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The quest for clues about the eco-encyclical continues.

Complicating this task, however, are all the filters of secular commentators and journalists who—let’s face it—don’t often seem to appreciate the nature of the Church.

And while it may seem that the pope hasn’t said much about the natural environment recently—what with the Synod on the Family using up most of the oxygen in Rome and the world's crises taking up the rest—occasional signals have come to us about Pope Francis’s thoughts on the relationship between humanity and ecology.

First, the names of those helping to draft the encyclical tell us something.

One is Peter Cardinal Turkson of Ghana, who is well known for his eco-passion and his evenhanded view of nature as a gift to be protected and also to be used for the common good. (Cardinal Turkson will be speaking next week at the Food, Faith, & the Environment forum in St. Paul, MN. I’ll be attending and blogging from the event, so stay tuned for more. But as a preview, Cardinal Turkson’s public talk is titled “Faith and the Call for a Human Ecology.”)

As for what the Holy Father has been saying, we get a...

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We conclude our interview with Dr. David Cloutier with a look at the laws of nature, the natural law, and what all this has to do with life at The Common Market food coop, where he serves on the Board of Directors.


CE: In the Communio essay we were discussing, you wrote that “Benedict is clearly signaling the desire to move … to a more holistic, more traditional understanding of natural law in a cosmological sense.” And so when Benedict XVI connects traditional life issues and the environment he was, in part, trying to connect the Natural Law with nature’s laws. Can you say a little more about that?

Dr. Cloutier: Yes—understanding natural law in a cosmological sense. The concept of Natural Law is not a concept of modern scientific regularity, though we are apt to confuse the two. Natural Law suggests that there is some kind of built-in purpose or end to things. Now, most defenders of Natural Law want to insist that most importantly the Natural Law says that there are built-in ends for persons—which is true, obviously.

But what Pope Benedict was trying...

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The interview with Dr. David Cloutier continues. In it are more insights into his new book Walking God's Earth as well as a decisive essay comparing Benedict XVI with Wendell Berry. Yes, B16 and Berry. (It turns out that both are concerned with people's consumption of the planet and of each other.)


CE: In a perfect world, how would a parish use Walking God’s Earth? What sort of questions or discussions would you like to see take place?

Dr. Cloutier: Great question. There are two main things that I’d like to see. One, I would like to see parish communities start developing a shared commitment to these issues rather than simply thinking about them in terms of isolated individual actions. The shared witness of the community are very important on these issues.

Many of the things that the Church has done well are things that the Church does communally. That’s to say that are organizations within the parish—there is a kind of activity in the entire parish—that orients the entire parish to a certain way of living.

For instance, most parishes have numerous ways in...

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It’s a delight to have one of my favorite contemporary theologians and authors offer his thoughts on faith, nature, relationships, and much more.

Dr. David Cloutier is a professor of theology at Mount St. Mary's University. He teaches moral theology, Catholic social ethics, and marriage and sexual ethics. A prolific writer, he is the author of Love, Reason, and God’s Story: An Introduction to Catholic Sexual Ethics (2008), and editor of the collection Leaving and Coming Home: New Wineskins for Catholic Sexual Ethics (2010).

One of his most important essays—“Working with the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision” (Communio, Winter 2010)—will be discussed in Part 2 of this interview. For now we begin with his latest book, Walking God’s Earth: The Environment and Catholic Faith (Liturgical Press).


Catholic Ecology: I’ve ordered your new book but it’s sold out! A good sign, I take it. From what I’ve seen online, its organization seems to follow that of salvation history. Starting with Chapter One, “Beauty,” then “Losing our Place,” (which seem like ways of approaching Genesis’s account of...

Two politicians and a sociology professor walk into a church. No, seriously. Thanks to Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light, a sitting U.S. senator known for his bold stance on climate change, a state legislator that led the charge for groundbreaking climate legislation, and a renowned sociology and environmental studies researcher joined forces to encourage action in a time that desperately needs it.

“Interfaith Action on Climate Change,” held Wednesday at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Providence, did more than disseminate information and encourage networking. It demonstrated the unitive nature of protecting nature.

Dozens of citizens from various faith communities and a wide array of ages, backgrounds, and professional affiliations had for that morning one common interest: working together to respond to the causes and effects of climate change on their beloved Ocean State—which has as its state motto the simple word “Hope.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke with his usual eloquence and force about the science and politics of climate change. He graciously noted the difficulty of many of his colleagues of the opposite party. Many Republicans, he said, were afraid to come out in support of climate-change legislation because of “powerful interests” that seek to...

May I, for a moment, call your attention away from the Synod on the Family? Don't worry, I will be mentioning it below. For now I’d like to suggest that Catholic ecologists pay attention to Pope Francis’s recent warnings about the intentions of Satan. Yes, Satan.

If you haven’t already heard, the pontiff has a history of calling out our ancient enemy and he’s been doing it often these past few weeks.

In his homily last Friday, the Holy Father said that “we know—Jesus says clearly—that the devil always returns. Even at the end of life, he, Jesus, gives us an example of this.” Last month, on the Feast of the Archangels, he preached that Satan “presents things as if they were good, but his intention is destruction.”

So, you might ask, why all this talk of the demonic?

My guess is for two reasons: First, against the perception of many in the Catholic and mainstream media, Pope Francis is a pious, old-school cleric who actually believes in things like angels—the faithful and the fallen—and how they interact with the material world.

Secondly, the Holy Father holds the Chair of St. Peter in some of the...

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.

The final day of the Vatican Sustainability Conference