Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
“At the highest circles, people still don’t get it,” said Brown, during his 40-minute speech at a climate change conference organized by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
“It’s not just a light rinse” that is needed, he added. “We need a total, I might say ‘brainwashing.’”
Brown raised the idea of “brainwashing” during a speech that also recalled the ascetic formation he experienced as a Jesuit seminarian. He suggested that a similarly demanding regime was needed today to root out the greed and consumerism that have helped drive climate change.
“The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. ... It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia,” said Brown, according to the Sacramento Bee’s news report on the Vatican conference. It was one of several stops for Brown, who has challenged President Trump’s response to climate change issues.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, also called for Church leaders and the faithful to take action on climate change. The pontiff has grounded his message in an explicitly Christian vision of life that affirms the dignity and the sanctity of human life, the needs of the poor, and the gift of creation.
Francis made clear that “a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.”
It is “clearly inconsistent” to combat the trafficking of endangered species while remaining indifferent toward the trafficking of persons, to the poor and to the decision of many “to destroy another human being deemed unwanted,” the Pope stated.
Back in California, Brown has embraced a vision of social transformation that contradicts Pope Francis’ teaching. As governor, he has signed legislation that legalized physician-assisted suicide, expanded access to abortion and targeted crisis pregnancy centers.
And while Francis has attacked Western elites for promoting radical gender theories in the developing world, Brown recently signed legislation that added a third gender marker on state birth certificates and drivers’ licenses for residents who don’t identify as male or female.
During his address at the Vatican conference, Brown sought to clothe his agenda on the environment in the language of faith.
“The power here is prophecy,” said the California governor. “The power here is faith, and that’s what this organization is supposed to be about. So, let’s be about it and combine with the technical and the scientific and the political.”
The governor acknowledged that global transformation would not be easy to achieve, and he reflected on his own failure to adopt the disciplinary practices of his Jesuit seminary.
“I can tell I did not achieve perfection. I was not transformed. In fact some of my bad habits, which I will not reveal, are the same as they were … when I came into Jesuit seminary when Pius XII was pope.”
True enough: Brown has not achieved perfection. And perhaps this failure has led him to dismiss the value of his traditional Jesuit formation. And maybe he no longer believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to effect personal change— and by extension—social transformation.
That is surely one way to interpret the governor’s casual reference to the need for “brainwashing.” It is also possible that Brown is simply exasperated with climate change skeptics who continue to question whether mandated changes in human behavior will forestall climate change.
Whatever the provocation, Brown’s brainwashing proposal should raise eyebrows.