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How should Catholic eco-advocates respond as the US sexual abuse crisis reaches Rome, dampens eco-enthusiasm?

Sex-abuse scandals in the US Catholic Church implicated the Vatican and Pope Francis himself just as the worldwide ecumenical Season of Creation kicked off on September 1. As I commented when events broke, Catholic ecologists would do well to acknowledge these events for two reasons: the victims deserve it and unless we speak out against the causes of these scandals, our eco-efforts will be heard only by those already engaged in environmental concerns.

In mid-August, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailed horrific levels of the sexual abuse of minors and cover-ups by Catholic clergy. The report’s release capped weeks of anticipation and legal activity to suppress it. Within their many findings, the grand jury called into question Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.—who had served as the bishop of Pittsburg in the 1990s and 2000s—specifically about his handling of abusive priests.

Then came charges of the sexual abuse of seminarians by the high-ranking US prelate (now former) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

For rank-and-file Catholics who had thought the worst of the sexual abuse crisis was over with the dramatic events that began in Boston in the early 2000s—Catholics who...

Catholic eco-advocates must address recent abuse scandals in the United States and across the globe

The Christian satire site The Babylon Bee posted a piece today that Catholic eco-advocates should take seriously: “Pope Says He Will Address Sex Abuse Scandal Once He’s Finished Talking About Climate Change.”

The response on social media was often brutal—critical of Pope Francis, US prelates, and eco-issues—as one would expect as righteous anger surges these past days through the members of the Bride of Christ.

As Catholic eco-advocates prepare for the Season of Creation, which begins September 1 with the Orthodox World Day of Prayer for Creation, efforts to elevate the Church’s eco-concerns are—rightfully, I believe—being drowned out by the latest examples of episcopal failures, clerical maleficence, and the horrific abuse of the innocent.

There are many excellent voices unpacking and clarifying recent events, such as Chad C. Pecknold and JD Flynn, editor and chief at Catholic News Agency.

To put all this in a Catholic eco-context, we need only read the words of the Holy Father in Laudato Si’:

Sobriety and humility were not favourably regarded in the last century. And yet, when there is a general breakdown in the exercise of a certain virtue in personal and

A new web resource is inspiring the world to take action for our common oceans

With the harm caused by human activity on our oceans becoming more evident, an interfaith group has assembled an online resource to bring to the world the means to tackle this growing crisis.

InterfaithOceans.org is “a multi-faith campaign that encourages religious and spiritual communities to join with scientists to appreciate the gifts of the ocean systems, species, and coastal communities—and work together to protect and restore them.”

While still being added to, it’s already an important piece of faith-based eco-advocacy. When fully built out it will offer:

  • a Religious Declaration of Ocean Emergency
  • an overview of major ocean issues with action responses and links to climate change and marine conservation campaigns and organizations
  • faith resources for teaching the connections to individual religious backgrounds and ocean care, and shared interfaith rationale and ethic on common principles
  • interfaith ocean ethic and pledge and links to other faith pledges
  • timely actions and ongoing ones
  • a blog for news of Interfaith Ocean actions or guest blogs

This is definitely a resource to spend time with and to share. Our planetary oceans are under great stress—the result of human sin on a global scale.

The answer, then, is the witness and the work...

On this Golden Anniversary of Paul VI's prophetic encyclical, Catholic eco-advocates must reaffirm and teach Humanae Vitae

Forty-seven years before the issuance of Laudato Si’, another encyclical about life rocked the Church. Like Laudato Si’, this earlier encyclical was cheered and reviled along ideological lines and still is. And also like Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae speaks more than a few inconvenient truths to those who seek the satiation of personal desires rather than heed the natural order of things.

Paul VI issued his prophetic encyclical on human life against the advice and hopes of many—a topic receiving much attention on this Golden Anniversary.

Given a great number of errant voices seeking magisterial approval for artificial contraception and other ills, Paul VI demonstrated a prophet’s courage and trust in Christ by making clear the teachings of the Church. A good many on the left were outraged by this—and still are—just as some on the right are dismissive of Laudato Si’.

The good news is that the commonality between these two papal documents offers ways forward.

Papal prophets

Paul VI was correct in his warnings about disconnecting the conjugal act from procreation—as many have noted recently. Who can deny the coming to pass of this prophetic statement?...

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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A Printer's Choice

The sci-fi novel with a Catholic twist.

A Printer's Choice

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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.