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On Corpus Christi, a reminder that Pope Francis's eco-teachings challenge both the right and left

There was cheering two years today when Pope Francis issued Laudato Si’, his long-awaited encyclical on the environment.

But it was two years before that, at a weekly audience one fine June day, when the newly installed pontiff gave his first major address on ecology. His words built on the many eco-teachings of his predecessors and they anticipated his own contributions. He did both with one deceptively simple phrase: “a culture of waste.”

On its surface, the term expresses some basic, well-known realities.

“This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting and throwing out excess foodstuffs,” Francis taught in 2013, “which is especially condemnable when, in every part of the world, unfortunately, many people and families suffer hunger and malnutrition.

“There was a time when our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any left over food. Consumerism has induced us to be accustomed to excess and to the daily waste of food, whose value … we are no longer able to judge correctly.”

But Francis didn’t stop there.

This ‘culture of waste’ tends to become a common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person, are no longer

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Changing the world can be as simple as buying bread

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, which means less blogging. And while there’s much to write about on the national and international front, I have to first tell you about Barbara, and how she helped change the world.

After I gave a talk at a local parish Tuesday on Laudato Si’, a woman came up to ask a few questions. We got to talking about things the average person can do to make big changes. And then, almost as an afterthought, she told me about her regular trips to the bakery, and how she would always bring back the same disposable bread bag that the bakery had wrapped a loaf of bread in many visits earlier.

While she knew it was right to reuse a perfectly good bag, she said she was worried that she’d be seen as “a kook”—that crazy woman who brings her used bag for reuse.

Then one day the young girl at the counter said this: “The owner noticed you bring back the same bag to use again. He said he should have bags made with the bakery name on it and give a discount when people bring it back.”

After all, the baker would...

Speaking hours before President Trump announced a withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accord, Bishop Blaire reflected on the Church’s role in climate, eco issues

As the world waited Thursday morning for President Donald Trump to make his big announcement about the Paris Climate Accord, I had the pleasure of spending time with The Most Rev­erend Stephen E. Blaire, the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Stockton, California. It was a providential time to speak of the Church’s eco teachings, and how faith and politics must work together to address the great crises of our age—especially environmental ones.

This was Bishop Blaire's first visit to Rhode Island. He came to give the keynote address at the College Theology Society's annual conference, which is being held this week at Salve Regina College in Newport—a coastal community already being impacted by rising seas and more common flooding.

Given the events of the past days, I asked him about his thoughts on how the Church might respond if (as he did), President Trump pulls out of Paris.

“We’re going to have to be very forthright in whatever happens today,” Bishop Blaire said. “We’re going to have to reaffirm our values” related to caring for the Earth. “We’re going to have to respond, to demand political action—but we have to rise above politics,” he added.

Bishop Blaire...

Statement issued today in anticipation of the president's stated announcement

With President Donald J. Trump tweeting that he will announce today his decision on the United States' commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following announcement this morning:

In recent weeks, the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB) and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have urged administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, to support U.S. international leadership on climate change.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, has issued the following statement to emphasize the importance of honoring the Paris Agreement in order to "mitigate the worst impacts of climate change" on our planet.

Bishop Cantú's full statement follows:

"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Our Conference of Bishops has vigorously promoted the teaching of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on care for our common home. The Holy Father's encyclical letter, Laudato si', was timed in order to urge the nations of the world to

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A reminder of what the church offers the state, and the world

Last week’s meeting between Donald Trump and Pope Francis was seen by many as a final chance to impress upon the president the urgency of supporting the 2015 Paris Climate Accord—the historic international agreement to lower emissions of carbon dioxide, among other goals. The president has promised to pull out of the deal. The pope wants the US to remain in it.

The way many in the mainstream media were characterizing the meeting, you’d think this was the first time a pope and a president met among disagreement. But it was only three years ago when President Barack Obama made a similar visit to the papal offices—a visit that highlighted grave differences between that administration and Catholic teachings.

After that 2014 trip, the official Vatican statement politely noted that "there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the church... such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life, and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform."

Similarly, after the president’s meeting with Rome’s chief diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson politely said that there was “a good exchange” on “the difficulty of addressing climate change, responses to climate...

Overcoming division helps everyone build their better world

Here’s a question I don’t often hear from my conservative friends: what can we learn from the left?

In an attempt to bring folks together, I posted earlier on ways for the left to work better with the right. Here I want to help the right better understand their brothers and sisters on the left—especially since growing ideological divides are inhibiting Catholic eco-activity. In the process, I'll be offering critiques of both the hard left and hard right. I do so in the spirit of fraternal correction, and, I admit, as my own means to sort through the mess we've found ourselves in.

But first, a few starting points:

I received comments on my post Conversations with Conservatives that I’m using terms that aren’t always precise—left, right, conservative, liberal, etc. That’s true. But for all their limits, we know generally what these conventions mean, and what they don’t, and we can all agree that there’s more to the words and the concepts behind them.

Second, just a few days after my posting, Politico published Matthew Hutson’s stellar piece Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think. Its title is certainly one-sided, but Hutson offers...

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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.