Conservative Heartland Institute “Accuses” Pope of Paganism

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Gene Koprowski, director of marketing at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, said in a Philadelphia press conference Thursday that through Pope Francis and his focus on fighting climate change, “Paganism” has “entered the Church.”

Heartland Institute, which has previously exerted great efforts in convincing people that second-hand smoke is not at all harmful, also believes that climate change his not harmful, if it is taking place at all. These are purely economic positions of course. Cigarettes are big business. So are oil, gas, and coal. Capitalism must not knuckle under for the sake of health of mere humans, not when the almighty dollar is at stake.

Never mind the idolatry of worshiping money. But let’s not let logic or common sense get in the way of a good, mindless, ideological diatribe:

Koprowsky claimed,

When the Vatican leapt into the controversy on climate science, we were initially under the impression that His Holiness was a victim of bad advice from bad advisers. There were people from the UN who were population control advocates. There were people from other left-wing groups who were advising the pontiff.

Then came the Pope’s encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home,” which hardly broke new ground as it began with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, referring to the earth, “our common home” as a sister, and traces the climate concerns of his predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II.

This was too much for Koprowski: “While we initially thought it was bad advisors, I think that something more may be afoot,” he said.

What was more serious was that same old bogeyman, science, but Koprowski sees something more sinister afoot:

It was a medieval festival, where masqueraders with grotesque masks took over the church and elected what was called a ‘fool’s pope.’ This is a pagan ritual, pagan remnants that were seeping into the church. One of them also was ‘nature worship.’ What is environmentalism but nature worship?

“I would say, contrary to some of the criticism, that this is not communism that has entered the church. It’s, rather, paganism.”

That’s right. Far from being a communist, the Pope is something worse: a Pagan.

This is not the first time the Catholic Church has been accused of Paganism, and with good reason; Christianity grew up in a Pagan context and was not left untouched by it, and after all, the religion Christianity grew out of, Judaism, comes out of a shared background with Canaanite Paganism.

Religious syncretism is almost unavoidable, and the Church accommodated itself to Northern European Paganism as it spread into Europe, becoming changed again in the process.

These are inescapable historical facts. Martin Luther charged that the Catholic Eucharist was “sacrifice” and Catholics have been accused to Goddess worship with Mary substituting for the missing goddesses of polytheism.

Then there are the more obvious Pagan trappings, like the Pope’s title of the Pagan High Priest of Rome, his hat, and of course, more broadly speaking, there is the “Jesus fish” which is a Pagan fertility symbol representing the vagina, the dates of Christmas, Easter, and so forth.

Another question might be to ask whether, as Koprowski insists, environmentalism is not to be distinguished from nature worship, and therefore, Paganism. That is, does Koprowski’s charge hold water?

Not really, and for two reasons. Environmentalism is not nature worship, and Pagans don’t worship nature. Seeing holiness in nature is not the same as worshiping it. Pagan gods are part of this world, as opposed to outside of it, as is the God of the Bible, so it is perhaps natural that Pagans are seen as worshiping trees and rocks and so forth.

Christianity, like Judaism, is, as well as being a religion of the book, a “revealed” religion. Paganism, on the other hand, is not revealed. As historian Clifford Ando writes, “in contrast to the Christians, who had faith, the Romans had knowledge; and…their knowledge was empirical in orientation…the Romans did not need faith; they had an orthopraxy” – that is, rather than “orthodoxy” (correct belief) they had correct practice (orthopraxy).

Rather than belief in the absurd, as Kierkegaard described Christianity, Roman Pagans based their focus on ritual on practices that worked. If things did not work, they had either been done incorrectly (an error made, demanding repetition) or the ritual itself was flawed, which demanded, Ando tells us, “an alteration in the script.”

This is a vastly different thing than a Christian believing (as some still do) that God simply did not want, for whatever inscrutable reasons, for you to get what you wanted, or to blame it on sin or wrongdoing that must first be expatiated, but rather on the idea that you had made an error of a much more practical kind.

The Pope believes that humans must care for the earth, for creation, because yes, creation is from the hands of God, but also because it is what God wants.

This is a vastly different rationale than that of your garden variety Pagan, who sees her gods and goddess – the divine – all around her. The Pope has an outside God demanding something while a Pagan has inside gods and goddesses all around her.

This is not to say Pagans did not abuse the environment. They did. Pollution at the height of the Roman Empire was not again matched until the Industrial Revolution. The Heathen Vikings denuded Iceland of trees, essentially stranding themselves there without timber or ships from Europe.

And these lessons from history are another reason to put a damper on Koprowski’s misguided enthusiasm. The Pope is not Pagan. Nor is the Catholic Church. The Church appropriated things Pagan in the same way that Nazis incorporated things Pagan, repurposing them for their own uses.

However much conservatives with the Pope would adhere to their modern, capitalist-centered ideology, Francis is on firm – if shared – theological ground when he condemns capitalism’s abuse not only of people, but of the environment.

The problem for conservatives is really not that the Pope has made room for Paganism in the Church, but rather that he refuses to make room for capitalism and all its attendant abuses.

Further Reading: Clifford Ando. The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire. University of California Press, 2008.

42 Replies to “Conservative Heartland Institute “Accuses” Pope of Paganism”

  1. Dear Conservatives, money worship is paganism.

    Killing, ostracizing, and unwilling to care for your fellow human brothers and sisters, failing to care for the earth from which you have received more than you have given… and using your Jesus as an excuse to do all of these despicable acts..is sacrilege. Last, but not least..judging others..is sanctimonious and frowned upon in the bible.

    You are all of them.

  2. Protestantism is heresy when you get down to it and God created the planet for us to live on. We have to take care of it and that includes environmental concerns. Man has been destroying a gift given to us and this Pope is smart enough to be concerned about it. They are the bad guys trying to turn it into something it is not. What is wrong with Paganism? The church itself is descended from Pagans, any connected to Paul. Jesus said to teach all but he did not mean the gentiles and said so. They only considered certain areas of land as holy and it was within those boundaries so essentially no one now is supposed to be apart of that religion. He wasn’t saving the whole world that exists now but those that followed his word then and those in the area being taught later. It is not taught correctly and for a group to have the nerve to say all of this hogwash is pathetic and totally not Christian. They have no right to judge. God is love…remember?

  3. I am sure that if one of these conservatives had the guts to say this to the Pope’s face, Pope Francis would probably say, “Bless you my child, Peace be with you” and move on.

    Peace to the conservatives, is like daylight to a vampire.

  4. The Pope is a Pagan? Wait a minute, we can straighten this out right now. Get the dunking chair out and we’ll see if he floats! That should settle it once and for all. The Devil can’t hide from THE CHAIR.

  5. Even from a purely economic standpoint, not getting your property in California destroyed by fires or on the East Coast destroyed by flooding seems like a great idea. But if they’re calling the head of the Catholic church Pagan as an insult, they’re pretty much beyond all reason.

  6. I am sincerely worried for the Pope during his trip to the US. He will and has inspired millions of people and this is not good for business for the RW Kochs et el……All they have to do is whisper into some crazy persons ear to encourage violence then kill that person. I’m hopping security will be VERY VERY HIGH.

  7. Asshole conservatives are worried that Pope Frances may be the one to wake up the American people with his simple message to take care of the earth and people in need.

    These false, cruel xtians only worship money and power.

  8. Pope Francis is no pagan worshipper!!!

    Corporatism, money worship, golden calf worship of the oligarchy and Plutocrats over the global Environmental Damage impacting all mankind and greatest economic inequality caused by the Citizen United Duty of our current political establishment is long over due to be addressed by the Holiness to America and the world. He is doing his job, churches do your job OR PAY FEDERAL TAXES.
    Way to go Pope Francis… I may not be Catholic, but you do have my Liberal Global Civil, Humane and Environmental Values!!!

  9. ‘Environmentalism is not nature worship, and Pagans don’t worship nature’granted environmentalism isn’t Pagan as such but it is a core belief of most pagans. This authors comment “Pagans don’t worship nature.” shows that this author knows very little about Paganism or some of the paths of Paganism. Wicca Druidism ,Witchcraft and many others are indeed NATURE beliefs where we worship Nature. I recommend that this author do some more research before spouting halfbaked truths .As for the pope being Pagan since the very definition of pagan is heathen 1; especially : a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)
    2:one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person and its etomolgy shows it to mean: Middle English, from Late Latin paganus, from Latin, civilian, country dweller, from pagus country district then maybe yes the pope is a pagan in that sense of the word.

  10. The Paganism was the worship of Mother. Mother being the Earth and all that the Earth provided her children (the people). This did not mean that all Pagans did what was right by Mother – ie the Vikings when plunder & riches became more important than the care of their home the Earth. More important than they sacred belief in Mother.

    There is a pattern when the Earth is abused and resources are coveted. Pagan or Christian, etc., the beliefs, the rituals, the edicts to take care of the Earth are put aside & ignored. The raping of the Earth for resources is more important than the care so all may enjoy the Earth’s abundance.

    The Pope is reminding us that when we take care of our home – Mother Earth, she provides abundantly for all. The Plunderers are upset that their greed, & selfishness to use resources to enrich only themselves has been called out. Its called denial.

  11. I suspect you have chosen an unsuitable forum in which to post this. Also, I would turn you into a toad, but that would be redundant.

  12. If they already know that their values are Right, then they don’t have to read the scriptures, and won’t discover that Jesus Christ’s values are shown there to be very, very different from theirs.

  13. Yes, same concern. And yes, I believe security will be far and beyond anything we are aware of…the communication systems and devices used in his security are beyond the beyond, but keeping a bullet from entering his most vulnerable parts will be almost impossible. I don’t think he should go to congress; that’s where THEY will try to get him…

  14. Kit – you totally just described the gop front runner Donald tRump, pagan worshipper. I dont know how he didnt burst into flames yesterday holding up a Bible!

  15. Hraf, you obviously meant “expiated”, not “expatiated” – gotta check for typos, any R’s reading will be confused by words with too many letters as it is.

  16. If we destroy our environment, nothing else is going to mean a thing.

    Not money, not possessions. Nothing.

  17. I do not worry about people worshipping money. What does it even mean? A boy is obsessed with being rich. At 40 he owns 3 strip malls and is a millionaire many times over. Is there something wrong with that? Compare to the Pope. Who comes from Argentina. Where nothing has gone right for generations. Ever since Peron. And Evita. They put into practice the stuff he preaches. Everything he says needs to be ignored. Respect the office. Yes. But that’s as far as it goes. I remember they had a crisis in 2002, they always have crises in that horrible country. But that one was really bad. So I bought a lot of stock. More in 2009 – another horrible year. What a god forsaken hell hole. As bad as Venezuela.

  18. Here is a definition of paganism: http://www.paganfederation.org/what-is-paganism/

    Paganism has to do with people and has been around for millennia!

    You so-called “conservatives” think you insult Pope Francis? Pope Francis is a man of the people not of greed, war and destruction of the environment.

    You do not insult him but actually praise him and show folks what you really are and the idols you worship. Look within your own hearts and tear out blemishes before you even attempt to castigate anyone else.

  19. Bullshit. Argentina followed the same right wing economic policy that your dumbass worship that is why they failed. Stop trying to rewrite history.

  20. Oops. I forgot. Argentina used to be the 7th richest country in the world. The Pampas. It’s like Iowa without the frost. Corn, wheat, soybeans. Cattle. Tremendous potential. But they practice what the Pope preaches. So they are totally screwed. Banking crises, capital flight (to Miami), military takeovers, war (Falklands). They also gave sanctuary to a lot of Nazis after the War. Eichmann. So this is the milieu the Pope comes from. His babbling I just tune out. He can’t help what he is.

  21. You are an dumbass if you think Argentina followed what the Pope preaches. But then again like all Reich wingers you follow the reality that you set. But facts are facts and that’s what your idiot ass cant understand

  22. …the Teahadists and Teatards, understanding neither Paganism nor Catholicism, insulted BOTH…
    …typical…

  23. You really have no clue of what your speaking of. If I remember right, the Pope and the president of Argentina were at odds over some very progressive ideas Argentina put into practice. This was at the time he was still the Cardinal of Argentina. I believe it had to do with gay marriage. While he doesnt sanction gay marriage, the pope doesn’t condem the gay population to everlasting hell. Since he became pope, he and the president of Argentina have made nice. I don’t believe the pope was in any position of power during the Falklands war or when Eichmann was roaming around.

  24. The RW expected His Holiness to anoint them as righteous. Smugly expected to be praised for their righteousness.

    Then they started paying attention to what he actually says (because good “Christians” would have eschewed anything that hints of Catholicism).

    Uh oh.

    Hence, outrage over his Christian attitudes and realization he’s probably not going to endorse them. Cue the name calling and attacks.

    They missed the signs, same way they misread all reality.

  25. Sympathetic magic, charms and ‘sacred’ objects only work on the people who believe they have power. There is a greater probability of my bursting into flames holding a copy of ‘Housekeeping as a Career!’ then holding the bible.

    Housekeeping is practical. Translations of Old Jewish texts aren’t, unless you are Jewish.

  26. People got along fine before the euro-Christians showed up. Trying to conflate a single mortal with the fate of a country over the past several hundred years is fatuous. and silly.

    European labels and descriptions of Pagans do not limit who are what Pagans believe or are.

    I highly recommend reading:
    Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience by Gus DiZerega, PhD. Llewellyn Press, 2001.

    DiZerega uses the bible to argue that Christians and Pagans are sister faiths that balance each other.

    Chapter 8 on Spirit and Nature brings aspects of Genesis to bear that demand Christians honor Nature. Great fun, solid research.

  27. Gene Koprowski – director of marketing at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute

    An unprincipled no-body.

    Pope Francis, Pope of the Catholic Church, Bishop of Rome, and Sovereign of the Vatican City. Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to interfaith dialogue. Although he considers poverty a huge problem, he does not support unbridled capitalism, Marxism, or Marxist versions of liberation theology.’ The Pope has done so much and is so educated, there are thick books written about Pope Francis.

    What’s his face Kaprowski – probably the longest description of his life will show up in his obituary.

  28. I always had the notion that Western religion felt that nature had to be subdued. That some manner of dualism exists between spirituality and materialism, and nature is associated with the latter. The whole of spiritual endeavor was to conquer nature, and bring it fully under the control of religion. I find it amusing that religious folk now think of environmentalism as pagan type of nature worship.

    I cannot fully pick up on the Pope’s position, because nature is still considered a threat to fearful believers, who prefer it remain under the dominion of man’s faith, and polluted for his benefit.

  29. Great for the Pope! This Planet IS our common home.

    Ok GOPers ATTACK THE POPE! GO FOR IT! And another voting block will bit the dust for the GOPer insane clown party.

  30. “Paganism” is actually a ridiculous concept, because it just means any non-Abrahamic religion. The only thing they have in common is that they are non-Abrahamic religions.

  31. How sad that author, “Hrafnkell Haraldsson”, has nothing to believe in, so he has to try to distort facts into his own twisted conception of others’ beliefs that are over his head. I have seen the phrase somewhere, which I found very interesting: “I would much rather live my whole life believing in an Almighty God, and then die, finding out there is none, than to live my whole life, believeing in Nothing, to find out how wrong I was.” (Or something like that??) Anyway, ALL of nature proves that there IS a Supreme Being, so even THAT statement isn’t inclusive enough for me. I can look out my window, and I see, that what I believe, is FACT!

  32. OK, good for you. Now that you’ve tooted your own horn, what exactly is your point? I’m getting you disagree with the author, but how does this have anything to do with the popes views on climate or capitalism? Guess thumpers just have a need to thump at any opportunity.

  33. …another Teatard stuck his ass {or head, can’t tell the diff with ’em} out the window to “Share” his fumes with the world…
    …somebody gotta match???

  34. wulf…”do some research before spouting half baked truths” Well wulfy, I’d take those alleged “half baked truths” over your overbaked sense of worth and intellect! Seek professional psychiatric help.

  35. Maerzie, I getting the distinct impression that what you’re seeing outside your window that’s real is a raw sewage plant! Because it’s obvious you have sewage for brains. Stop trying to debate with cogent adults please, you’re just making yourself a fool.

  36. Renee, NO!! God did NOT create this Earth, I STRONGLY suggest you start watching the SCIENCE Channel to see the FACTS! and TRUTH! about how not only the Earth came into being but the origins of the universe. The IMMUTABLE laws of Physics Preclude and EXCLUDE this creation bullshit!.

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