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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...

September 2009

Well, there he goes again. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has again (and again) used the image of earthly pollution to teach us about things eternal.

In his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Benedict gives the subject a distinct perspective—one I’ll cover in a subsequent column. For now my interest is in the Holy Father’s recent homily on the Feast of Pentecost, in which he deconstructs the imagery of the Holy Spirit as a roaring-wind and connects this to a warning of spiritual illnesses brought on by the toxins of sin.

“What air is for biological life,” Benedict preached, “the Holy Spirit is for spiritual life; and just as an atmospheric pollution exists that poisons the environment and living beings, thus a pollution of heart and spirit exists that mortifies and poisons spiritual life. In the same way that one must not become inured to the poisons in the air and for this reason ecological commitment is a priority today likewise one must not become inured to what corrupts the mind.

“On the other...

April 2009

With nature stirring in the warmer weather of longer days, we may not want to remember that this past winter we shoveled and plowed more snow than we had in years.

We used more ice-melt than we’d budgeted for, more heating fuel than we’d planned to, and excavated our automobiles far too many frigid mornings when already late for work. Yet in the midst of the winter of 2009 came growing concern about “global warming.”

Many find this amusing. When attending Mass one very snowy morning in January at a parish closer than my own, the pastor quipped to the dozen or so present that the mini blizzard raging outside didn’t quite mesh with what he’d read about “global warming.” Soon after a local talk-show host complained that the term “global warming” was being replaced with the term “climate change,” as if this was a deceit.

In fact, “climate change” has typically been the preferred term among scientists who study long-term trends in our atmosphere. The rest of us, busy as we are de-icing windshields, pay little attention to such nuances. But the theories regarding increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and...


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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.