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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...
January 2009

Our world and its myriad life forms are viewed as having infinite, if ineffable, value. And so it’s no surprise that present-day research is showing that biological diversity is critical for sustaining you, me and the rest of the human race. The bad news is that the past few decades have seen some of the fastest rates of species extinction ever experienced—rates that are now 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural losses that have been typical throughout Earth’s history.


If you think this is an attempt by reckless ecologists to panic us, you should talk to Dr. Brad Cardinale, of the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology at University of California, Santa Barbara. Ten years ago he began summarizing the available research, expecting to show that fears about extinction were overstated. He suspected that conservation efforts would be more fruitful if they focused on the best or...

The mainstream media delights whenever Pope Benedict XVI weaves environmental protection into his preaching, as he did this July in Australia before some 200,000 young Catholic pilgrims from across the planet.

 Add to this the Vatican’s recent success in becoming the first carbon-neutral state or its installation of solar panels and some find a curiosity—as if such activities were the whim of an aged, eco-eccentric German theologian who happens to be the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

But Catholic appreciation of creation predates this pope, as well as his predecessor—and his too, and so on—by millennia. Catholic ecology is rooted within the faith’s Jewish roots, deep within the Torah, as far back as Genesis, where in the beginning it is revealed to humanity that God created the world and life both orderly and good. Caring for creation isn’t novel for Catholics (or for our Jewish cousins); it derives from and enlightens the center of our faith. For Benedict, this all helps him discuss other weighty matters.

A close look at...
August 2008

A few hours before Benedict XVI preached at Australia’s World Youth Day about global ecological crises, I was at a supermarket checkout line in America not using reusable shopping bags.

There I was exiting Shaw’s market clutching 11 plastic shopping bags, a few of them holding only one or two items because I do my own bagging and am not very good at it.

For the record, I do own reusable shopping bags. Good friends and even my mother (who uses them faithfully) have given me plenty. Five are perched right now on the back seat of my Subaru Forrester—which, yes, is an automobile that gets decent mileage for what it is (just short of an SUV), but certainly isn’t a hybrid or a Smart Car (one of those tiny Mercedes-Benz eco-autos that’s about the size of a good riding lawn mower).

One reason I don’t use cloth supermarket bags is I’m forgetful—okay, lazy. When I remember I have them, I’m about three steps from the supermarket doors. And by then it’s too late. Maybe...

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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.