Scandal, sexual abuse, and integral ecology: everything is connected

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 social life, it ends up causing a number of imbalances, including environmental ones. That is why it is no longer enough to speak only of the integrity of ecosystems. We have to dare to speak of the integrity of human life, of the need to promote and unify all the great values. Once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment. It is not easy to promote this kind of healthy humility or happy sobriety when we consider ourselves autonomous, when we exclude God from our lives or replace him with our own ego, and think that our subjective feelings can define what is right and what is wrong. (LS 224)

Everything is connected. When sin and the destruction wrought by Satan pollutes the Church, we are all thwarted—momentarily perhaps, but still tragically—in our necessary work of sharing with the world the life-giving Gospel.

In other words, when the Church loses its credibility, both with those external to it and internal, she—no, it—is no longer the beacon of hope and truth that Our Lord calls it to be.

Certainly, the Church as our mother—the Bride of Christ—lives and survives. The gates of hell will not prevail against her, as the first reading from yesterday’s Feast of the Assumption reminded us. Many holy men—laity, religious, and clergy—and many holy women—laity and religious—are even now performing heroic deeds of prayer, penance, and worldly activity that give witness to Holy Mother Church’s glory.

It is they that will pass on the truth of the Church—of God’s Church—to a new generation.

But the evil committed and the damage done by others is real, and we Catholic eco-advocates would be foolish to turn away, to continue on our paths as if nothing were happening.

Indeed, what is happening—the good and the evil—is part of our message. The Church, like an ecosystem, must live in harmony, abiding by the laws of nature, with respect and care for each other—for the common good. The filth of sexual abuse and cover-ups, and all scandal and sin, are forms of pollution that kill.

In such times as these, we Catholic ecologists who cry out that everything is connected need to keep in our labors and in our prayers the quest for holiness in every walk of life, in every moment of our lives. Most especially our own.

After all, it is the hard work of aspiring to holiness that saves souls, preserves ecosystems, and protects the innocent from the otherwise unbridled, unholy appetites of the powerful.

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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.