When it comes to truly yawn-inducing headlines, "Pope Condemns Gay Marriage" is right up there with "Dog Bites Man", "Gavin Lambe Murphy Yaps About Drugs" and "Sinead O'Connor Pregnant Again". But even Pope Benedict has outdone himself with his latest message, issued for New Year, in which he describes same-sex unions as no less than a threat to world peace.
It's a convoluted argument, which involves accepting the nuclear family as the "primary agency for peace" in the world, an intellectual manouevre which does make one wonder if these people ever had to spend Christmas with their own families. Primary agencies of peace indeed.
Quite the opposite, most might say at this time of year.
It's a shame Pope Benedict had to overegg the pudding in this way, because, as former members of the Hitler Youth go, Joseph Alois Ratzinger hasn't turned out to be such a bad old Pontiff. So asking us to accept that gay marriage leads directly to global discord can only undermine other sensible elements of his message, such as his timely warning that those who campaign about global warming are often "scaremongers".
Look who's talking.
Ireland's newest Cardinal, Archbishop Sean Brady, obviously wasn't listening to that part of the Pontiff's message anyway. In his own seasonal message, he was predictably calling on us all to "alter our behaviour to the environment as a matter of urgency". And I say predictably because the evils of global warming and mankind's part in it are now so widely taken as articles of faith by many otherwise intelligent people that they make your average member of the Legion of Mary look like a nit-picking sceptic by comparison.
Sean Brady wasn't alone in his green evangelising either. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently went to the Indonesian climate change conference to call for a new "moral vision" to deal with the issue. He and other archbishops in Sweden and Germany also jointly signed a letter warning that "the conditions for life on Earth are not secure" and that urgent action was needed to bring down the world's temperature.
That the Church would leap on to the environmental bandwagon was probably inevitable. Apocalypse was always their business. The green credo also encompasses many of the themes which they hold most dear: the
notion that mankind is sinful and must be punished for it, not least. Instead of being expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the story now is that man is being expelled from the caring bosom of Mother Earth because he's used that knowledge to build too many cars and aeroplanes.
How ironic then that Brady's pious homily about the planet should have been delivered just as his boss was urging world leaders to base their global warming policies on science rather than the doom-laden prophecies of climate change fanatics (ironic as this plea to science undoubtedly is from the head of an organisation which still thinks the rhythm method is the best form of birth control), and just as the US Senate environment committee minority report was publishing the names of 400 prominent scientists who are sceptical about the alleged "consensus" on the issue.
Climatologists, oceanographers, metereologists, glaciologists, geologists: the numbers are growing fast of those who believe that global warming is either a cyclical and normal variation in the planet's state, or primarily caused not by human activity but other factors such as solar flares and radiation; or those who, while accepting that a problem exists, do not believe that cutting C02 emissions will make the slightest difference.
You have to feel sorry for the men in the dog collars. It's like the old joke about how American foreign policy was based on the desire, having been late for the first two World Wars, to be bang on time for the next one.
There's something of that flavour about the Church's attitude to science. Having turned their backs at the time on most of the scientific advances of the last couple of millennia (you know, evolution, the earth not being the centre of the universe, that sort of thing), it's almost as if they are now trying to overcompensate by falling hook, line and sinker for everything certain scientists tell them about global warming.
In the process, they're colluding in the shameful silencing and marginalisation of those who now speak out against the consensus on global warming, so if it turns out the sceptics were, like Copernicus, right all along, it will be history repeating itself.
It's a strange thing, though. Visions of the future were always evenly divided between shiny utopias and grim dystopias, but there was an underlying acceptance nonetheless, that mankind would keep on coming up with new and marvellous ways of interacting with the world. There'd be vitamin pills replacing three-course meals, and colonies on neighbouring planets and warp drives that allowed the Starship Enterprise to cross galaxies in the blink of an eye, and labour-saving (literally) Orgasmatrons in every household.
It was a reasonable assumption to make as well. In a few thousand years, man had gone from living in caves and eating raw meat to inventing computers and dialysis machines and telescopes that could see the far reaches of space. Why would the future not hold more of the same?
Thanks to the doom-mongering of environmentalists, however, we now seem unable to imagine the future as anything other than famine, disease, war, ecological disaster.
It's as if all our faith in human ingenuity has withered in the face of a few melting icebergs. Every problem mankind ever encountered, it found an answer for. That's why we live longer and better than any of the countless generations who came before us. But the green Cassandras have us all convinced that our descendants will be back in the caves munching on raw thigh bones before Al Gore can say, "I told you so."
If there's one wish for 2008, it should be that we all lighten up and have more optimism about mankind's continued ability to solve problems and make life better.
Capitalism and liberal democracy are highly unlikely to collapse under the threat from the climate, whatever the environmentalists predict, any more than they collapsed under the weight of their own contradictions, as the ecologists' Communist predecessors in the doom-mongering stakes predicted with equal passion and conviction.
We should always beware any group of ideologues who cry woe with such an oddly self-satisfied expression on their freedom-phobic, progress-hating faces. Honestly, you'd almost think they wanted it to happen just to be proved right. As if, eh?