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Protecting life and the planet means following laws that we may not like

A big part of my job is saying ‘no.’ No, you can’t sit for the Grade Four exam. No, you can't be a superintendent with your current license. No, you cannot cut costs by ignoring your discharge permit.

As we hear often in catechetical and apologetic circles, saying ‘no’ is usually just a way to say ‘yes’ to something else. God gave a pretty clear ‘no’ to Adam and Eve in order to protect them—to keep them alive. But hearing ‘no’—even if framed as a ‘yes’—isn’t easy. Especially in cultures like mine where everyone seems to have been raised expecting that they'll always get their way.

This gets us to the big news today: President Trump’s reinstatement of a ban on transgendered people from military service. The announcement resulted in the usual explosive fury from the left, which was then magnified by mainstream and social media. (Which is why I’ll be refraining from checking my Facebook news feed until the weekend.)

Criticisms of the administration’s decision were to be expected, of course, but not for reasons that have to do with facts. Expressing some variant of the word ‘no’ was enough to send many into a tizzy.

This got me...

Noted theologian Erin Lothes gives us much to ponder about this Sunday's readings

Dr. Erin Lothes, a theologian at the College of Saint Elizabeth, stepped in front of the camera recently to reflect on the readings of the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Anyone familiar with Dr. Lothes' work on ecology and energy won't be surprised that she ponders these readings in light of the eco-issues of our age—and she asks the same of us.

The venue is the online Catholic Women Preach, which hosts women from diverse backgrounds to share their unique voices with the world.

And now, with no further interruption...

When the Vicar of Christ supports a world-saving cause, you might want to pay attention—and join in.

My colleagues at the Global Catholic Climate Movement sent word today that none other than Pope Francis is supporting our campaign for one million people to take the Laudato Si’ Pledge. The pontiff even agreed to release a photo of him with the pledge.

Named after Francis’s 2015 game-changing eco-encyclical, the Laudato Si’ Pledge seeks to encourage the faithful, and all those of good will, to elevate his words into both spiritual and worldly realms.

I was speaking with GCCM Executive Director Tomás Insua today on another matter when I asked him about the pledge and the pontiff’s endorsement.

The always energetic Insua became even more so.

“We’re delighted that Pope Francis endorsed the campaign,” he said. “It’s made us more committed to bringing his words in Laudato Si’ to life. We [the GCCM team] are definitely fired up to mobilize for even greater things ahead.”

To help carry out the pledge, the GCCM already offers a handy, free guide to living more simply and with creation in mind, as well as resources for prayer and liturgies, and, as always, advocacy....

A reminder that Catholics bring something (and Someone) special to eco-advocacy

As the slow days of summer roll along here in North America—and as multiple writing and eco projects take my time—I’ve been thinking about a criticism made to me a few months back.

The comment came from a member of a Laudato Si’ reading group. She was concerned with the title of both this blog and my column for the Rhode Island Catholic. “There’s just ecology,” she told me, concerned with the word “Catholic” as a modifier.

Mind you, we were at a Catholic parish.

This comment underscored an observation. There does seem to be a tendency of late for Catholics to see their eco-advocacy efforts as purely a worldly endeavor, one that differs little from secular efforts. As someone who had left the Church for two decades, and works squarely in the secular world, I know that this is not the case.

Our faith really does illuminate and elevate our activities in ways that we cannot and must not ignore. In fact, three realities about our faith are vital to the eco-tasks at hand.

Here’s why:

Catholic ecology is Revelatory

We champion the goodness and order of creation in large part because God has revealed these truths to us....

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

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...


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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.