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Four reasons why the current Successor of Saint Peter, like his predecessor, cannot be constrained by ideological worldviews

Five years ago today, we in the Church and the world met our new Vicar of Christ. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected as the Successor of Saint Peter, succeeding Benedict XVI, who had abdicated his authority because of age and health, and as a historic teaching opportunity about the pontificate.

Cardinal Bergoglio took the name Francis and immediately began shaking things up—(mostly) delighting the ideological left and (often) frustrating the right.

But when you look clearly at Pope Francis’s place in the life of the Church, you see something ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum are missing: an “interior continuity” with his predecessor, as noted recently by that predecessor himself.

In May 2013, just a few months after Pope Francis took to the Chair of Saint Peter, I had written for Catholic World Report about this continuity because even then there were signs of growing division within in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Satan, no doubt, was using recent events to confuse the faithful, as well as to instill fear into some and pride into others—the sin of despair and the sin of presumption—and I felt it necessary...

Another mass shooting in the US demonstrates a cultural acceptance of power and violence in the name of individual choice

With another seventeen tragic deaths in an American small town—victims of another school shooting—we’re hearing the usual debates about gun ownership, security, and protecting the vulnerable. Through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, however, most especially Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical Laudato Si’, and those of his two immediate predecessors, the bloodshed in Parkland, Florida is connected to other forms of violence that, to name only a few, justifies the killing of the innocent, such as the unborn; the disposal of the elderly; the mistreatment of the alien; and the destruction of the environment. Sadly, such an integrated Catholic view is not welcome in popular discourse.

Instead, we are debating if and how government should control weapons, often ignoring that government plays a limited role in controlling free will. Both sides of the gun debate bring helpful ideas, but, as usual, both are prone to dismissing their opponents’ points. Here in the States, ideologues have made an art out of the inability to hear an opposing view, let alone adjusting one’s opinion based on it.

And so, polarization widens, and our ancient enemy relishes the consequences.

One of these consequences is the inability to process nuanced and holistic...

The world and the planet need sacrificial love, which is why Ash Wednesday beats out Valentine's Day

This year’s convergence of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday offers lessons about that long sought after four-letter word love.

On the one hand, Valentine’s Day—a commercialized feast in memory of a mysterious Christian martyr—is a day devoted to chocolates, flowers, and the romantic love shared by couples.

Ash Wednesday is the Christian entrance into Lent—a season of forty days devoted to prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving, all meant as spiritual preparation for Holy Week, which concludes with Good Friday and Easter. Ash Wednesday begins all this with a day of fasting, self-denial, and repentance.

Given the choice, chocolate and champagne sound more appealing. But for those of us in the Catholic Church, along with many other Christians, Ash Wednesday will take precedence this year. This is not because Christianity seeks to avoid human love. Quite the opposite. We seek to explore its depths and celebrate its ultimate, communal, and glorious end.

To begin understanding what that means, we first have to admit that English is a lousy language when it comes to love. It offers only one word to describe our relationship with and desire for things like pizza, the Patriots, the people in our lives, and God. We may...

Catholic eco-advocates should be raising our voices in condemnation of the US Senate's vote in favor of late-term abortions

The United States Senate failed on Monday to pass an act that would protect unborn children over twenty weeks old. Catholics across the nation were quick to denounce the Senate vote. In his statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities called the Senate's failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act "appalling." The question now is, will Catholic eco-advocates add their voice to the outrage?

Given the speed with which so many eco-centered Catholic advocacy groups rightfully post on social media and email their base about the administration’s assault on environmental protections and the Paris Climate Accord, it would be appropriate now to make noise about the Senate’s disregard for innocent human life.

Here’s why:

First: Pope Francis has been clear on the “integral” nature of abortion and ecology. So have his predecessors. If we are to be credible champions of Laudato Si’, then we must be equal-opportunity advocates for all issues that protect life.

Second: Standing alongside our brothers and sisters on the front lines of the abortion wars will go a long way to heal ugly and growing divides within...

Applications are being accepted for the Laudato Si’ Animators program, which helps individuals change the world one community at the time

If you watched Pope Francis in South America, you know the importance of bringing the gospel of life to every corner of the world. You saw the consequences—the joy and the inspiration it brought.

Right now, the Global Catholic Climate Movement is offering the opportunity for you to bring Laudato Si’ to your community—and they’ll give you all the tools and resources you need.

Don’t think you have the background to be an eco-missionary? Think again. The Laudato Si’ Animators program teaches participants about the science of climate change and some of its solutions, what the Church affirms and teaches about care for creation and, most importantly, how to put this knowledge into practice to solve the climate crisis.

To date, Laudato Si’ Animators have led anti-fracking protests, started care for creation groups, hosted community carbon-reduction training, and more. With all this activity, the GCCM considers their Animators to be “the heart and hands protecting our common home in communities around the world.”

You can apply now for the program, which will offer participants the following:

  • three training webinars
  • follow-up webinars and hands-on help to plan your community outreach
  • a final project for Earth
  • ...
The Holy Father’s address to Vatican diplomats integrates global challenges, and thus challenges both the world and political ideologues

In the latest annual New Year's address by the reigning pontiff to the Corps of Diplomats Accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis offered a stunning example of the integral nature of Church teachings, founded on the eternal truths of the gospel. With something to please and unsettle everyone, the talk covered a wide array of ills—from nuclear armaments to human trafficking, to climate change and ecological protection—and he connected all their solutions to the fundamental need to love thy neighbor.

In a classic example of “new evangelization,” the pontiff consistently links the 1948 document from the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with Church teachings, most especially with the 1963 encyclical by Saint John XXIII, Pacem in Terris—an earlier papal plea, in part, against nuclear warfare.

Building on the UN language on human rights, Pope Francis both applauds and criticizes how the contemporary understanding of rights—including “new rights”—is often at the root of so many contemporary social and political crises. He also strongly championed the right to religious freedom, as well as criticized international pressures to bring artificial contraception and gender ideology to those cultures that do not wish it.



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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.