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A forthcoming Church-backed letter to Brazilian leaders signals growing ecclesial pressure to protect the Amazon

Catholic institutions the world over have an opportunity to unite in demanding that the Brazilian government abandon existing policies that are destroying the life-giving Amazon rainforest.

A unique coalition led by the Episcopal Commission for Integral Ecology and Mining of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, and Bank für Kirche und Caritas, a German-based Catholic financial institution, has drafted and will send a somewhat scathing letter to Brazilian government officials, including President Bolsonaro and the nation’s vice president.

“[T]he Amazon is not only our ‘common lung’ of humanity, but also, in very concrete terms, home to a large number of indigenous people,” the letter states. “The unchecked growth of legal or illegal, but tolerated, deforestation and occupation of indigenous lands by the extractive industries, cattle breeders, soybean and other agricultural producers and loggers leaves behind not only a trail of environmental destruction, but also deprivation of rights, displacement and quite often murder of the indigenous people.”

Signatories are currently being sought among Catholic eco-organizations, and then the letter will be made public when it is formally submitted on the Monday of Holy Week. When released,...

Christianity’s most important political contribution is proclaiming the truth that we are made in the image of a God who is pure love and relationship.

Two weeks ago, I brought my mom for her first COVID-19 vaccination. After almost a year of providing most of her 24/7 care—a consequence of protective lockdowns—I and everyone else at the community center that morning were all (mask-covered) smiles. The giddiness came certainly from the sight of so many vulnerable men and women finally being vaccinated. But there was something else: the sight of so many people in one spot was itself strangely gratifying. After months of isolation for young and old, it was a relief to be part of a crowd.

There was a lesson in that moment—one we Christians must embrace anew if we’re serious about protecting our natural world and building a better, more just society.

Christianity and relation

For Christians, to be fully human begins with our relationship with God, first and foremost, and then with each other and with all of creation. This is a foundational truth, one revealed at the very opening of the Book of Genesis and that escalates throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the New Testament, Christ elevates this reality as God with Us. In the person of Jesus Christ, divinity enters the stuff of creation—water, minerals, electro-chemical signals, and all...

Findings released today on the Feast of St. John Paul II may spell bad news for politicians with a reputation of downplaying environmental protection

While many Catholics in the United States today are debating Pope Francis’ reported nod to homosexual civil unions, there appears to be growing agreement within the US church both in the reality of climate change and that the issue must be addressed.

According to polling released this morning by Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 80% of white Catholic voters and 77% of nonwhite Catholic voters agree that climate change is happening.

A majority of US Catholic voters would also support policies that address climate change, such as clean energy infrastructure. 76% of nonwhite Catholic voters expressed such support as did 68% of white Catholic voters.

Support was strongest across racial and religious demographics when asked if “fulfilling our responsibility to protect God’s creation" was a basis for supporting climate action.

88% of nonwhite Catholics agreed with that statement as did 90% of white Catholic voters. Support was also heavy for this statement among Black Protestants, white evangelical protestants, Jews, and other faiths.

“As Catholics, we say we have a covenant with God to protect creation," said Dan Misleh, the founding...

The Holy Father’s sweeping encyclical on human relationships is arguably Pope Francis’s most personal treatise to date.

The apologies of the Church Fathers were written to explain Christianity to a hostile world. As I read Fratelli Tutti—released on the Feast of St. Francis—the style and intent of those ancient documents came to mind over and over. I couldn’t shake the sense that Pope Francis is offering his latest encyclical as an explanation and defense of his methods and goals, doing so for both outsiders but perhaps more so for those of us in his flock, especially his most vocal critics.

That said, there are two key takeaways for Catholic ecologists that go beyond Fratelli Tutti's intimate connection with the eco-encyclical Laudato Si’.

The first is its catechetical foundation.

In his letter to all humanity (which is the Italian inference of the word Fratelli), Pope Francis presents the scriptural basis for Christianity’s radical understanding of love of neighbor. It's as if he's building a case—or, perhaps, a defense—rather than simply instructing the faithful and those of other faith traditions.

Masterfully and lovingly taught, Pope Francis goes about this instruction not with mere snippets of scripture or by relegating scriptural passages to the endnotes. Rather, he places lengthy citations directly into the...

Leading up to his latest encyclical, in recent weeks Pope Francis has stressed the relational nature of humanity in statements on creation, COVID-19, and care for the least among us.

In August, the Holy Father began a series of General Audiences addressing our response to COVID-19. Approaching the issue with the Gospel firmly in hand, his words offered a critique of and answers to some very dark elements of our fallen world.

He's since echoed his hallmark themes of dialogue and relationality in statements on migrants, economics, and the Season of Creation. In all, the Holy Father has reflected on some of the best and the worst of 2020 as a buildup to his upcoming encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, the successor of Laudato Si’, to be released on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Central to his recent statements, and certainly to his new encyclical, is the dignity of the human person, the integral nature of ecological and economic realities, and, thus, the value for us all to remain connected.

While these are long-standing papal themes (for Francis and his predecessors), the current occupant of the Chair of St. Peter has had the unenviable opportunity of showcasing Catholic Social Teaching through the lens of a global pandemic, as well as mounting bad news on ecological health and simmering social and political unrest around the globe....

Contributor Eleanor Carrano combines faith and reason in her review of Crichton's thriller "Next," a novel exploring the ethics of genetic engineering

Before the days of global quarantine, it had been a while since I’d found the time to read “for fun”, and even longer since I’d been glued to a real page-turner. But that’s exactly what Michael Crichton’s Next is. You know it’s good when you’re charging towards the end of a 500-plus page novel at three in the morning and slip off the end of the last chapter with a real sense of surprise that the whirlwind story is actually finished.

But it wasn’t finished for me. Next got me thinking about my response to it as a Catholic reader. What follows is meant to be part book review, part reflection on bioethics. Fitting for a novel starring some wonky hybrid animals, I suppose.

Next is the work of Michael Crichton, the mastermind whose movie-adapted Jurassic Park brought dinosaurs into our living-rooms. The author whose name has become synonymous with meticulously-researched sci-fi thrillers that border chillingly on social prophecy. Jurassic Park has always been one of my favorite movies (that’s for another post), which eventually led me to read some of Crichton’s novels. Having enjoyed Prey and Disclosure so much, I was surprised I’d never picked up Next when I...

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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.