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Pope Francis has made a habit of a light touch with some issues while being specific about others. What can Catholic ecologists learn from his words thus far?

Climate change and abortion. There’s been concern today in a variety of circles about the pope not speaking with specific references to those issues when addressing Congress and the United Nations.

While he made his points without those words, climate advocates (like me) wanted to hear more of the word “climate” while many supporting the front lines against abortion (this would also be me) wanted to hear that word spoken, especially to the many pro-abortion members of Congress.

But the pope choose not to be so specific. What can we take form that?

Like his predecessor, Pope Francis has a way of slipping past people’s defenses to deliver messages that they may not wish to hear. After all, if you can build a relationship based on the things you agree on, it’s easier to talk about the things you don’t.

What Pope Francis wishes to dialogue about and offer all people is the Word entrusted to the Church to proclaim and to live. The pontiff's trust in the Word is profound. He's certain that those who encounter it will see the Person behind it. And then they’ll have to decide what to do next....

The first pontiff to address a joint meeting of the US Congress asked for dialogue and sought to cheer on "the spirit of the American people."

And that’s how history is made: Pope Francis took full advantage of being the first Successor of St. Peter to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress. Championing and challenging all political ideologies, Pope Francis invoked the Golden Rule to urge Americans to protect human life in all stages, aid immigrants and the poor, nurture the good of the biological family, and care for creation.

And he placed all of this at the feet of those listening in the House Chambers and beyond.

“Legislative activity is always based on care for the people,” he said. “To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

Almost four years to the day since Benedict XVI spoke to Germany’s governing body, which was boycotted by the country’s Green Party lawmakers, Pope Francis’s talk drew similar (if smaller) protests from US conservatives—most notably from Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar who boycotted the talk.

“Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses,” the pontiff told the American lawmakers.

“On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive...

Religious freedom, family, and climate change make the pope's inaugural address a guide for the days ahead

Creation and climate change didn’t come first in Pope Francis’s opening address of his inaugural trip to the United States. Religious liberty took that slot. The family was on top, too. But the Holy Father devoted just about half his talk to global warming, which, he said, was “a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”

With the first full day of his apostolic visit—on the Feast of St. Padre Pio—already in the history books, overriding themes were telegraphed by Pope Francis with the precision and diplomatic niceties that always make church-state gatherings a game of chess.

In this case, the Successor of St. Peter began his visit in English (which he speaks infrequently) by urging his hosts—the people and the President of the United States—“to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.”

In opening with this issue, Pope Francis was making it known that he not only was aware that the United State's bishops have in recent years been concerned with the exercise of religious principles. He was agreeing with them. And he couldn’t have been clearer.

“That freedom remains...

With His Holiness landing soon in the USA, you’ll have lots of opportunities to correct the mistakes we’re hearing about the pope, his Church, and the Kingdom to come

If you believe what you read in the papers, Pope Francis will be busy the next few days unraveling Capitalism and rebuking Republicans.

But here in the real world, the visit of Pope Francis to the United States of America will provide nuance, challenges for all, and lots of surprises. To help prepare for the big week, here are four common mistakes people are making and a few pointers for correcting them.

1. The Pope wants to smash Capitalism. Pope Francis has certainly seen and is distressed by the ecological and social damage caused by unbridled business interests (local and foreign) in his home of Argentina. He knows that many of his fellow priests, bishops, cardinals, and friends in the global South have seen much the same. But he’s also seen the damage wrought by corrupt governments—including leftist ones.

Like the Gospel he proclaims, Pope Francis is an equal-opportunity challenger.

Pope Francis’s blame for the destruction of so many places and people is not this or that economic model. Rather it is our fallen human condition. His hope is not in an alternate economic model. It's in Jesus Christ—who can fix anything. The Church wishes to baptize, not...

With #Pray4COP21, the Global Catholic Climate Movement launches bold, first-of-its kind global prayer campaign for December’s COP21 climate talks

Big day today, folks. The Global Catholic Climate Movement (or "GCCM") launched a first-of-its-kind online three-month prayer chain seeking divine guidance for December’s United Nations climate negotiations in Paris.

In an unabashedly Church-meets-State moment, #Pray4COP21 is calling prayer warriors across the globe to do their part to sustain 2,000 hours of non-stop prayer. These global, united prayers seek God’s grace to ennoble the powers of the world that they may forge a strong, ambitious, and fair climate treaty at December’s 21st Conference of Parties Climate Summit.

GCCM co-founder (and our group's humble task-master and leader) Tomás Insua reminds us that “St. Paul says to ‘Pray without ceasing.’ The prayer chain is a concrete and reflective way to bring our spiritual heritage to the urgency of the climate situation and the significance of COP21.”

With #Pray4COP21, GCCM joins Pope Francis in his call to the whole human family to act on the ecological crisis, as well as his calls for moral courage and prudent action from world leaders, in particular at COP21. (After last year’s climate summit in Peru, Pope Francis expressed that he “was disappointed by the lack of courage” of the participants, and his “hope...

Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference reflects on the challenges of sharing and living the words of Pope Francis

After I posted last week on “Natural and Human Ecology: A Panel Discussion on Laudato Si’, Jason Adkins, the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, shared some thoughts about the goal of the gathering and (I believe) how the event can be a model for similar discussions and ongoing actions that can bring Laudato Si’ to life.

The event's overall aim, Adkins said, was to help Catholics and the broader community “encounter the richness of Pope Francis’s encyclical in a deeper way than through what they may have heard in the mainstream media.”

He said that while many may view Laudato Si’ as an encyclical about climate change “or, alternatively, merely an exhortation to use less plastic and turn down the air conditioning,” the encyclical is about much more.

“It is about embracing an ethic of integral ecology that does justice to both persons and the environment,” Adkins told Catholic Ecology.

He added that the length of the encyclical can present a barrier to people receiving its full message and unpacking its themes. “So the Minnesota Catholic Conference and its co-sponsoring organizations (Catholic Rural Life and 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.