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A new report by Oil Change International justifies ways forward to reduce fossil fuel reliance

A new report by the US-based group Oil Change International is fueling discussion not just within technical audiences, but in faith-based ones, too—especially those seeking a cleaner future for those of us alive and those not yet born.

The study, issued in partnership with fourteen organizations from around the world, grounds in science the growing movement to keep carbon “in the ground” by halting all new fossil fuel development and industry expansion.

The Sky’s Limit” report sifts through and researches the impacts of current and planned usage of fossil fuels and compares this to stated international goals to hold back global temperature rises from carbon dioxide emissions. The generally accepted safe average temperature increase is 1.5°C, although some (like me) would like to see it closer to zero. (After all, why should we accept that human activity has any global ecological effects at all? We're smarter than that. And we're called to such virtuous lifestyles.)


The report found that the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal from the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.

Even if you didn't account for...

Our ancient enemy continues to divide and conquer in disputes over how to say Mass, and how, or if, we must protect creation

September 2016

“The weapon the devil has most at the ready for destroying the Church from within is division.”

So said Pope Francis a few weeks ago when speaking to recently ordained bishops serving in missionary territories.

This struck me given that of late I’ve been thinking about such division. As I was busy this summer completing a long-overdue manuscript, issues of disunity within the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church were making headlines.

Take, for instance, comments by the Vatican’s liturgical chief, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who warned against the liturgy being seen as “a human work, a self-celebration of the community” rather than the work of Christ. He also urged the ad orientum posture of the priest at Mass, which means that the celebrant faces the same direction as the people as he prays on our behalf.

After Cardinal Sarah spoke, internet servers across the globe lit up with blinding intensity. In blogs and throughout social media, ideological camps within the Church went to war. Some supported the cardinal’s call for ad orientum posture. Some argued against it. In all, this served only to widen already harmful and scandalous fissures within the Church.

Anyone who...

A training program for wastewater operators may help us understand what Pope Francis is getting at in proposing ecological protection as a work of mercy

The fallout continues over Pope Francis’s call to include environmental protection as a work of mercy—an event I watched from the outside these past weeks as I wrapped up final edits of my novel. I could not help but notice, however, how the pope’s words fueled existing and already highly stressed fissures between the ideological divisions of the Church.

They also intrigued many eco-advocates who like big government that imposes big regulations, perhaps not always for the best reasons.

My friend Carl Olson at Catholic World Report has penned one of the more theologically helpful critiques of including ecological protection as a work of mercy. In general, his point is that the works of mercy, as they have always been understood, are activities that one undertakes to help another individual directly and personally. And I have to admit, I understand Carl’s concerns.

Still, what Pope Francis is saying, it seems to me, is that caring for creation is a work of mercy because every time we protect our life-support systems, we protect human life—as a group and as individuals. And vice versa.

It’s an interesting debate, and one that I'd rather not encourage because the real point in...

The World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation is tomorrow, Thursday, September 1st, and there’s a lot happening

Haven’t heard about the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation? Well, read on, because there’s lots going on as the Christian world focuses on the great garden that God has given us to care for.

First, a little background.

September 1st was proclaimed as a day of prayer for creation (World Day of Prayer for Creation, or Creation Day) by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I for the Orthodox in 1989, and was embraced by the other major Christian European churches in 2001 and by Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015.

Many Christian churches have since started celebrating the “Season of Creation” (also known as Creation Time) between that date and October 4, which is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (author of the Canticle of the Creatures in the 13th century).

The season is meant to give flexibility to celebrate prayer services for creation in alternative dates throughout the month, while engaging in different actions to care for creation throughout the season. Several statements from the past few years have called to observe this month-long Season of Creation, such as those of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines in...

One noted liturgical expert cautions against a new liturgical season to celebrate creation.

A proposal to insert a “Season of Creation” into the liturgical year has many backers that are friends of mine and colleagues. It has a few detractors, too. I’d have to include myself in the latter group, even if I understand the good intentions of the former.

The proposal by Columban Father Charles Rue seeks to add the Season of Creation during an existing period of Ordinary Time not long before the Feast of Christ the King. This new season would rank alongside Advent, Lent, and Easter. (Note that the suggestion for a liturgical season focused on creation differs from the important ecumenical celebration known as the Season of Creation, which begins next Thursday.)

The liturgical proposal makes a few good points. Here’s one:

Some promoters of a Season of Creation argue that Christian communities need to better acknowledge the first article of the creed, God as Creator, and integrate this belief within the History of Salvation.

Amen. It is true that many Catholic don’t quite see the connection between the opening of the Creed(s) and their often eco-damaging lifestyles. But then the proposal says this:

The current liturgy has many prayers that

In announcing the new head of two Vatican bodies dedicated to life and the family, the Holy Father continues the work of his predecessors

In announcing yesterday that Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia would head up the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis stressed the need for life ministries to adopt a “human ecology,” which is a term coined by Saint John Paul II and carried forward and deepened by Benedict XVI.

The single appointment that joins the two bodies was meant to bring a common voice to their missions. The particular person of Archbishop Paglia was seen by many as a sign that Pope Francis wants that voice to stress the mercy side of the mercy-justice DNA of Catholic teachings.

The pontiff made that clear in his public announcement. According to the Catholic news site Crux, Pope Francis directed Archbishop Paglia to stress and nurture the following:

  • “Care for the dignity of the human person in different ages of existence.”
  • “Reciprocal respect between the sexes and among the generations.”
  • “Defense of the dignity of every single human being.”
  • “Promotion of the quality of human life that integrates material and spiritual values.”
  • An “authentic human ecology,” which can help restore “the original balance of creation between the
  • ...


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Pope Francis's Message for World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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.