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December 2010

Christmas and the Annunciation have much to teach us about our role in creation. Christ’s entry into human history calls us to echo the Blessed Mother’s “Yes” to God, to align our ways with God’s ways—to willingly take part in the unfolding salvation of our fallen world, even if we don’t always (or precisely) understand what we’re supposed to do.
One thing that we in the twenty-first century certainly understand is that humans are dependent creatures. Much like an unborn child in a mother’s womb, our species lives in a self-contained ecosystem and we can not create what sustains us. We require the radiative energy of our sun and, infinitely more important, the eternal life of the Spirit of God.

All this comes to mind in Verbum Domini, the Holy Father’s recently published reflections on a 2008 meeting of bishops held at the Vatican. The meeting’s theme, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” sought to explore Holy Scripture’s interaction with the current age. One item on the agenda was...

September 2010

I’ve never understood why people savor September. The pace of life quickens while the amount of daylight shrinks; it’s always the beginning of the end of a year that I’ve known too briefly.

For me, September is a perennial reminder that our world is prone to corruption. Then again, such reminders are useful. From the beginning of the Church—and technically before, as when Peter sought to stay put at the Transfiguration instead of proceeding to what awaited in Jerusalem—we followers of Christ sometimes forget that we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world.

This forgetfulness can result in the presumption that we, by ourselves, can fix all our ills. For those who care about creation, forgetting our fallen nature can delude us into the lie that we need only our wisdom and will to abandon self interest, erase carbon footprints, or recycle and compost all wastes. Eden might seem ours to grasp.

It has been noted, most especially by the Holy Father, that good ecological concerns can easily lead to pantheism or paganism—that environmentalists might find themselves worshipping...

June 2010

Supporters of oil excavation are fond of chanting “Drill, baby, drill!” Today, critics of the petroleum industry want us to believe that current events in the Gulf of Mexico are the natural consequences of following such advice.

What they forget is that drilling for oil—on land or off shore—has been a reality for many decades, and it has occurred more often than not without incident.

In addition, our cars are fueled by, our lives are festooned with conveniences made from, and abundant technologies exist because of our ability to locate, extract and use reservoirs of this fossilized organic goo that lurks underground throughout the globe. All of this provides jobs for millions of middle class mothers and fathers. Most importantly, increased domestic petroleum use is good not just for our nation’s security, but for the lives of soldiers yet to be born.

Even with full-scale use of alternative energies and maximized energy conservation, we would still need petroleum pumping through the...
March 2010

Last month, as the science of climate change seemed to have collapsed in a global scandal of sloppy research, a neurobiologist in Alabama shot six coworkers, three fatally, after being denied academic tenure.

Five months ago a court in Seoul, South Korea found a researcher guilty of falsifying results in stem-cell studies; a similar case happened in 2008 at the University of Minnesota. These incidents remind us that politics and sin are as happily at home in the ivory towers of scientific research as they are anywhere else.

For the secular world such news is troubling. Human reason was supposed to liberate humanity from the dark ages. Science was supposed to free us from petty misunderstandings, crusades and confessional wars. Academia was supposed to find rational means to earthly glory—a pill for every disease and a machine for every inconvenience. God would no longer be needed.


December 2009

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home; All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin. God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied; Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
Towards the end of the church’s liturgical year congregations often sing “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” a Thanksgiving song if ever there was one. But it is so much more. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, as Advent approaches a world still growing dark and ever more cold, this hymn reminds us that it is God alone will save us, or condemn us, in that great final harvest at the end of time.

It is also a hymn that should remind us of our worldly dependence on an often ignored sector of our economy and community: farmers. Of course, this dependence on agriculture is very much related to our faith. Again and again Christ’s parables use agricultural motifs to teach His truth to humankind. The people of first century Palestine,...

September 2009

“The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere” writes Pope Benedict XVI in his latest letter to the Church, Caritas in Veritate (Love/Charity in Truth). But as is discovered when reading further, the pope is no mere secular ecologist.

“In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction. There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.”

Such eco-friendly sentiments from the Holy Father are for many within the Western world an oddity. While praised, such statements contradict accepted presumptions that our pontiff is “conservative” or “right-wing”—as if such terms could ever label the mind of this pope.

Any reader of Benedict XVI open to concepts beyond the polarized human categories of “right” and “left” will encounter Benedict the student of St. Augustine, with his pragmatic view...


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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.