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Guest post: A Printer's Choice uses a unique medium to ask tough questions about saving life on Earth

The following review of A Printer's Choice is from Marybeth Lorbiecki, M.A., a writer, author, and the director of the Interfaith Ocean Ethics Campaign, a joint program of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care and the Franciscan Action Network.


In A Printer's Choice, W. L. Patenaude sets a sci-fi murder mystery in the technically constructed world of 2088—post Earth's environmental and societal collapse due to wars over reduced resources and fundamentalist terrorist religious factions. To escape the destruction and maintain the human species, "New Athens" was built and printed in outer space.

Not exactly the Father Brown setting, but [main character] Father McClellan is as artfully drawn and compelling in his hard-won spiritual wisdom works. He uses his marine toughness, programming skills, and gritty faith to sort out potential motivations and methods to solve the murder of an undercover priest, Father Tangelo.

An engineer himself, Patenaude describes all the technological details, societal tensions, and moral ambiguities of New Athens with confidence and finesse. The most compelling passages, though, are the human ones, where McClellan and other characters grapple with their troubled pasts and future options, and the free will choices before them. The...

Catholic eco-advocates have an opportunity to build consensus with their more conservative brothers and sisters.

The big climate/eco news this week was Ireland’s disinvestment from the fossil fuel industry—a major win for the disinvest/reinvest movement. But another recent vote by the people of Ireland, which pulled the right to life for unborn children, darkens the image of Ireland’s ability to live the message of Laudato Si’. Now the question is, how will Catholic eco-advocates respond?

From the cheering and adulatory social media posts that I’ve encountered over the decision to disinvest, I’d say that the big players in Catholic eco-advocacy may be missing an opportunity to extend a unitive hand to conservative Catholics (and others) who prioritize the lives of the unborn over eco issues.

Of course, for Catholics, all these issues should be related. This has been the consistent teaching of Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis—who made this point in Laudato Si’:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is

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Some five-hundred participants attend Vatican conference devoted to implementing goals of the three-year-old eco-encyclical

The International Conference Marking the 3rd Anniversary of Laudato Si’ wrapped up in Rome today—but the final “take action” marching orders from Cardinal Peter Turkson to some five hundred participants will certainly maintain and focus the momentum of carrying out the vision of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical.

Few papal statements have received the attention that Laudato Si’ has. Indeed, as seen this past week, the document continues to attract attention from Pope Francis himself, from his curia, and from a small army of front-line lay and religious eco-advocates. Like Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae—On Human Life—Laudato Si’ has both inspired and polarized Catholics and non-Catholics with its sweeping view of human choices and the implications thereof.

For their part, high-level Vatican officials—such as Cardinal Turkson and Secretariat of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin—have been working overtime to keep the spotlight on the pontiff’s eco-encyclical while at the same time assuaging critics of Catholic eco-activity, most especially on the right.

On that note, the conference heard from Lord Deben of the United Kingdom, a British Conservative Party politician, formerly a member of Parliament, and now a member of the House of Lords....

Nearly 600 U.S. Catholic institutions sign the Catholic Climate Declaration, which affirms the Paris Agreement

Following a weekend of Catholic rebukes of the Trump administration over the handling of children at immigration detention centers, Catholic leaders this morning announced their support for another initiative at odds with the president: the signing of the Catholic Climate Declaration by some 600 US-based Catholic institutions.

The overwhelming support of the declaration is notable with the document's affirmation of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Catholic Climate Declaration echoes the U.S. bishops’ disappointment with the Trump Administration’s announced withdrawal and it reiterates the Church’s well-established moral and non-partisan call for climate action in caring for our common home and our one human family—especially among poor and vulnerable communities.

It was three years ago today that Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, in part to influence the Paris Agreement negotiations. At the time, President Obama’s administration was orienting the United States to be a leader in climate action. Much of that momentum was lost in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump and organizers of the Catholic Climate Declaration are hoping today's news will fire up the faithful.

The declaration—signed by cardinals and other bishops, college and...

The latest Catholic Ecology in the Rhode Island Catholic offers a little catechesis on a very important book of the bible

June 2018

Pop quiz: What was last Sunday’s first reading and why is it so important?

Before I give the answer, I’ll say that this reading—and the entire biblical text from which it comes—is a topic I focus on at length whenever I instruct anyone preparing for their sacraments of initiation. I do so because this text provides the foundation for understanding humanity, creation, and God’s relationship with both.

Sadly, it may also be the most underappreciated and misunderstood book in the bible.

Last week’s first reading was from the third chapter of the Book of Genesis. It’s the moment just after Adam and Eve misuse their free will and break the one rule that God had placed upon them. It’s the moment that God affirms the consequences of that choice. And it’s the reading with the first divine promise that while our free will may unleash evil, God’s presence in human history will be victorious—as the subsequent readings unpack further.

I’ve come across too many Catholics—lapsed and active—that think the Church reads Genesis literally; that God created the cosmos, Earth, and humanity in six twenty-four hour intervals; that Eve alone is to blame entirely for...

The Holy Father's address is part plea, part lecture, and all heart

A key element of the Holy Father's eco-encyclical Laudato Si' is dialogue, and at today's much-anticipated address by Pope Francis to energy executives gathered in Rome, the pontiff's words were both direct and pastoral, as well as urgent and complementary.

Acknowledging eco-efforts made to date by the energy sector, the pontiff added that "we are challenged to find ways of ensuring the immense supply of energy required to meet the needs of all, while at the same time developing means of using natural resources that avoid creating environmental imbalances resulting in deterioration and pollution gravely harmful to our human family, both now and in the future."

Citing his predecessor's eco-statements as well as his own, the wide-ranging address touched on the Paris climate accord, agriculture, economic theory, and, of course, the impact of a warming world on the poor.

What the response will be from those gathered will tell us how helpful the dialogue offered by Pope Francis is working. The fossil fuel industry is, after all, experiencing growing divestment from that industry, most recently by Catholic organizations. While some voices have expressed caution in dealing with an industry that is "duplicitous," others...

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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.