’s job. Not endangered species.”




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17 thoughts on “Pope Francis’ Concern For the Planet Deemed Offensive

  1. It does not matter if you are pro-choice or pro-fetuses, you are all going to die if you do not get together and stop destroying the planet that is your home, your ONLY home. I am not going to go step-by-step to prove to either side that division is harmful, because you are all going to find out soon enough. United the world will live, divided the world will be destroyed, along with ALL the life on it. That works for no one. NO ONE!
    12 years and counting. Even if the experts are mistaken, and the end does not come for 50 years, we cannot change the future unless we work together, all 7-plus billion of us. We can destoy the whales, we can destroy the bees, we can destroy the bugs, we can destroy the trees. But whether you like it or not, whether you even believe it or not, destroying one will destroy all, and no one can stop that but us.

    As for the pope, being head of an hierarchy, maybe truth “can” dribble down from the top. I for one am glad he is trying…



    Remembering Packy the Elephant on World Zoothanasia Day

    Robert Guillory‪ · Works at Retired
    ‪So sad that it seems that here is an over abundance of imbeciles.

    ***‪Shari R Miller
    ‪People protest “Packy” while thousand of HUMAN babies are murdered each year thru Kate Browns taxpayer funded planned parenthood clinics.

    ‪Philo Pharnsworth
    ‪Maybe one day we’ll be able to genetically test for idiocy in utero so Shari and other anti-choice religious nutbags won’t be born to abuse and annoy rational humans.

    ‪Melanie Nygaard‪ · Beaverton, Oregon
    ‪Philo Pharnsworth One doesn’t need to be religious to know that killing an innocent human person is wrong, no matter what the excuse.

    ‪Heinrik Klaus
    ‪Philo Pharnsworth Rational humans take accountability for their actions. Rational humans do not promote murdering those whom they disagree with. Rational humans do not advocate evisceration of unborn children.

    ‪A rational human you are not.

    ‪Karoline Amezqua‪ · Bishop Reilly
    ‪Shari: I have no problem with abortion (and birth control by ALL means available) as long as HUMANS continue overpopulating, breeding babies unchecked, thus creating conflict of interests with other species as HUMANS continue expanding and invading the entire planet and “culling” other animals. Human overpopulation is an animal-rights issue. In case you “rational” religious folks don’t know, organized religion is antithetical to animal-rights and is a device repeatedly used to devalue and harm animals. Women, Native Americans, and gay and transgender folks can appreciate that, too.

    ‪The Catholic Church–which detests animals and devalues them to the level of “things”–has a bloody, blemished history wherever its power and “authority” is challenged. The Catholic Church cares more about fetuses than it does rational women, than it does the rights of gay and transgender folks. While “Holy Mother Church” runs charitable networks around the globe for poor and disadvantaged folks and children, why then does “Holy Mother Church” mock and challenge animal-rights activists and charities for speaking up for animals? Animal charities lack the obscene wealth, power, and publicity that the Vatican enjoys.

    ‪To say that human lives are “more important” than the lives of other animals, means–in praxis, as opposed to theory–that animals’ lives are not important at all! In other words, for all you religious folks, you place absolute value on human life and absolutely NO value on non-human life. Isn’t that why you must mock folks who care about animals by attacking them with the “pro-life” rebuke about abortion and babies? Do you “rational” religious folks not understand what the notion of the so-called “sanctity of human life” means? It means–in fact, in praxis–the DEsanctification, desecration of ALL NONHUMAN LIFE.

    ‪And this ruthless desecration of animals’ lives and dignity is relentlessly ongoing without mercy, with impunity and immunity. At least the unaware aborted fetuses are spared this “eternal Treblinka.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So even when a pope is finally on the side of nature, these superstitious, troglodyte christians manage to be outraged because they choose to see demonic intent instead. And of course the cult of the fetus reigns supreme.
    I will never placate these uneducated blind fools who have no concept of the web of life; I feel no kinship with them. They are unworthy to even be on this planet. Hopefully the pope will not back down from this crucially important message.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Extremely interesting and enlightening post! But instead of working (futilely!) to “change their hearts and minds” I’d be more interested in the work of grinding their bones into dust. The creatures you quote represent an entirely different species from those of us who genuinely care about the natural world and nonhuman creation. There will be no meeting of the minds or reconciliation with these superstitious, irrational simpletons. They are, in a word, irredeemable. The sooner animal rights advocates recognize that truth and simply adopt an implacably hostile demeanor towards them, the simpler and more satisfying life will be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a horrible feeling that you may be right. Certainly the gentle approach makes no difference. It is our duty to save the innocent by whatever means are necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think most of us who are familiar with conservative religious views realize those who hold them are long on indoctrination and short on critical thought. Aside from the rare epiphany that leads to change, we’ll probably have to hope for the next generation to improve.

      The conservative critiques of the light show, coming from “educated” people who look at animal eyes and see demons, sound like records from the era of the witch trials, not the 21st century.


    • The idea of grinding bones into dust gets more and more appealing. We’ve been concentrating so much on nonviolence, to placate the opposition, that no one fears any reaction. Maybe without that, the abusers and exploiters have no motive to change. Obviously, no moral appeal has worked, and no laws have stopped the carnage.

      The ALF has bragged that no animal or human has ever been injured in its raids or liberations. Most animal rights protests are nonviolent. Where has that gotten us except the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act? We hear of the woman in Canada who gave a drink of water to a dehydrated pig in a transport truck on his way to slaughter. That drink was probably the only act of kindness the pig had known in a short life that would soon be ending. Yet, she was taken to jail.

      Nonviolent movements have won in the end, but usually only after the culture had grown and changed to make their protests big enough. We are not there, and I wonder if we ever will be. It turns my thoughts to vigilantism to at least deal with the terrible cases of abuse that will never be punished otherwise.

      In this atmosphere, it’s hard not to ponder the alternatives. Would a wood chipper work as a bone grinder, I wonder?


      • Being a lover of life, I must oppose your hate-mongering. What good does it do anyone to use violence againt the already-violent. They have the weapons, they know how to use them, and they are willing to use them. Please think again before you try to start something they will finish for you.
        Meanwhile, using non-violence may be something they do not understand, but in the end they will have to respect. Their respect is not worth much, I know, but it allows us to keep our dignity. We may be farther along our journeys than they are, but the chances are you were once where they now stand. You changed, and so will they. But not if you turn to violence, because that will just strengthen their own beliefs. It is up to us to help them change, not to solidify their present beliefs. You may win a battle or two, but you cannot win a war. The minute you try, that minute you become like them…


      • rwgod: I’m glad your views did not prevail during World War II, otherwise we’d all be speaking German now and wondering “whatever happened to the Jews?” The case for overcoming wicked tyrants by making nice and being respectful finds little to support it in the historical record. And there’s not much dignity to be found in responding to monstrous evil with craven pacifism. You ARE right about “them” having more guns than “us” but with billions of sentient beings, and indeed the whole the planet, dying under their murderous occupation, it is better to die aggressively fighting for the good than living like minions in an accursed regime.


  5. Sobering and alarming. Humanity, especially the most devout portion, IMO, is on a crusade to destroy the very Creation of that deity they claim to worship. I say, if you love and worship God, then you must respect, protect and cherish His living planet and all the myriad species He gave life to. Not grind His masterpiece under the heels of your fear and greed.I wish I’d been to the Pope’s show – I would have given it a standing ovation.


    • Oh well said! Yes, Jesus would be on the side of life! When they could not beat this new religion, the Romans turned Jesus into a god who could only be reached via intermediaries, like all the gods that have been worshipped throughout history, creating a hierarchy that had to do with money and possessions. The real god is in the stones, in the water and in every cell of every living thing. I do admire the pope for being so brave.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I also wish you had been at the show! I didn’t think even conservatives would receive the light show so badly.

      Unfortunately, people cherry-pick the Bible, and the concept of “dominion” is very appealing. It allows human beings to use the earth as a resource with no concern for the suffering and death of the other creatures they destroy or the lands they ravage.


  6. Those offended by a reverance for the interconnectedness of all life forms, who are afraid and even demonize our animal and plan brethren, are often the same people who believe that worshipping God, gold, and flags are compatible virtues, who perpetuate the separateness of humans from nature which allows for the destruction of all life on earth. Many of these so called Christians ( Christian Zionists) are the same folk who advocate for the right wing Israeli takeover over of all of the Palestinan land with Jerusalem the capital, Islamic people be damned, and not for the sake of the Jewish people either, but for their own apocaplytic visions of being raptured and the rest of us being killed or sent to hell. These are the biggest hypocrites of the Christian faith. The Imerperialist power behind this group of people is so great it drives foreign policy and indeed furthers the destruction of the planet because of this dominion theory but also to hurry up and bring on armeggedon. This are sick people and it is unreal how many people buy into it. I suppose it is easy though, to believe that everything on earth is for you to use and abuse at will, to never have to do good works as long as one “ accepts
    jesus Christ into their hearts as Lord and savior”, with these constant “get out of jail free” ideas, and the belief no good works get them in the good graces of God, that they are not required to follow the words of Jesus when they dont match up with Patriotic Nationalism, or are materially inconvenient. The prosperty gospel garbage is evidence of that. They are walking hypocrisies. Now, coming from a Conservative European Catholic family, with a very pre vatican 2 view of the world, I was subject to domestic tyranny. Despite their best efforts and 12 years of Catholic school, I was the uncrackable nut. It may have helped that my mother, being a liberal convert, was accepting of my constant questioning and supported my choice to stop eating “ anything with a face” as I said, when I was very young. She learned to cook for me and gave up animal products too and did so much to the chagrin of the rest of my family until I became an adult and she developed food allergies. But I was indoctrinated. It just didnt wash with my own perceptions and experiences. I found The Catholic Worker movement fascinating, the Ploughshares anti nuke movement and the Barrigans anti war resistance very compelling and felt that if Jesus was hanging around he would be doing things like that. He wouldnt eat meat, harm animals, or pave over a forest. There is just no way. So maybe my way of thinking is in the minority, but I have three sons and I hope I can send some good men out in the world to add to the peaceful numbers. We have a moral imperative to resist this heirarchal and violent system.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is just a comment of agreement. My truth is that the three greatest enemies of life, especially human life, are god, gold, and government–the three g’s. The similarities to your opening statement are beyond coincidence.


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