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What science and our Catholic faith have to teach us about more fruitful conversations

At a time with more access to information than any other in history, division about what is and is not true is only growing.

This has been a longtime reality for those of us engaged in climate education and advocacy. What should be a straightforward assessment of facts is often anything but. Camps arise—usually along predictable, political binary positions—which leads to heated tempers and strained relationships.

But why? How can our evolved minds, now with so much access to so much data, be so divided—so much so as to create absolutely divergent versions of reality?

Adrian Bardon, a professor at Wake Forest University, tackles these questions in his book The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics, and Religion' (Oxford Univ. Press 2020), as well as in this 2020 article in The Conversation, in which he writes,

In theory, resolving factual disputes should be relatively easy: Just present strong evidence, or evidence of a strong expert consensus. This approach succeeds most of the time, when the issue is, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen.

But things don’t work that way when scientific advice presents a picture that threatens someone’s perceived interests

Today is Parashat Bereishit for the Jewish people, a day which begins the annual reading of the Torah.

Today, with the reading of the opening of the Book of Genesis—from creation to the story of Noah—the Jewish people observe Parashat Beishit, which begins the annual reading of the Torah. Last week, the day of the gruesome attacks on the Israeli people by Hamas, was Simkhat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which was the end of the previous cycle—a day traditionally celebrated with family and friends.

Meanwhile, throughout October, Catholics are gathering across the world, often weekly, to pray the Rosary. This October Devotion often includes Eucharistic adoration and the recitation of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Both traditions are not only comforting. They also offer lessons and reminders about our fallen world—a world still reeling from images and stories of Hamas’s brutality against infants, children, the elderly, the infirm, and now a world at war, with all the carnage that goes with it.

The backdrop of all this, of course, is a host of ecological crises, from climate change to deforestation, which can easily be overlooked in such times.

But what connects and informs both the wars of the world and our environmental ills are the texts that Jews across...

Review and analysis of Pope Francis's Laudate Deum

The following summary of Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation on Climate Change was written by W.L. Patenaude's of Catholic Ecology for Catholic World Report.

The 2015 release of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ surprised and often disappointed a good many who had been anticipating a papal document devoted to climate change.

Laudato Si’, it turned out, was something more. Offering only several paragraphs to the issue—along with rebukes of the secular environmental movement, with its often anti-human mentalities—the encyclical gave a comprehensive overview of multiple, often related ecological and social issues, all in the context of a Catholic understanding of faith and the fallen human person. While prudential matters were examined and political solutions offered, the ultimate answer at the heart of Laudato Si’ was humanity’s right relationship with each other, with creation, and with the Triune God.

With the release today of a less formal apostolic exhortation, Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), a decisive statement by the Successor of Saint Peter about climate change has been given, but once again, this document—while titled and focused “on the Climate Crisis”—is something more.

Exhortations, critiques, and hope

The urgency running through Laudato Si’ to address ecological issues is certainly amplified in this latest...

Missio Dei examines herbalism and its long use by people of faith

"In truth, not only is Herbal Medicine compatible with Christianity, but it was the Christian monks, nuns and priests of the Catholic Church who preserved the herbal knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome."

A must-read essay by Judson Carroll in Missio Dei tackles not just the subject of herbalism but in doing so it calls attention to an oft-forgotten reality about the Church: It was Catholic religious orders that preserved much of what had preceded them. Too often, the Church is seen as the undoer of ancient knowledge, when in fact quite the opposite is true.

It was (and is) the Catholic love of nature—of all the gifts God offers us in His created order—that allowed it to seek and find in nature the very substances that heal and bind.

For Catholic Ecologists, this is something not just to remember, but also to champion.

Read Carroll's full essay here.

Photo: Flickr/Hornbeam Art: Herbs

Thoughts a year later on grief and life

The truth is, sometimes, in this fallen world, healing is tough. And sometimes, we never again become the people we once were. Anyone suffering through the depths of profound grief will know this. But, as with all shadows in this fallen world, we can learn from our losses and, with God’s grace, grow into someone better.

The last time I posted at Catholic Ecology was one year ago today. Since then, my mom’s Parkinson’s had advanced quickly and my care for her became a twenty-four-hour, everyday vocation, until her last breaths on the first day of Autumn.

I had kept my mom at home, with me, throughout the decade or so when that insidious disease first began to slow down an athletic, joyful, loving woman.

The toll of it all—her physical suffering and loss of independence, her dementia, her hallucinations, all exacerbated by a pandemic’s lockdown, and then her death—has been greater than I could have anticipated. Grief, and all the depression and exhaustion that comes with it, not to mention the post-traumatic numbness that comes after pouring oneself into the job of caring for a loved one, has taken its toll—even if colleagues and acquaintances may think otherwise.


The six-year-old GCCM today announced not just a new name but deeper changes in mission, values

As one of the original founders of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, I was delighted to hear some weeks ago about what’s being announced today: That the Global Catholic Climate Movement, born in 2015 and later inspired by the publication of Pope Francis’s masterful eco-encyclical Laudato Si', was about to take a critical and natural step in its growth.

A Catholic movement made up of more than 800 organizations and thousands of Laudato Si’ Animators around the world, the GCCM spent 2020—the fifth anniversary of its founding—not just in lockdown because of COVID-19, but in the beginnings of a major discernment process about its identity, mission, name, and structures. According to the organization, the process developed in a synodal spirit, involving its members through several rounds of consultations.

One of the most important changes of this process has been the organization’s new mission statement: "To inspire and mobilize the Catholic community to care for our common home and to achieve climate and ecological justice.”

"It is important to note that the mission is being broadened to include the concept of ecological justice, based on the spirit of Laudato Si', where ‘everything is interconnected,’” said Dr. Lorna...


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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.