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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...

Guest post by Michael Dominic Taylor, PhD. on lessons from the "suffering and storms of life"

The global crisis and collective confinement that we are living through gives us much to consider. Perhaps one of the most encouraging phenomena that we’ve seen during this time has been the appearance of animals in times and places they don’t usually show themselves, and the sights of unpolluted and vibrant bays, rivers and skies. To see jellyfish passing through Venice’s sparkling canals and deer roaming through Japan’s urban streets, just to name two verified examples, is a ray of hope in the midst of the tragic situation we face around the world. Perhaps it gives us a sense of relief to think that maybe we haven’t spoiled the earth as badly as we had thought.

I think we should meditate deeply on this subject. What might nature want to tell us?

Some seem to already know the answer—or rather, it seems that they’ve known it for a while, as they have been saying from the outset that “humans are the virus, and COVID-19 is nature’s cure.” This message has echoed across social media and is at the heart of too many eco-philosophies. In this pessimistic worldview, each piece of bad news is good news for this often politically charged...

Pope Francis offers much-needed reminders in his homily for the Easter Vigil, 2020

In one of the darkest Holy Week's in recent memory, the Holy Father's homily for the Easter Vigil sets straight our paths with powerful reminders of the value of life, true hope, and the light and promise of our faith in Jesus Christ.

“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year, however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour....

In an annual tradition, Catholic Ecology posts this ancient homily for Holy Saturday.

With the slower pace of quarantined life for so many, perhaps Catholics and all Christians this year can prayerfully reflect on an awesome reality of #Christianity—one that’s often under-appreciated in the Western church: Christ’s Harrowing of Hell.

This ancient homily, posted on the Vatican website, is a wonderful way to embrace the mysteries of Holy Saturday.

The Lord's descent into hell

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls...


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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.