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A better world will always require self-sacrifice

I wrote this four years ago for my local daily. It's about our world, our culture, and what the Feast of the Epiphany has to teach us. While not overtly about ecology, it does have a lot to say about that topic.


The Christmas season continues for many through Sunday, with the Feast of the Epiphany. This celebrates the revelation in St. Matthew’s Gospel of the adoration of the magi. This account offers an important but often overlooked detail about the scandal of Christmas — how Christ’s birth is good news of great joy that comes at a price.

This is foretold in one of the magi’s gifts to the Christ child. While gold is a gift for kings as is frankincense for priests, myrrh is an ointment used to embalm the dead. Indeed, St. John’s Gospel tells us that Nicodemus brought “myrrh and aloes” after Jesus’s crucifixion.

This foretelling by the magi of Christ’s passion begins to make known a decisive Christian proclamation: God’s coming among us is a coming to the entirety of the human condition — including suffering. The crib of Christ is connected to the cross of sacrifice because our conception and birth are the...

2017 is the centennial of the Marian apparition at Fatima. Maybe it’s time to consecrate our eco-activities to her.

In 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three children tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal. What happened to Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and later to tens of thousands who witnessed “the dance of the sun,” has been a mystery and a mainstay of the Catholic faith since.

In recognition of the centennial anniversary of what happened at Fatima—and in light of the troubles of our age—my bishop, His Excellency, Thomas J. Tobin, has called for a Year with Mary Our Mother here in the Diocese of Providence. And so it makes sense for this blog to be consecrated this day—the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God—to the Blessed Mother.

And so it shall.

I wonder, then, if we shouldn’t all do the same for our eco-activities—our communal and individual ones. Mary, the Mother of God—the creature whose assent allowed the Creator to save humanity from within—desires that we all attain what we need to grow in holiness and in the virtues that save souls, and ecosystems. Because what we need is actually a Who—her Son, Our Lord and Savior, whom she desires that we know and give our hearts to....

With insights into what's ahead in 2017

2016 came in roaring on the momentum of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical Laudato Si’. Then it stumbled here and there as uncertainty came from unexpected winds. And now in these last days, the Catholic eco-sphere is filled with worry but also, as always, with hope in the healing grace of God and the Gospel of Life.

And so away we go with the top ten Catholic eco-stories of 2016.


10: The momentum of Laudato Si’

Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical was the big story of 2015 and its momentum and influence hammered away into 2016 with an omnipresence that graced even secular gatherings, like the COP 22 climate talks. Eco groups and Catholic religious orders, parishes, dioceses, and schools continued to study the pontiff’s words and (as we will see) infuse them into the life of the Church. Rome itself continued to shine the light of Laudato Si’ within its own prayer life and its engagement of the intersection of the natural sciences and public policy. The result of all this? One of the most impressive consequences coming out of the encyclical is arguably the movement in 2016 by many Catholic groups to divest from fossil...

Christ came to save you and me, and all creation

I wrote the following for The Providence Journal, my local daily newspaper, which published it today. It seemed right to share it here.


I don't go shopping often. So when a friend and I went to a home furnishings store last week for Christmas gifts, I was startled at how much stuff towered over us.

It was dizzying to think of all the resources extracted to make this stuff and the packaging that went with it - not to mention the waste products from production, the water and air pollution, the tonnage of more wastes from throwing out all that packaging, and, sooner or later, from tossing the gift itself.

This hyper consumption is rather out of place since it contrasts with the very gospels that gave us Christmas in the first place.

The Bible tells us that creation is inherently good and ordered, and that we are meant to care for it; that true joy comes from lives lived simply and humbly; and that peace on earth comes when we put relationships first - when we sacrifice for not only the people we love, but also for those that we do not know.

The first hints...

Abortion and eco issues like climate change bring different threats to human life. But that doesn't mean we can't engage both.

There have been almost forty million abortions in the world so far this year. Today there will have been about 100,000.

Put more accurately, globally some forty million people were killed in their mother’s wombs, as is the case every year. 100,000 of them were killed today.

The direct death of a child at the hands of an abortionist is an event that is easy to tabulate—quantitatively and morally. An unborn child is always an innocent, and their deaths add digits to the numbers cited above.

Ecologically induced deaths can be equally easy to count and consider when the cause is tangible, like toxin exposure. More generally, however, environmental causes of death are not so easily known, especially for issues like climate change.

Even with the best available science, it is impossible to calculate which individuals died this year that would not otherwise have been killed in, say, droughts or storms worsened by climate change. Such uncertainty is one of the reasons why comparing abortion and climate change is so unhelpful.

Dr. Dana L. Dillon, a moral theologian and Assistant Professor of Theology at Providence College, told Catholic Ecology that the issues of abortion and climate change should...

When it's all said and done, America's future greatness requires embracing renewables

December 2016

The election of Donald Trump came at a critical time in global efforts to reign in emissions from the burning of fuels like oil, gas, and coal — emissions that, among other ills, turn up the planet’s natural ability to trap the sun’s heat.

Trump, the candidate, was clear that he didn’t support promises by the Obama administration to cut the United States’ contributions of these emissions.

After his election Trump tasked Myron Ebell, a longtime critic of climate science and advocacy, to oversee the transition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Trump has since nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a staunch critic of that federal agency, to lead it.

All this has Catholic and secular eco-advocates more than a little worried.

I would be happy with some other choice for the top job at the EPA. But even if Pruitt’s nomination is approved by the Senate, will the president-elect continue his hard line against past climate change policy?

Probably not.

Major global industries are already anticipating and building the infrastructure for a post-fossil fuel world. The benefits to businesses of tapping into renewable energy sources — like solar and wind — are already changing...

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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.