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"An economic system centered on the god of money also needs to plunder nature, to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it". + Pope Francis, October 28, 2014

People in the United States will be sending one million extra tons of garbage to landfills in the next few weeks—a 25% increase. This annual spike will occur to varying degrees elsewhere on the globe thanks to holiday consumption. And the Holy Father is not happy about it.

While Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI spoke often of the need for new lifestyles to keep the planet neat, tidy, and livable for all, few paid much attention to their eco-comments. But people are listening to Pope Francis—especially from the mainstream media.

And so there is a question for Catholics this Christmas: how can we leverage this attention? How can Catholics put into practice what Pope Francis is shouting from the rooftops of the Vatican?

Reducing our Christmas consumption is something many talk about every year. But with the Francis effect continuing to tug at the hearts of copy editors, lapsed Catholics, and others, perhaps we should be as dramatic as our Holy Father this...

The following remarks by Dr. Christopher J. Thompson, Academic Dean of the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, not only help us understand the needs of farmers and the role of the Church in agriculture. They more generally demonstrate how the Catholic faith and its intellectual tradition enters into worldly topics to challenge us all—in any vocation—to respect human life and build up the common good.

Thanks to Dr. Thompson for permission to republish his presentation, which he gave last week at the Faith, Food, and the Environment symposium.

On a personal note, it was a pleasure to meet Dr. Thompson in person after we had both been interviewed last year for a feature story on the Church and ecology for Catholic World Report. And as a small aside: during the symposium I struck up a conversation with a seminarian studying at St. Paul's. When he learned I was interested in ecology, he immediately (and without prompting) sang the praises of Dr. Thompson. You know a scholar is both knowledgeable and dedicated to their vocation when students have that much enthusiasm when speaking about them.

“The Person...

It could very well be that as you read this sentence more people are talking about Pope Francis’s planned eco-encyclical than are discussing his first one on faith—or for that matter his first apostolic exhortation, or any encyclical issued by any pope. And that has some at the Vatican concerned.

Given that so many people are wondering what the pontiff will say about the environment and when he will say it, I was thankful to be granted a few moments to speak with Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J., assistant to Peter Cardinal Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. This council is involved not just with assembling material for the encyclical but also insuring that it lives on in the life of the Church.

The timing

Most questions I get are about when the encyclical will be issued. (We Catholic ecologists are an impatient lot, are we not?) Of course, Fr. Czerny wasn’t able to say. But he did confirm some of what we’ve been hearing elsewhere: the encyclical is well under development and we should expect a release sometime in 2015.

But when exactly? Dates I am watching are April 22nd (Earth Day), July...

To understand the second day of the Faith, Food, and the Environment Symposium, one must consider that it was a Thursday, the day traditionally reserved for the Luminous Mysteries when reciting the Rosary.

This is important because—while unscripted and not noted during the event—each of those mysteries in some way illuminate what happened during these past hours and days.

The Baptism of the Lord

The symposium has been referred to in this blog and elsewhere as “Faith, Food, and the Environment.” But it has a subtitle: “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader.”

Its intent has been to hear from an array of voices related to agriculture, to ask tough questions and ponder tougher answers. The results of this dialog will be used in an international symposium on the same subject in 2015 in Milan, Italy.

The goal of all this is to compile a document on the vocation of the agricultural leader, one similar to the recently issued document by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, “The Vocation of the Business Leader.”

Central to the conversations these past few days has been what it means to be a person of faith who makes a living...

A scheduled public talk by Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was delivered this evening by Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J., as part of the Faith, Food, and the Environment symposium, which began today and concludes Friday at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.

As noted in a previous post, Cardinal Turkson was summoned by Pope Francis to help the Church focus its attention on the needs of West Africa as it suffers through the latest outbreaks of Ebola.

The prepared comments were offered by Fr. Czerny with his own commentary that connected the comments with the day's discussions, which centered on the application to agriculture of the council's work on the vocation of a business leader.

Some 200 members of the public joined the seventy participants of the symposium.

Symposium on Faith, Food and Environment

St. Paul, Minnesota

5 November 2014

Faith and the Call for a Human Ecology:

The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader

On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and of its President Cardinal Peter Turkson[1], I thank...

You know a conversation is going somewhere good when people are saying the same things from the start. And you know a conference on faith, food, and the environment is going great places when from the beginning farmers, theologians, businessmen, and a Vatican official are all stressing the same points.

From the opening by Catholic Rural Life director Jim Ennis to the keynote comments by Father Michael Czerny, S.J, the Chief of Staff to the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the opening speakers at "Faith, Food, and the Environment" have made it clear: we must all “honor and respect the vocation of food growers.” And for Catholics, this “must” is elevated by the divinely ordained dictate to respect human dignity—and the dignity of all creation.

Thus the Church does not merely seek to accompany those in the agricultural sector; she is doing just that. She "walks at your side," as Pope Francis has said.

And there are many reasons to do this.

Fr. Czerny underscored the reasons by exploring “For I Was Hungry & You Gave Me Food, Catholic Reflections on Food, Farming, and Farmworkers,” a 2003 document by the United States bishops



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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.