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There’s a reminder in Laudato Si’ that we must keep front and center this Earth Day and every day

There will be lots of Earth Day events and lots of words written about them. One of the most significant happenings is the signing by a great many faith representatives of the Interfaith Climate Statement to World Leaders. The goal of this show of unity is to keep civil leaders moving forward on the promises made at COP21.

From this international blockbuster of an event to the many local trash cleanups and rallies, talks and prayer services around the world, there is a common theme that must be acknowledged and amplified. This theme was presented in pithy form by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’, and I suggest we keep it front in center in our work.

We know that a lot has happened since Earth Day 2015. Think about it. In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the issuance of Laudato Si’. In that year many have carried its message forward on college campuses, in businesses, in parishes, and in daily life. This culminated in Paris at COP21, where the voice of the Church and of all faiths helped push those talks further than they have gone in two decades. In all,...

NASA scientist and Catholic Climate Covenant ambassador Anthony Strawa knows why we should be concerned about climate change, and why we have hope

He’s an atmospheric scientist and director of the New Opportunities Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center. He served some thirteen years heading up NASA’s Aerosol and Microphysics Group and is a past associate editor of the Journal of Aerosol Science.

He is also the chair of the Diocese of San Jose’s Catholic Green Initiative and a Climate Ambassador for the US-based Catholic Climate Covenant.

Suffice it to say, Anthony Strawa knows what happens to planet Earth when pollution—particularly particulates—fouls our atmosphere, especially as a result of burning of fossil fuels. He also knows what this means for people of faith—especially for his brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church.

Anthony Strawa

“I felt for a long time that this is really a moral issue,” Strawa told Catholic Ecology last week. “For some time when I talked about climate change, I did so from mostly a scientific perspective, and did not get the response I hoped. But when I started talking about it as more of a theological or moral issue, I seemed to have connected a little more with folks.”

Strawa said that the language of...

Pope Francis’s just released apostolic exhortation on the family has much in common with last year’s eco-encyclical

Pope Francis’s long-awaited and beautifully written apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, or “The Joy of Love,” has some desperately looking for a disavowal of Catholic moral teachings on marriage and sexuality while others are rightly stressing that there is no such disavowal. What many seem to be missing in the midst of all this is the link between Amoris Laetitia and the 2015 blockbuster eco-encyclical Laudato Si’.

This link is the frank admission that a good many of our eco-problems and our social and personal ones are of our own making—and that they are rooted in the same human weaknesses. The good news is that the ways beyond all these struggles are united, too.

Here, from Amoris Laetitia, is a rather important and somewhat overlooked passage:

We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye. Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs. Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set.

...
The past few months offer hints about how Rome will continue hammering home the wisdom of the eco-encyclical

With Holy Week and international crises—from terrorism to the care for emigrants—taking center stage these past weeks in the life of the Church, there is nonetheless a quiet ramp up to the one-year anniversary of the issuance of Laudato Si’. For clues about what’s in store these next few weeks, we need only look back at the first three months of 2016—especially to the whirlwind of activity by Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson and others who have been largely responsible for maintaining the momentum of the Holy Father’s eco-encyclical.

Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has spoken this past year especially to audiences in North America—a region of the world with an abundance of wealth, resources, and appetites. While the ongoing presence in the Global North of a cardinal from the Global South is telling in itself, what he’s been saying has gotten the attention of many.

“Cardinal Turkson’s continuing to promote Laudato Si’ in the United States is truly a gift,” Dr. Jame Schaefer told Catholic Ecology last month. Schaefer, of Marquette University, has been on the front lines this past year in helping unpack the Church's eco-teachings.

“As someone who...

As we approach Holy Week, a critique and caution for Catholic ecologists

March 2016

A woman from another state called last week concerned that her bishop wasn’t supporting an interfaith environmental statement. She had read about November’s Laudato Si’ event hosted by Bishop Tobin here in Providence and wanted her bishop to do likewise.

Similar concerns have been expressed to me this past year from across the nation. Eco-minded Catholics are eager to have their pastors and bishops engage environmental protection head on through any number of secular activities.

While they have a point, we seem to be forgetting that the best thing priests and bishops can do to protect life on Earth is to focus on the liturgy.

The Mass and all the sacraments are, by their nature, intersections between God’s grace, the created order, and the human heart. Benedict XVI put it this way: “The relationship between the Eucharist and the cosmos helps us to see the unity of God’s plan and to grasp the profound relationship between creation and the ‘new creation’ inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, the new Adam.”

Political rallies and special eco-events are often necessary. But we are better served when priests and bishops focus on providing stirring celebrations of the sacraments. I...

Lot's going on here at Catholic Ecology!

Thanks to you all who've emailed to ask how things are going at Catholic Ecology.

Yes, there's been some lulls in posting (due to Lent, a big writing project, and ongoing family demands). But there's lots planned for the coming weeks as the Church's engagement of the eco-world continues. (In fact, stay tuned for my March column being released today.)

For now, may God bless you all and may St. Patrick pray for all of us seeking to keep the world green.

Thanks again, and stay tuned!

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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.